From the exercise bike which has become his constant companion, Adrian Zahra is forced to look on as his teammates go through their paces at Melbourne Heart FC’s base at La Trobe University.
From the exercise bike which has become his constant companion, Adrian Zahra is forced to look on as his teammates go through their paces at Melbourne Heart FC-s base at La Trobe University.
Gazing upon the training fields from Heart-s physio room, Zahra remains in the early stages of his injury rehabilitation, yearning for the day he can return to the pitch and kick a ball in anger.
“It-s frustrating me to watch my teammates out there having a kick as that-s something I haven-t done in a while,” Zahra said.
“You just need to get back out there, with a walk or a bit of a jog, or even in the pool which (High Performance Manager) Martin (Wollin) says I can do in the next few weeks.”
Since going under the knife, Zahra has only had one goal on his mind: returning to fitness in time for round one next season.
And six weeks into his recovery program, the spritely youngster appears well on track to meet his target.
“To be honest, I feel I will be ready for round one,” Zahra said. “The coaching staff here and especially Martin (Wollin) our High Performance Manager, reckon I-m a bit overly confident at the moment. (But) I-m not going to get too far ahead of myself, just looking to the next day.”
Zahra is certainly not a player short on self-belief, having been required to draw upon significant reserves of determination and spirit to navigate his way from the battlegrounds of local football and secure a contract in the Hyundai A-League.
Having initially joined Heart on an injury replacement contract, Zahra quickly emerged as an indispensible member of the Club-s starting eleven, scoring two goals in 19 appearances after making his debut in the inaugural Melbourne Derby.
“If you had told me eight months ago I would have been playing in the first Melbourne Derby, I would have said ‘take it easy, relax, pump your breaks, that definitely won-t happen-, but it has happened and it-s been very surreal, not only for myself but for my family as well,” Zahra said.
That match though proved to be only the first step of a remarkable journey for Zahra during Heart-s debut season, as he grew in stature every week, culminating in scoring the winning goal against Sydney FC just before Christmas.
Developing a formidable partnership with Michael Marrone on the right-flank, Zahra-s form continued into January as Heart sought to mount a late surge towards the Hyundai A-League Finals Series.
But his season came to an abrupt end during a fiery third Melbourne Derby at Etihad Stadium, when he was scythed down by a red card challenge from Kevin Muscat.
“To get injured with three games left, and possibly finals at the time was just devastating because you are just thinking how hard is it,” Zahra said.
“You can-t expect anything like that (tackle). It was an avoidable thing, but you can-t look back, just look forward.”
And that is exactly what Zahra has done, immediately applying himself in his recovery with the same trademark character and perseverance which saw him climb through the ranks to earn a place on the Heart roster.
As the first serious injury he has suffered during his football career, Zahra admits it has been a frustrating experience, but he credited the support of his family and the Club in helping guide him through the process, reserving special praise for Captain Simon Colosimo.
“It-s definitely been unknown. Simon Colosimo has been a massive mentor. He went through the same sort of injury when he was about the same age as me, and he has provided a few words of advice,” he said.
“He said to keep positive, try to get all that negative energy away from you basically. You need to keep your head up and keep looking forward. Put everything behind you and you will be back in no time.”