Emotional Penha grateful for A-Leagues second chance after ‘hard’ year abroad: ‘I’m so happy’’

Daniel Penha has returned to the Isuzu UTE A-League with Western United

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Penha scores for Western as star signing reflects on testing year in Korea

You couldn’t wipe the smile off Daniel Penha’s face after the Brazilian got off the mark with his first goal in the green and black of Western United.

The strike came in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Western Sydney Wanderers, in which United fell to a 2-1 defeat.

Penha, who joined the Isuzu UTE A-League club in the off-season, is ready to put a “hard” year behind him as he returns to the league with Western United; he joined Korean club Daegu FC from Newcastle Jets last season, but an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury hampered his hopes of putting together a solid campaign in the K League 1. He played just 11 games for Daegu last season.

While in Korea, his wife Larissa was diagnosed with cancer and returned home to begin treatment.

Now, as he starts fresh in Australia in Melbourne, Penha has reflected on the troubles that presented both he and his wife during his time at Daegu, and could barely contain his emotions as he reflected on that very first Western goal that could turn act as a springboard into a brilliant season.

“I can’t tell you. I am so, so, so happy,” he said.

“After I scored, I cried a little bit because the mind can remember the hard times in the last year. I am so happy, I’m looking forward to this season.

“After one year, I’ve come back again and I can play again in the first 11. I’m so happy to score, to help the team. I think this is a good game for the start of the season. I’m so happy to be back again.”

Goalkeeper reflects on horror car crash and the ‘refreshing’ Phoenix offer of a fresh start

Wellington Phoenix signing Rylee Foster has a recovery story like no other. The goalkeeper survived an horrific car crash in October 2021, flying through the windscreen and fracturing seven bones in her neck.

The then-Liverpool FC player was released by the English club in June – but she wasn’t to be without a club for long.

Wellington Phoenix came calling in September, and the 25-year-old – who was told she’d never play again – will now look to fight for her spot in the A-League Women side in what is guaranteed to be one of the stories of the season.

READ MORE: One of world football’s most inspiring stories arrives in the A-Leagues: ‘The fact I’m alive is phenomenal’

Foster spoke to the BBC Sportshour about her road to recovery, and what Wellington did to persuade her to sign on for the 2023-24 A-League Women season.

“I think I have a lot of experience with bravery,” Foster told BBC Sportshour.

“I’ve probably faced more adversity than the average human in their lifetime.

“It’s wired in my brain to just kick on and make something out of nothing and that might be symbolic.

“People talk about getting the Rylee 2.0, but I’m just going to be the best version of myself.”

Rylee Foster (wearing an immobilising “halo”) and Missy Bo Kearns of Liverpool in 2022.

“Part of me was excited because (Wellington) is a club that stated the obvious already,” she added. “They said: ‘We know that you had an injury, we know what you’ve been through, but we’ve done our research and we think that we can manage you.’

“That’s all I’ve been waiting for – someone to take me as who I am, injury aside, as someone to work with.

“Let’s be real, every athlete gets injuries. You sign players who have done ACLs [anterior cruciate knee ligaments], who have had concussions.

“It’s not foreign for athletes to get injuries. Mine just happened to be really significant and all body parts where involved but it’s no different to other injuries.

“For me, it’s about getting over that hurdle and when they came forward and laid everything out on the table, I was like ‘wow, this is refreshing’. I felt like someone was actually buying into who I am.”

Borrello targets A-League Men season to launch back into Socceroos frame

Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Brandon Borrello was not picked for the last Socceroos camp – but the A-Leagues star didn’t need to ask head coach Graham Arnold why.

The last window in September – when Australia played Mexico in the United States – came during the A-League Men off-season. Borrello understood the likelihood of his selection was slim due to the lack of match minutes over the A-League Men break – but with the 2023-24 season kicking off on October 20, he’s targeting a blistering start to place himself firmly back in Arnold’s thoughts.

“The boss didn’t have to reach out to me to tell me why he didn’t pick me,” Borrello told AAP.

“But he did, because that’s the type of person he is, and he told me he was still watching.

“When pre-season is on, there’s not much you can do – especially with the boys overseas who are firing at the moment. The national team has always been picked around whether you’re playing.

“I’m ready for the season to start because that’s one of my goals; to get back into the Australia squad. The only way I do that is by playing games and scoring. I know I’ve got to hit the ground running.”

Borrello scored 13 goals in 27 league games for Western Sydney last season, playing as a makeshift number nine under head coach Marko Rudan. His domestic form reinvigorated his career with the national team – and looking ahead to the new A-League Men campaign, the versatile forward is tipping big things for the Wanderers.

“It’s going to be an exciting brand of football and we’re going to be a lot more flexible in the way we do things,” Borrello said.

“Everyone has bought in, saying ‘this is the way we are going to play’ from day one and (Rudan) has done well in bringing in those players who can play that style of football.

“That’s one of the big upgrades and improvements to our squad from last year.”