WHEN Alex Van Heerwarden went down injured during an intraclub training game at Centenary Park late last year he thought he’d never play again.
The big defender had his worst fears confirmed a few days later when x-rays revealed a second ACL knee injury that required reconstructive surgery.
It was his left knee this time having recovered from similar surgery to his right knee back in 2009 in his first season with Langwarrin.
His route to Lawton Park had come via a junior career in NSW after his family had left Melbourne when he was four years old.
His career kicked off with Castle Hill United and he played in Premier League juniors and was a regular zone representative.
He also attended the prestigious Westfield Sports High School whose lengthy list of notable alumni includes Harry Kewell, Jason Culina, Aaron Mooy and Matt Ryan.
In 2009 the family returned to Melbourne and Van Heerwarden successfully trialled with Jamie Skelly’s Langy under-21s.
Van Heerwarden had played as a striker during his junior career winning leading scorer honours from under-13s to under-15s but under Skelly made a successful transition to central defence.
On Saturday 16 May 2009 Van Heerwarden made his first senior appearance against Southern Stars at Ross Reserve coming on in the 85th minute replacing Rados Tomic but shortly after was carried off with the first serious injury of his career.
He was back in action for the opening round of the following season and when Danny Black and Karl Cochrane left midway during that year he was elevated to the seniors.
Van Heerwarden had established himself in Langy’s senior squad when he switched to Centenary Park for the 2012 season joining Skelly who had been appointed senior coach of Peninsula Strikers.
He returned to Langy the following season and was a mainstay in the seniors for the next few seasons.
He was captain of the side when he quit at the end of the 2016 season and linked up with Skelly again this time at Casey Comets.
That was until Skelly answered an SOS call from then Strikers president Trevor Johnston in the back half of the 2018 season and Van Heerwarden was among a group of players brought in to rescue the club from relegation with just nine games to go.
“Some of my best playing moments were there and I think that was because every game was so important,” Van Heerwarden said.
“The players already at the club were great.
“When you’re playing for a club and you get told that the new coach is bringing in seven or eight new players it would be easy to drop your head but we all bonded really well and we’re still close to this day.
“I’ve never won a league but that’s pretty much what it felt like when we avoided relegation that year.”
He was back at Lawton Park for the following season when Skelly was appointed assistant to new senior coach Scott Miller in late 2018 and Van Heerwarden was given his first opportunity to compete at NPL level.
“The professionalism there was amazing,” he said.
“To see the club go to that level was massive.
“Although I was 26 or 27 back then I could feel myself improving and playing at that level was something else.”
At the end of the pandemic-ravaged 2020 season Van Heerwarden was undecided as to his playing plans.
Still a Langwarrin player he was given permission to train at Strikers until that fateful intraclub game in November 2020 and after surgery in February this year he took on the role of senior team manager at Lawton Park.
“I drew on the experience of my previous rehab this time round but I used the lockdown this year to get my body into a position where I’ve got a decision to make whether to play or get involved in coaching.
“I’m the fittest I’ve been for a number of years and the lightest – I’m probably 10 kilos lighter than I was last pre-season when I did the second ACL.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries throughout my career and bodyweight probably played a part in that but I’m more agile and nimble now and when I run at night my body doesn’t ache like it used to.”
While Van Heerwarden weighs up his options he is confident about Langwarrin’s prospects of climbing out of NPL2 and reaching the elite club level of Victorian football.
“I think the infrastructure at Langy is there now.
“What Tanya (Wallace, club president) has done with the council is great and the committee is unbelievable.
“The under-21s are in good hands with ‘Caff’ (Ben Caffrey) and ‘Pooley’ (Adam Poole) there and they’ve got some good boys coming through.
“They’ll be very competitive and there will be a few boys who’ll be training with the seniors.
“The overall structure at the club is good and there’s a clear direction in developing our players through our NPL junior teams.
“The club has taken a lot of steps overall in the past couple of years and is now ready to go that one step higher.”
In State 4 news Somerville Eagles are understood to have been active in the player market with a number of players linked to the club.
Former Golden Boot winner Mark Pagliarulo is considering a return from Rosebud while other names linked with Somerville include Aspendale Stingrays trio Adrian Pace, Connor Guyett and Ryan Maokhamphiou and former Berwick City and Stingrays forward Guil Ribeiro.
Chelsea held its senior men’s presentation last week.
Midfielder Max Timuska-Carr was senior Players’ Player of the Year, defender Tom Flavelle was Best Player and Top Scorer honours were shared by Piers Brelsford and Timuska-Carr.
In the reserves Burak Vurdal was Player’s Player of the Year and Best Player while Adrian Lotca was Top Scorer.
Meanwhile Rosebud Heart hopes to have its State 5 South status confirmed by Football Victoria this week.
Club president Anthony Matthews and Mornington Peninsula Shire representatives were interviewed by FV last week.
It’s believed that four positions are available in State 5 South and a host of applications were lodged.
Once Heart gets the green light it will again advertise for senior and reserves coaches and players but the club is believed to have positioned itself to quickly assemble both squads.