It’s been a long, hard road to recovery for PGFC Academy First Team defender Luke Bodnar after a career-threatening neck injury sidelined him last season.
But after surgery and extensive rehab, the 19-year-old returned to NPL WA action two weeks ago and is thrilled to be back in the thick of it.
“Yes, it’s great to be back playing and back around the squad,” he said.
“The injury was taken care of well, which I’m really grateful for. I’ve made a full recovery and have no recurring major issues.”
Academy Head Coach Richard Garcia, meanwhile, was quick to praise the character shown by Bodnar throughout his recovery and rehab.
“I’m really happy for Luca,” he said.
“It was a complicated injury, but he’s been well looked after and it’s great to have him back in the squad.
“He played for the Australia Joeys (Under-16s) in 2015 in the qualifiers for the 2016 AFC Under-16 Championships and although he’s only a teenager, is an experienced part of our squad.
“He is a leader and the younger lads have seen what he has gone through and the strength he has shown, which hopefully makes them appreciate playing their football.
“He is a fantastic example of resilience for the group, which for someone so young, is great to see.”
Bodnar featured in the First Team’s 2-2 draw at Balcatta last weekend and while disappointed to have conceded a stoppage-time equaliser, the youngster felt that there were still plenty of positives to take from the performance.
“We were very happy with how we played and felt we deserved the three points,” he said.
‘Going into the changing rooms afterwards, all the players were devastated to come away with only a point, but we have to learn from that and we will.”
Next on the agenda for Garcia’s side is a home clash with Armadale at E&D Litis Stadium on Saturday and it’s a game Bodnar is very much looking forward to.
“This league is so competitive and every week is a good challenge,” he said.
“Everyone wants to beat us and will always give us a tough game and Saturday will be no different.
“So we will have to work for the three points and we’re all ready for it.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the Head Coach who is looking for a reaction from his charges to letting two points slip away right at the death last time out.
“It was disappointing to concede with the last kick of the game after we had played so well and worked so hard,” he said.
“Overall we played well, but the result at the end of it was a draw and we now move on to Armadale on Saturday.
“We know they are a physical side and they will be looking to bounce back from a heavy loss last week.
“We will have to match that physical element and continue our good form to get back to winning ways.”
It’s set to be another full day of NPL action at E&D Litis Stadium, with the third-placed Under-18s getting things underway at 11am.
The Under-20s will then be out to cement their position at the top of the table at 1pm, with the First Team game scheduled for 3pm.
Do get along to support the lads if you possibly can, but if you can’t make it, check out a live stream of the game via the Football West Facebook page HERE.