Luke Brattan found himself in an unfamiliar position in November last year.
Leading into the FFA Cup clash with Sydney Olympic on November 24, the Sydney FC midfielder had never suffered a serious injury throughout his A-Leagues career. But that all changed after that 4-2 win.
Scans confirmed a ruptured ACL and his season was over before it even begun, ruled out for remainder of the 2021-22 campaign.
While Brattan’s career came to an abrupt halt, initially surprising to him, the 31-year-old has remained upbeat and is now well and truly on the road to recovery amid his rehabilitation.
“It’s tough,” Brattan told Neds as he reflected on the moment the injury occurred against Sydney Olympic. “I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my career. Played 13 years in the A-League and never had a serious injury. The way it happened, it’s happened to me 10-15 times throughout my career and been fine.
“It was a strange one. I felt a little pop behind my knee and felt fine. Went back on and didn’t feel too bad. Then at half-time, the physios and doctors said it was my ACL. At the time, as soon as they say that, it’s pretty devastating.
“I woke up the next day and still didn’t feel any pain, no swelling. I said to my partner ‘I don’t think I’ve done anything too serious’. Then I obviously got the scans back and it was a rupture. It is what it is, got to get on with it.”
Watching Sydney from the sidelines has been a painful and frustrating experience for Brattan, who described the situation as “awful”.
“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Brattan said. “I can’t explain it. You feel helpless. At the same time, I need my mental break as well. I’ve been going for a long time. Not a blessing in disguise but I have to take the positives out of it. So I want to have my own time but be there for the boys as well.
“They’re a great bunch of boys. I have all faith in them that they’ll do a job. Some good young players coming through mixed with great experience. You don’t go from successful club to not being successful. The atmosphere and culture here, it’s incredible and will go for many years.”
It is a long road to recovery, but Brattan is coming through the other side post-operation – the former Brisbane Roar midfielder is now eyeing a return for the start of pre-season with the support of Sydney, despite his contract set to expire.
“That’s the goal,” Brattan said. “I think it’s around seven or eight months around day one of pre-season. If I’m back training by then, that would be great and go straight into pre-season. Hopefully earlier but just have to take it in your stride.”
“I’m pretty positive,” he continued. “I still think I have four-five years left playing. I think I’ll come back stronger. I see some of the boys who’ve come back from them, they’ve said they’ve come back stronger than ever. This day and age, the surgeons and what they can do, the strength and conditioning and physios, it’s pretty amazing.
“I feel great. I’m on the bike, I’m squatting. I’m almost back to where I was before I did my knee and I’ve only been post-op six weeks ago. I’m pretty happy at the moment and think I’ll be coming back pretty soon.”
He added: “Coming off contract, the club have been great about it. They’ve looked after me. They’ve said they’re keen to continue with me, which makes it a lot easier.
“But you still have that doubt at the back of your mind when you first hear the news. Nine-12 months, it’s pretty tough when you haven’t had anything serious your whole career.”
Despite the magnitude of the injury and time away from the pitch, Brattan’s aspirations have not changed.
A three-time championship winner in Brisbane before adding another to his collection with Sydney in 2019-20, Brattan is still hungry for more silverware and another taste of football abroad, having joined Manchester City in 2015 without playing a game for the Premier League giants. He spent three years on loan at sister club Melbourne City.
Then there is the Socceroos and that elusive international cap, despite various Australia call-ups. It is a situation that eats away at Brattan.
Asked about the boxes he wants to tick before calling time on his career, Brattan – who also aspires to be a coach once his playing days are over – said: “I still want to go overseas. I’m still ambitious to play abroad. I want to win more trophies in the A-League.
“The Socceroos is a big one. Speaking to a few of the older boys, they say the prime is 27-33, so I still have some good years left in my legs I think.”