Three years to the day after the horrific tackle by Kevin Muscat, Adrian Zahra is finally getting back to his best...and determined to move on.
Zahra joined Perth Glory from Melbourne Heart in 2012 and this season has managed eight matches for the West Australian side. Out of the team for most of the first 10 rounds, the right winger has been a regular for Perth’s past five matches since new coach Kenny Lowe came in - and he's thrilled to be back getting regular football.
“I’m really enjoying my time now,” he said. “The fact I’m getting a lot of opportunity the last couple of weeks has made it a lot easier. These days I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can and try and back up my performances week-in-week-out. But I’m just taking it game by game and hopefully it’ll be working out not only for myself but for the team’s benefit.”
The 23-year old has helped Glory to two draws and a win in its past three games, as the club climbs up the table, and he is growing in confidence.
“I wouldn’t say I’m extravagant and feeling exactly really happy about my form,” Zahra said. “[But] I’m really happy that I’m building some games under my legs and I’m really building on my performances and just backing it up.
"These days the more game-time I get the more consistent I’m going to get, the more confident I get. And confidence is a massive thing.
"I think if a coach has confidence in a player it helps him perform and what Kenny’s done is show me that confidence and hopefully that’s being shown out on the park by myself.”
Zahra capped off his return to the first-team with a brilliant long-range opening strike against his former club, Melbourne Heart, in Perth’s 3-0 win at NIB Stadium.
“I think it might have been in the 60th minute,” he said. “We definitely knew that we needed a goal and I just thought it was a great opportunity to create something and I’m just happy it hit the back of the net.
"Every goal’s satisfying, regardless if it’s your old club or not. But it was a bit of a special one because I was there at the Heart. It’s always great to score against your old team.”
Exactly three years ago today Zahra was cruelly cut down by Muscat. The foul attracted attention from around the globe and the then Melbourne Victory skipper received a red card, an eight-game suspension and soon retired completely from football.
Zahra picked up a serious injury on his right knee from the challenge that required surgery and a long lay-off. He did not play in the A-League again until a year later, but today the young forward is completely recovered and has moved on.
“The body is 100% fine, I haven’t had any issues with the knee since returning from becoming fully fit,” Zahra said. “I’ve haven’t had any issues from that injury, nothing recurring.
"People just assume because there was inconsistency between game-time and stuff like that, but that just all came with coaching staff and selections and that was out of my control.
“It’s still a question [the tackle] that comes up. I think I left Melbourne thinking that it would be beyond me, but coming here there’s a lot of people in the football world that obviously know about my tackle and the outcome of it.
"I think it’s going to come up for the rest of my life to be fair because a lot of people have seen it and spoken about it and it’s going to continue. Especially with the Melbourne derby, it’s probably the first thing shown these days when it comes to that rivalry so I don’t think I’ll be escaping it any time soon.
"It’s one of those unfortunate things but you move on."
With two goals in eight appearances so far this season, Zahra is keen to add to that tally and further cement his first-team spot. The Melbourne Knights junior believes he has a lot more to show the Glory faithful.
“It’s about now getting that consistency and that confidence back,” Zahra said. “The more games you play the more confident you get.
"There’s a lot more of myself that Perth fans, obviously that have known me for the last year and a half, that they haven’t seen. And I’m hoping to continue to show that for the rest of this season and hopefully beyond.
"At the end of the day, I know I’m capable of being a great player, it’s just about opportunity and game-time, and the fact that there’s now been a lot of game-time and opportunity it’s made it a lot easier for me to show what I’m capable of.”comments