Australian rock band the Divinyls once sang about the fine line between pleasure and pain and in 2011 Westfield Matilda Elise Kellond-Knight has experienced both sides of that line. Riding high after a stellar year, including gaining the two top awards in Australian women’s football, earlier this month the FIFA All-star defender experienced the crushing lows when she suffered an ACL tear in Denmark.
With surgery completed and firmly on the road to recovery, we spoke with an up beat Elise Kellond-Knight about her 2011 and the plans for her comeback in 2012.
Elise, congratulations on an incredible year. You’ve achieved so much and been recognised in many ways. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I think being named both the PFA and the FFA Footballer of the Year. Those are probably the biggest honours. To be recognised as the best Australian female footballer this year is definitely the highlight.
Also to be given that honour by your fellow teammates is unbelievable. I never would have thought that that would have happened. Pretty happy with that.
What are the lessons you have learned during the year?
Just to set small goals that are reachable and within distance. I think that’s what has kept me motivated this year. Because it was such a big year, I couldn’t really look towards the end.
I just had that main focus of the World Cup and taking each game as it came. I was just trying to be consistent. That was the main thing.
The big event in 2011 was of course the FIFA World Cup. You were personally rewarded for an excellent tournament but what were your thoughts on Matildas overall campaign?
We were successful in a certain way. Everyone was happy with the performances that we put out. We brought our brand of football to the World Cup, which I was really happy about.
That recognition allowed you to move to Denmark’s Fortuna Hjørring. How did that come about and whey the Danish league?
I originally didn’t plan on going overseas as I am actually finishing a Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science here on the Gold Coast. I actually intended to study but because we had the Olympic qualifiers overseas, it ran through half my semester and the university wouldn’t allow me to study.
It actually happened that Emily van Egmond was scouted by Fortuna at the World Cup and she didn’t really want to go by herself. She asked if they wanted a left back so they showed some interest and signed me. It was sort of a chain reaction from there with Kim Carroll and then Leena Khamis signing.
What was your experience at Fortuna like?
It was really good. At home I used to travelling up to an hour to get to training every day but Fortuna put us up pretty much on the back of the field. It was a 50 metre walk to the training field.
The game over there is a lot more physical. Every time you know you have to go into the challenge 100% otherwise you will come off second best. I noticed that was the main difference.
Also the technical players over there, they like to play feet and they like to play the sort of football I like to play so I did fit in pretty well over there.
It is obviously a more demanding league than the W-League. What was the work load like?
Yeah we were kept really busy. We were playing two games every week; every Wednesday and Sunday. It was a lot more regular than back here at home.
You also had the opportunity to play in the Women’s Champions League. What was the level of competition you experienced?
The Champions League was definitely one of the highlights. We played in the first round against a Swiss team called the Young Boys. They were a very young side but again great footballers. They were all technically very good but we over powered them and we won the first two games quite convincingly.
The second round was against Swedish side Göteborg. They actually placed second in the Swedish League so they were a really strong side. In the first game I was enjoying playing them. We were five minutes in and then I did my knee and they actually scored their only goal just as I came off from a corner. But they were a great side and to be honest they were probably a better side than us.
You mentioned the knee injury. How did it occur and did you know what you had done at the time?
I was running for 50/50 ball, with the ball in between the player and I and she got there first. I went to change directions with my foot planted and my knee just gave way.
I heard the pop and everything, went down with pain but it went away after a couple of seconds. The physio came on and she got me back up and said can you go back on the field. I looked at her and I was like “It’s the Champions League, of course I will go on.”
So I went back on the field and the first time I went to do something, I put my foot down, tried to do a header and the knee just buckled and gave way.
Kim [Carroll] came over and asked what was wrong and I knew it was my ACL as the knee was weak. When I got home it was ruled as a full ACL rupture and a small medial tear.
You have now had the surgery, so what is the timetable for a return?
For the next four weeks I’m in a brace and then after that I can give that the flick. It’s probably a bad time to have to wear it around actually as it gets hot.
I am looking at running at four months and then light agility work at 6 months, training at 9 months and my first game will not be for 12 months. The Doc has already clearly explained to me that I will not play a game before 12 months because the risk of re-injuring it is quite high.
I am not complaining. I would rather spend an extra three months on the sideline then go through it all over again.
Outside of football what is the plan for the next 12 months?
I will return to study. I am enrolled in summer school so that will keep me busy. Then full time next year and hopefully finish my Bachelor at the end of next year.
Despite this setback you are still a young player with plenty of time left in your career, what are you looking to achieve once you get back to playing football?
I think playing over in Europe has given me a small taste and I still have a little bit of hunger to play over there. I realise that I want to try and get into the Swedish League or maybe even the German League. They seem to be the two leagues that are of the highest quality.
In terms of the short term goal would be to win another W-League, get that under my belt next season.