Tarek Elrich has revealed he had to separate himself from his Adelaide United team-mates in order to rehab effectively from the injury which has kept him out of football for nearly a year.
The veteran defender tore his ACL against Melbourne City in round 26 last season, making his return to the field over 11 months later when he came off the bench in last Friday’s 5-2 win over Newcastle.
“The hardest part was being in the gym and looking out the window and seeing your team-mates playing little games at training,” Elrich told www.a-league.com.au.
“They were all enjoying themselves and looking forward to the start of the season.
“I’m a team player and I want to be there for my boys, but to come to the team facility every day and see that was hard for me.
“It’s a hard injury because you’re isolated a lot and always on your own.
“I couldn’t see that light at the end of the tunnel.
“It felt like it was so far away, especially based on what the doctors and physios were saying.
“I was counting in my head and thinking, ‘I’ve got six more months’ and that’s a long time.
“I asked if we could alter my trainings so I went to a local gym and did my bike and pool sessions there.
“Marco and the physios all understood the mental side was most important.
“They just needed to keep me fresh mentally so that when I came back, I wasn’t mentally drained and was ready to go.
Elrich suffered the injury in his 243rd Hyundai A-League game, played across 12 seasons for the Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United.
And he believes his long career helped him recover from a potentially devastating injury.
“I think I’m at a different mindset to other people who have had injuries; I’ve had a good career and achieved a lot of things I wanted to before I started playing football,” he said.
“The first goal was to walk again without a limp.
“When you achieve that you move to running, which is the next goal and then changing direction.
“Slowly you start kicking a ball, running with the ball and going into a bit of contact, then team training and finally back into a game situation.
“Every few months you tick off a milestone; it’s about not looking too far ahead and just looking at the next step.
“It was a long process but the final outcome was definitely worth all the hard work.”
That final outcome arrived in the 74th minute of Friday’s home game against the Jets.
With the Reds 4-1 ahead, Marco Kurz gave the home crowd what they wanted, introducing Elrich to the raucous delight of the Adelaide faithful.
“I was just buzzing to finally get out there,” Elrich said.
“It was exciting to train again with the boys but eventually that excitement dies away and you just want to play again.”