ILLAROO product Oliver Pain will be the first to admit the past 12 months have been the toughest of his career to date.
But the former Southern Branch and Wollongong Wolves goalkeeper, who now plies his trade with Chipstead FC in England, has taken all the setbacks in his stride and is once again starring between the sticks.
The former Nowra High School student first took his talents overseas in 2012, when he was offered the opportunity to train with a number of English based clubs.
Pain and his father David returned to the United Kingdom a couple of months later, as Pain continued to train, play and trial with a number of clubs – before he eventually penned a deal with Crystal Palace.
Since then, Pain has enjoyed stints with Sunderland and Motherwell before joining his current club Chipstead.
But just when he was looking to make a positive impression at his new club, the injury bug struck him down.
“I first injured my knee in October 2017,” Pain said.
“A MRI scan showed a nasty tear in my medial meniscus that required surgery.
“I knew something was wrong, though it wasn't overly painful so I'd hoped it would be minor.
“When I got the scan results and was told I'd be out for a few months – I was anxious, as any period of injury feels like an eternity.
“All I wanted was to get back fit and playing.”
After a successful surgery, Pain was in a brace for six weeks – a period that involved a lot of compex and ice – before he couldn’t begin his rehabilitation.
“The priority during the brace period was to get the swelling down and regain full range of movement,” he said.
“Once I was out of the brace, I was in the gym regaining strength.
“The first few weeks were predominantly activation and body-weight exercises before starting a weights-based programme.
“I too did a lot of proprioception and single leg strength work.”
Pain, 21, eventually returned to full training in March with no concerns but one week later, the injury reoccurred.
“It's the longest injury I've had and among the hardest things I've had to overcome.”Oliver Pain
A further scan was inconclusive though symptoms persisted and so he had no choice but to have a second operation.
“The injury reoccurring was easily the most difficult part of this whole process,” he said.
“I'd been training for a week without issue and was so close to my first game back and it happened one evening.
“I bent my knee as I got into bed and immediately knew it'd gone.
“The elation of being back to football was replaced by devastation knowing that I was back to the beginning.
“It's the longest injury I've had and among the hardest things I've had to overcome.”
Finally after close to 12 months from the original injury, Pain was cleared to play – making his return to the pitch on September 25, as his side defeated local rivals South Park FC 1-nil.
“I was so excited just to return to training,” he said.
“Of course I was nervous about my knee, though with time you forget about it.
“It took a few weeks to get back up to scratch and a few games before I was feeling confident.
“It was just great to return to playing, giving me and all my team mates a massive boost going forward.”
Now that he has returned to the pitch, Pain has set himself a number of goals both short and long term.
“This season I’d love to play as many games as possible,” he said.
“Experience is everything for a young goalkeeper, there is no substitute – so my aim is to play as much as I can and enjoy myself.
“There's always someone watching and everyone talks, so perform well and something will happen.
“Down the track, my goal is to earn a career in football.
“I'm still young for a goalkeeper and have years ahead of me; with hard work and a bit of luck, I'll be kicking a ball around for a living – nothing can top that.”