Van der Saag drawing inspiration from teammate’s comeback

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Seeing teammate Josh Cavallo make a long-awaited comeback from injury on Monday night has inspired Harry Van der Saag as he approached his return for Adelaide United.

Van der Saag suffered a knee injury at training in November 2022 and has endured a frustrating rehabilitation process over the period since.

Back in full training over the last few weeks, the 24-year-old is feeling great and looking to force his way into the Reds’ line-up.

“I’m feeling unreal. It’s been a while, a bit of a journey, but now I can train without any sort of thinking about a knee problem,” Van der Saag said.

“I’m fully training now with the team – I think it’s my second or third week fully training. So now I’ve sort of got to get up to speed and match fitness.

“They’ve got a few trial games with the NPL side coming up so I’ll be in a couple of them and then hopefully, in the next two or three weeks, I can sort of start competing in getting into squads.”

The large tear in his medial meniscus presented a difficult journey back to football with repeated setbacks.

It was a lonely process and he returned home to Sydney at times to be closer to family and friends.

The versatile full-back admits the challenge was as much mental as it was physical.

“You have your doubts,” he explained. “You know, it’s a very, very lonely process in rehab. But you’ve just got to try and stay mentally positive and get your little wins on the way -whether that’s the first bit of running, obviously coming back with the team – but on the way you have your doubts, and you have some ups and downs, probably a lot more downs for me.

“You’ve got to say positive. I’ve been lucky enough to never really be injured up until now, so I didn’t really think I was going to be out this long.

“I’m lucky. At Adelaide United I’ve had a lot of support from the staff and medical team and all the boys getting around me so I’m pretty lucky in that way.”

Among those he is most grateful for, other than the medical staff, is housemate and teammate Luke Duzel and coach Carl Veart.

“Luke Duzel is now living with me so it was a nice to have a bit of company. And obviously, I had a bit of a stint in Sydney to mentally help me and have my family and friends (around me). And I think that went a long way so that was a big thing,” Van der Saag said.

“Carl (Veart) has been so good to me always just speaking to me and communicating and always making sure I’m all good so yeah, I was pretty lucky in that process.”

And with his rehabilitation journey coming to an end and games nearing, seeing Cavallo back on the park against Macarthur this week has given Van der Saag extra reason to smile.

The pair provided each other valuable support in the medical rooms over the last 12 months.

“We got injured probably around a similar time – I think he was maybe two months after me,” Van der Saag explained.

“To see Josh come back, and you can really see that smile on his face again, you know, playing. It’s our job to play and if we can’t do that, you don’t really feel quite part of it.

“It’s really good to see Josh come back and he did very well when he came on.”

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