He may be back jogging on the training ground and keeping his Glory team-mates entertained with his sharp wit off it, but Travis Dodd readily admits that he has been through plenty of dark days in the last four months.

He may be back jogging on the training ground and keeping his Glory team-mates entertained with his sharp wit off it, but Travis Dodd readily admits that he has been through plenty of dark days in the last four months.

The 33-year-old was forced to undergo a full knee reconstruction after being injured in last season’s round 26 clash with Melbourne Victory and the surgery and painful rehab that followed clearly took their toll even on one of the club’s most naturally effervescent characters.

“I was only in hospital overnight,” he said, “but when I came out I wasn’t prepared mentally for how much pain I was going to be in.
“I probably struggled a fair bit in those first few days to come to terms with that.
“Just getting out of bed or trying to get into the car was really hard because I had no strength even to lift my leg up.
“It was in a straight brace so I couldn’t bend it at all and any movement was just too painful.
“What compounded that was trying to come to terms with the injury itself and the fact that I’d had surgery and was facing months out.
“I think it all culminated in that moment of trying to get into the car the day after surgery.
“It was all very hard to grasp and I did think that things might not get any better.”

To make matters worse for the former Adelaide United man, he initially thought that he would be sidelined for twelve weeks and was therefore devastated to be told that he would in fact be out of action for closer to twelve months.

“One of the hardest things,” he said, “was that when I picked up the injury I got assessed by our medical staff immediately after the game and they knew that there was going to be some damage to the lateral ligament, but they were pretty confident that the ACL was intact.
“Then, when I had the MRI, I was prepared for a worst case scenario of having surgery and being out for 12 weeks with the lateral ligament.
“It wasn’t until our club physio, Chris Hutchinson, called afterwards and said that there was a partial tear that would require a full reconstruction that it really hit home.
“I was upset and went home and had a cry.
“I thought at that moment, at 33 years of age, that it could potentially be the end of my career.
“I had a lot of negative thoughts and they carried on for quite a long time.”

Dodd admits that he continues to have good days and bad days even now, but credits physio Hutchinson with driving him forward both physically and mentally.

“You do have milestones and improvements along the way,” he said, “but it seemed that just as I got past one hurdle, I immediately had another one to overcome and I felt like I’d been set back a bit.
“That’s continued right up until now really, but you do slowly get over those barriers and it’s been great having Hutcho working closely with me for the past four months.
“I vent onto him and he has the positive words to keep me going and keep me motivated.
“I always picture myself coming out of surgery and thinking I might not walk again because the pain was so bad, then I remember having the brace off and starting to walk.
“I couldn’t imagine bending my leg again and getting the range back, but then I jogged for the first time.
“It was quite sore for the first three or four weeks, but I’m five or six weeks into that now and jogging is relatively pain-free so it’s just a case of building the strength up so I can run again normally.
“My next objective is to build that up and get into running and changing direction in about a month’s time.
“Hutcho is confident that everything is on track in terms of my recovery, so that’s all positive.”

Along with Hutchinson, another regular companion for Dodd on the recovery trail has been new-signing Isaka Cernak who is working through his own rehab program.
And the two midfielders have bonded in the face of adversity.

“Isaka and myself are doing a lot of similar things as part of our rehab both in the gym and with the running program,” he said, “so it’s helpful to have someone there to speak to and have a laugh with, but also to push you in training.
“It can be a bit hard to get going yourself and this injury has definitely given me a greater appreciation of those individual athletes who train by themselves every day for their whole career.
“I can’t imagine how hard that must be to do.
“I’ve been in a team environment for 15 or 16 years and I know no different, so it’s hard being thrust into a different environment.
“It’s a tough challenge, but I’ve just got to do it and work hard so that I can join back in with the boys as soon as possible.”

Away from the training paddock and the gym, meanwhile, the man with two Socceroos caps to his name has certainly not let the grass grow under his feet.

“I’ve been keeping busy outside football, keeping the mind active,” he said.
“I’m looking to do some work experience with Rio Tinto at some point next month and my business degree is going well.
“I’ve just recently enrolled at ECU and I’m looking forward to carrying on with that.
“They say that when you have a long-term injury, it’s a good opportunity to get cracking with your studies or whatever, but I find that I’m spending just as much time if not more time training because I’ve got my treatment and extra gym sessions and so on.
“Studying is difficult, but at this stage of my career, I’m more determined than ever to get it done.
“I’m also doing some media training later this week and on top of that, I’ve become a full-time taxi driver for my kids!”

Gareth Morgan