The journey from an ACL tear in China to Canberra United

-

Getting told her ACL was torn by a translator whilst in China was not the ending to 2019 that Canberra United newcomer Holly Caspers had hoped for.

Embed from Getty Images

After a breakout debut year for WNPL New South Wales team Sydney University, a dream end of season trip to the University Games soon became a nightmare.

In a tackle gone wrong during her second match – her game, tournament and next 12 months of football were taken away in an instant.

For many, an injury of this severity at the age of 19 would be enough to completely derail a potential professional footballing career.

Caspers instead used it as extra motivation, with it making her desire to play in the A-League Women’s (ALW) competition even greater.

That dream that felt so unattainable two years ago on that fateful day in Jinjiang will soon become a reality, thanks to a combination of hard work, a submission tape and Vicki Linton.

The year 2020 was one of growth off the field for Caspers. Instead of training and playing hard in an attempt to impress ALW coaches, rehabilitation was the order of business.

Embed from Getty Images

If rehabbing a torn ACL was not already challenging enough, the task became even more difficult when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Gyms were closed and group workouts were banned, both of which are usually key parts of recovery programs.

“That was something I really struggled with,” Caspers said. “Not having access to a gym and equipment certainly made it quite difficult.”

The isolation of lockdowns also meant she was on her own for many of these sessions, something that she found exceptionally hard.

“It just becomes so repetitive and very unmotivating doing the process individually,” she said.

“Without that team environment to go to multiple times a week it was quite difficult.”

It would have been easy to slip into a negative mindset and give up on her ALW dream. Despite the hardships, for Caspers that just wasn’t an option.

“As long as you can use your mindset in a positive way to push yourself and motivate yourself there is always going to be a positive outcome come out of it,” she said.

With this mantra in mind, her desire to ultimately play in the ALW became even stronger.

“As soon as you go through an injury where it’s taken away from you, you end up appreciating the game a lot more and realise what you want out of it,” she said.

With rehabilitation complete and her knee fully mended, 2021 was shaping to be a big year for Caspers.

She certainly delivered.

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst the WNPL NSW competition ended up being shortened due to the Sydney Covid outbreak, Caspers had a stellar season which included a double in a 3-0 win against the Emerging Jets in late May.

Her speed and eye for goal was praised by many in the league, and led director of football at Sydney University John Curran to recommend Caspers create a highlights package for potential A-League Women clubs.

Canberra United was on that list and with nothing to lose she decided to send it in. It turned out they were very interested.

“One day I was on a walk with my dog and got a call from a random number,” she said.

“I almost dropped the phone when I answered it and it was Vicki Linton.”

A 45-minute conversation with the head coach about the team, expectations and what she could offer the United squad ensued, and the next day she was signed.

The whirlwind last two years ends with Caspers just one week out from her potential ALW debut. Whether she starts the first match, is an impact sub or has to wait a little longer to to get game time, this season for her is all about learning and contributing in any way possible.

Embed from Getty Images

That shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do, with Caspers now training alongside established star Michelle Heyman, and returning former Matilda Ash Sykes.

“Learning off (Heyman and Sykes) is and will continue to be just incredible and I can’t wait to explore that,” she said. “It’s been amazing to have the experience to play with such incredible players.”

Despite the setbacks, and a career that nearly finished before it started, Caspers has finally reached the ALW.

The last two years have consisted of hard work and perseverance, and for this she has been rewarded with a contract at Canberra United and an opportunity to fulfil her lifelong dream.

Feature image credit: Canberra United

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required