Caitlin Munoz in action for Canberra United | TWG
A female football friend of one mine once said “if you haven’t done one knee in your career, you’re not trying hard enough!”
It’s a distressing fact that female athletes are close to ten times more likely to injure their ACL and require a knee reconstruction than their male counterparts. In fact the WA Women’s Premier League this season, the eventually winners Balcatta SC had at least 4 players who were required to go under the knife.
Following that adage, you can’t accuse Canberra United’s Caitlin Munoz of not trying. The United and Matildas’ striker last season went under the knife making it the third time in her career.
“The first time it happened in 1998 and then '99,” remembered Munoz. “Then last year we came to the agreement that previous reconstructions had not worked.”
“We had a couple of chats to doctor's and physio's and decided it was a good idea to have it re-done."
The initial recovery period was scheduled to take 3 – 4 months with Munoz aiming at this year’s Asian Cup as a return date. However, problems March 2009 saw her eventually return under the knife in October in what was frustrating setback for the 27 year old.
"Things just weren't going right with it [the knee],” she said. “Most of the time I was frustrated just because things were good then they were bad."
Despite not being able to train or play, Munoz remained a fixture around Canberra United. As an assistant to coach Ray Junna, she spent time analysing the game from a different perspective.
"I don’t think that I really helped Ray at all!" she laughed.
“Ray is a really good coach. He has made me look at the game differently and he sets things up the way I like to play."
While the experience was enlightening all Munoz really wanted to do was play football. In the end her recovery has taken a little over 12 months but finally in October she returned to the game and the national team with her unexpected inclusion in the Peace Cup squad.
"I was actually a bit shocked that I got picked considering how well the girls did in the Asian Cup. Just to be back part of the squad was a really good boost."
Caitlin Munoz is now back playing for Canberra United, a team in which missed her goals and presence last season. However, as any player returning from injury will tell you, it not always simple stepping onto the park.
"It’s definitely a good feeling to be back playing,” Munoz stated. “But I just need to get my confidence back as a player.”
Part of that is getting back up to speed in a W-League that is rapidly changing season by season. Since Munoz last played there has been the emergence of several new strikers including Perth’s Sam Kerr, Newcastle’s Tara Andrews and Munoz’s new United teammate and Season Two Golden Boot winner Michelle Heyman.
“The game itself is growing and the League has all changed a lot. There are younger players who are a lot more agile and mobile."
"Every year its getting faster. I think the difference is that the teams are a lot stronger and there are a good four or five teams that could clinch the title."
With the World Cup a little over seven months away, there will be plenty of pressure for spot in Tom Sermanni’s squad. For the moment Caitlin Munoz is just happy to playing football and with two goals in 4 games this season, she doesn’t appear to have lost her knack for goalscoring.
"I would happily play a game everyday if I could," Munoz concluded. "I just love playing the game and being out there on the field."