Rajcic back to best

Recovering from one knee reconstruction let alone two is a daunting and arduous challenge for any footballer who wishes to play again, however Adelaide United striker Marijana Rajcic defied the odds.

Recovering from one knee reconstruction let alone two is a daunting and arduous challenge for any footballer who wishes to play again, however Adelaide United striker Marijana Rajcic defied the odds.

Before joining the Lady Reds, Rajcic's swift rise to prominence began in the SAWSA Premier League with the highly successful Fulham United.

Joining the club in 2003 at age 14, Rajcic made an immediate impression at junior level winning back-to-back U-17 league and cup titles in 2003 and 2004, and was rewarded with regular selection as a substitute for the senior side.

Rajcic soon became an integral member of the senior team where she won four straight league championships from 2004-2007, two cups in 2004 and 2005 and was named the 2006 SAWSA Premier League Player of the Year after topping the league's goal scoring chart.

Her outstanding efforts landed her on the Lady Reds' radar in 2008 when scouts went searching for the best footballers in the state to form the inaugural Adelaide United Westfield W-League team.

However a freak ACL injury in August 2008 sustained whilst playing for Fulham put an end to her chances of joining the Lady Reds in their debut season.

"I had to have a knee reconstruction and miss the first W-League (season) which I was pretty disappointed about," Rajcic said reflecting on the long-term injury.

"I was devastated because I knew was going to be out of the game for twelve months ... it's a long process."

"But I did have good support around me, especially with the girls who had gone through it (ACL injury) before so mentally I actually felt pretty positive."

"It was a setback but I knew I could get back from it."

With a strong support base and a positive frame of mind, the 22-year-old went about her rehabilitation and long road to recovery.

After an 11 month spell on the sidelines Rajcic returned to Fulham in time to once again catch the eye of Lady Reds scouts and eventually sign on for the W-League side ahead of the 2009 season.

But lightning struck twice for Rajcic in August 2010 when she ruptured the same ACL again playing for Fulham just three months out from the start of what would have been her second season in the W-League.

"The first one (ACL injury) I was more positive because it was more of the unknown but when I did the second one it killed me mentally knowing how much I would have to do to get back again," Rajcic recalls.

"I was hitting back to my peak and super excited that year to be playing having got to taste the W-League the year before and I knew that with the structure we had, the team and I could of done well, so to have that happen again just shot everything."

"It felt like I had been injured for three years in a row and that I didn-t even play in between that year because it went so quickly after being out for 12 months then coming back and playing for not even a year before doing it again."

With a second knee reconstruction required Rajcic's footballing future was put in jeopardy with many, including her parents advising her to stop playing over concerns for her health.

Rajcic admitted she came close to adhering to the advice and giving up her promising career however her determination to have an impact with the Lady Reds and dream to play for the Matildas motivated her to come back stronger and better than ever.

"I was down and out and if I had any inclination it wasn-t worth it then I probably would have stopped ... but I have goals, dreams and ambitions and I knew that I couldn-t chuck in the towel yet," she said.

"I'd love to play for the Matildas one day, I know I'm not anywhere near the standard yet but I feel like I can."

"The last three years I've had setbacks and I feel like haven-t been myself since 2008, so I still feel as if I haven-t had the opportunity to prove myself or even shine."

"If one day I get the chance for the Matildas and I'm not good enough, then that's it and I'll be happy at least knowing that I've given it a shot where as if I chucked in the towel I wouldn-t give myself the chance."

For now however Rajcic is focused on changing the fortunes of the Lady Reds who have not won in a record 34 matches dating back to 2008.

Since leading the line for Adelaide Rajcic has scored twice in several appearances this season and is adamant the Lady Reds are in for a successful future under the guidance of coach David Edmondson who worked wonders for women's football in New Zealand leading the U-17 team to the 2010 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

Edmondson has taken up a double role as both the coach of the Lady Reds and the FFSA Head of Women's Football overseeing the development of South Australia's next batch of young female footballers.

"This year has been completely different. Dave (Edmondson) coming in is the best thing for women's football in South Australia," Rajcic said.

"The infrastructure and everything behind-the-scenes is going to be completely different and women's football in SA is going to change."

"It's been hard for him this season because he came in and had only four or five weeks to work with what he had, but you can see the way we are playing that we are getting better and better each week."

To coincide with Edmondson's appointment, the FFA and SA State Government reached a funding agreement to ensure the Lady Reds could continue exist, and that all women's development pathways and programs would be integrated under the management of the FFSA.

Rajcic is looking forward to the new-found support the club and SA football has received as they go in search of great success.

"You look at our girls and it's not like we don-t have the quality, we can play against the best, it's just that we haven-t had that support like the other states have had for the past three years," she said.

"We haven-t had that stability and have been chucked together every year before the W-League, and people just expect us to win championships and games straight away."

"But I think right now for the from the juniors right up to the Lady Reds everything is looking up ... it's definitely a bright future."

"The Lady Reds are going to be a force to be reckoned with."