Injuries to both knees wasn't going to stop Meg McLaughlin.
For any 20-year-old playing at the pinnacle of their chosen sport to discover that they would be forced to miss an entire season through injury would be tough to handle. To then find out that their spell on the sidelines would be extended due to further damage would sap the morale of even the most hardened of athletes. But that was the scenario facing Canberra United forward Meg McLaughlin.
McLaughlin found out the devastating news in September 2014 that she would have to have surgery on her left knee after a knock sustained playing local football. From what was initially a minor injury that refused to heal McLaughlin was forced to have surgery on the troublesome area. Two months later doctors informed the youngster she would have to have surgery to her right knee prompting a full nine month recovery and a long road back to the top.
“I didn’t have surgery until January so that pushed everything back. I had to pretty much start again,” McLaughlin said. “There was a lot of waiting around and I couldn’t do anything so once I started running getting my fitness back was rushed. Of course I worked hard but if I could do it again I wish that I had more time to get fit because I don’t think I’m 100 percent fit right now.”
The rehab was intense where McLaughlin spent “every week in [Canberra United Doctor] Wilson Lo’s office” getting plasma platelet and cortisone injections in both of her knees. The treatment to the musculoskeletal injury offered to speed up recovery and lessen severe long term pain, left the Young Matildas international facing a challenge to break back into the starting XI for United when she returned from injury.
“With all of my injuries I didn’t think I’d be starting any games this season and that I’d just be used as an impact player off the bench.” McLaughlin admitted.
Although it hasn’t been easy for her, to the striker’s credit she is now in line for her sixth Westfield W-League appearance of the campaign this weekend when United travel to play Western Sydney Wanderers in Gosford. On top of that, McLaughlin recently completed her exams at ANU where she is studying Commerce and will major in Accounting.
Outside of training McLaughlin aims to fit in light exercise to propel her to the same level as the rest of the group. “With university I haven’t been able to do too much training but almost every day I walk my dogs - it’s not fitness as such but it’s still doing something.”
The young gun has had a strong support network around her including Head Coach Rae Dower. “The biggest thing Rae has told me is to look after myself. She’s been amazing, same with the whole coaching staff,” McLaughlin commented.
Football has been a carefully thought out path for the intelligent player where Canberra United was always the goal. McLaughlin rose through the ranks at 14 when she was selected for the ACTAS program, training with a handful of the current Canberra United footballers. “Caitlin Munoz is amazing and she was my idol when I was younger. Being exposed to such experienced players improved my game so much,” McLaughlin revealed.
When McLaughlin speaks about her future goals, it’s a no-brainer that overall fitness is the target. “I want to be in peak physical fitness and to be pain free,” she said. “Every day is a different day in terms of my knees but just being in peak physical form is my aim because it’s been awhile since that’s happened. I love watching Ashleigh Sykes play, I wish I was as fit and fast as her!”
With an abundance of quality in the Canberra ranks, McLaughlin’s commitment to getting the job done on the pitch and patience with her recovery, has served her well so far in securing her spot in the team. “It’s quite competitive, nothing is guaranteed,” she commented. “A lot of the girls coming through have the talent and with Emma Kete injured the younger girls have an opportunity to show what we’ve got. I think my best game so far was against Sydney coming off the bench and I think I made quite an impact.”
Canberra United can look forward to witnessing more improvement from McLaughlin as her fitness and full recovery accelerates.
Canberra United play Western Sydney Wanderers in Round 7 of the Westfield W-League this weekend at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford. The match is live on Fox Sports and ABC TV on Sunday from 2pm.