Alex Rufer has fought his way back to fitness after a horrendous injury nine months ago, and was today rewarded for his commitment with a two-year Wellington Phoenix contract that will take him through to May 2018.
As Rufer reflected on what happened to him on in December 2015 in an ASB Premiership clash with Team Wellington, he went through a whole gamut of emotions.
A heavy tackle broke the tibia in his right leg, along with his ankle, and amid the intense pain was the thought that his dream of being a professional footballer was over.
"It was a pretty sad day. I was lost. So down," an emotional Rufer said.
"All I ever wanted was to be a professional footballer and the negative thoughts took over at the start.
"Once I started to feel better my mood improved and I became determined that day wouldn’t end my career.
"I was told it would be at least 12 months before I could play again but I made it in 9 months and 5 days.
"I have physios Rob Lee, who has now left the club, and Brent O’Connor to thank for getting me through, and I owe those two a huge debt because they have done a massive job with my recovery and I can’t thank them enough.
"Now that I’ve come out of it I feel I can come back bigger and stronger."
Head Coach Ernie Merrick was delighted to have a fit Rufer back in contention for a place.
"The boy has worked really hard to get back to fitness," Merrick said.
"It was a horrendous leg break, but Alex was still tough enough to hop off the pitch and receive a yellow card on the way off!
"He has been conscientious with his rehab programme and has been training the house down this pre-season.
"He is good enough now to get some game time so we will use him in the next few matches.
"Alex is one of the better up-and-coming talents in this country and he and Matt Ridenton are starting to put pressure on the senior players, as they should be doing.
"A footballer’s biggest fear is being out of the game for a long time through injury and not being able to get back.
"Alex has bounced back and all credit to him."