BY – JACKSON CLARK
Football can be a cruel game at times. One of the most heartbreaking stories over the past couple of years has been the knee injuries plaguing two of the brightest young stars in the game in Geelong’s Daniel Menzel and Fremantle’s Anthony Morabito.
There are many similarities between the two players. Both are still only 22 years of age. Both were highly touted junior players and both have showed plenty of ability at AFL level.
Rewind back to September of 2011 and Menzel was on top of the world. At 19 years of age he was already likened to teammate Steve Johnson with his strong marking and mercurial ability around the goals.
In the final round of the home and away season he produced a five-goal exhibition against top of the table Collingwood – a game that earned him three Brownlow votes. 18 months and four knee reconstructions later and his career is now at the crossroads.
A week after the Collingwood match Menzel ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament early in his side’s qualifying final match against Hawthorn.
After getting the knee reconstruction he returned to VFL football in June of the following year only to rupture the ACL in his other knee in his return game.
He was ruled out for the rest of 2012 before re-injuring the knee at pre-season training in December requiring another reconstruction.
He opted for the controversial LARS surgery in the hope of a return to football in 2013. He was able to achieve this through the VFL but in his second match back he re-injured the LARS-reconstructed ligament and required another reconstruction.
All four knee injuries have occurred from relatively innocuous incidents.
After surgery in August the young Cat once against finds himself on the comeback trail. This time the club is opting for an extra conservative approach and has ruled him out until at least June.
Despite adversity Menzel remains optimistic of coming back to play good football and put his hand up for senior selection later in the season.
They say a week is a long time in football but imagine how long it feels for Anthony Morabito, who has not played since 2010.
Many things were different the last time Morabito played an AFL game. Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney were yet to play in the AFL, Gary Ablett was still a Geelong player and the substitute rule was non-existent.
Morabito is the prototype footballer with the perfect size, above average athleticism and good skills. He has been likened to one of the game’s greats in Adam Goodes for his build and versatile playing style.
Morabito burst onto the scene in 2010 playing 23 games in his debut year and kicked one of the goals of the season against Hawthorn in an elimination final.
Later that year during his side’s pre-season training, Morabito ruptured his ACL requiring his first reconstruction.
After a long lay-off he returned in 2012 to play in the WAFL for Peel Thunder managing eight games before tearing his ACL at training in July and requiring a second reconstruction.
He returned to pre-season training late in the year before once again tearing his ACL in a routine training drill in January 2013.
From all reports Morabito is looking supremely fit at training this pre-season and is eyeing a return in early 2014.
The football world wishes nothing but the best for Menzel and Morabito and it will be an injustice if they cannot make it back onto the field.
Twitter – @JClark182