Former Australia representative Travis Dodd said he had no regrets about making a comeback despite it ending horribly when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee again.
Dodd sustained the injury just two minutes from full-time in a South Australian NPL elimination finals game last Sunday.
The former Adelaide United and Perth Glory star was playing for MetroStars SC when he felt his knee go. He was stretchered off with his team 1-0 down to Birkalla, which held on to win.
It was a torn ACL to the same knee in March, 2013, playing for Perth, that ended Dodd’s A-League career when he was 33.
He spent more than a year trying to recover sufficiently from that to get back into the A-League and play out his career out there on his own terms, but was unable to.
Dodd, though, remained determined to get back on the field at some level before finally giving the game away and made a comeback with MetroStars this season.
He had decided six weeks ago that he would retire at the end of this season and was, incredibly, just minutes away from doing that without incident when the injury curse struck him again.
But the 36-year-old is philosophical about it all as he prepares for surgery, as well as a move into coaching as an assistant at MetroStars next season.
He also has a new career off the field as well, as a business development manager with the NAB bank in Adelaide. He has been working there for several months.
“I’m handling it better than the first time around. I’m like a veteran at this now,” Dodd told The World Game.
“It’s frustrating that I was so close to walking away from my playing days unscathed and now I’ve got an annoying 10-month reminder of my last game, that being the rehab that is ahead, so I’m not thrilled about that side of it.
“But I’m doing the surgery because I want to make sure I get my knee right for life after football in terms of kids and social activities and that sort of thing.
“The dramas I had three years ago, when it looked like ending my career originally, that was a bitter pill to swallow. This time I have to admit that my initial concern was around work, because I started a new job a few months ago and I was worried how it would affect my getting around.
“But for now it’s fine and I’ve got the surgery scheduled for the second week of October, after getting a few commitments out of the way. I’ll just be off for a couple of weeks and then I’ll be able to get back into it.”
Dodd recounted the moment when he felt his knee go and it sounded fairly innocuous, just like the circumstances surrounding so many ACL injuries seem to be.
“We were playing on artificial turf in our first final of the campaign and I’ve just gone to reach out for a ball and push off and turn and I’ve just parked my foot in the ground and my knee has just gone and that was it,” he said. “Two minutes away from retirement, I was.
“I’ve seen a video of it. I was reaching out to my left to try and block a pass and the defender sort of cut back inside and I guess I’m already trying to transfer my weight before my left foot is firmly planted and maybe it didn’t make proper contact with the ground and just buckled under me.
“I’d been a bit concerned about playing there on the artificial turf after the knee problems I’d had in the past, but maybe it was just bad luck, I don’t know.
“Not an ideal way to end my career, again, I guess, but it’s one of those things, unfortunately. You can’t do much about it.
“I told the club six or seven weeks ago that I’d be retiring at the end of the season. We all knew it was our last game should we lose and unfortunately the injury right before fulltime rubbed salt into the wound even more.
“But I wasn’t too emotional. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to play again. I wanted to know myself that the first reconstruction wasn’t going to stop me completely from playing.
“I knew I was going to be done and dusted if we lost that game anyway and now I’m looking forward to getting on with the next chapter of my life.”