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Sep 27, 2013   |  11:30PM AET

Shipard on course for return

Shipard on course for return

Sally Shipard has returned to Canberra and after being sidelined by injury for the best part of two years can’t wait to get back to what she loves doing most.

Sally Shipard has returned to Canberra and after being sidelined by injury for the best part of two years can-t wait to get back to what she loves doing most – playing football.

The dynamic midfielder has signed with Canberra United – the team she won the title with in 2012, for the upcoming Westfield W-League season. While still only 25-years-old, Shipard is a relative veteran in the side but is bristling with the enthusiasm of someone making their debut to be back.

Shipard, who was unsure at times if she-d ever make it back to the elite level, has endured a long rehabilitation period to get back on the field. She-s undergone arthroscopic surgery on both her knees and countless hours on the physio table and in the gym.

While the former W-League player of the year would give anything to be playing in the season opener against Brisbane Roar, Shipard is still about ten weeks away from being fully fit.

“I-ve already re-injured myself once from returning too soon, so I won-t be making that mistake again,” said Shipard. “It-s been a frustrating and at times lonely period to get back but I’m looking forward to having to prove myself all over again.”

From humble beginnings playing for Wagga PCYC in her junior district competition, Shipard-s career has seen her travel the world, playing for the likes of Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. Most recently her football journey landed her in Brisbane, where she credits the staff at the Queensland Academy of Sport and Brisbane Roar as being instrumental in her return.

“Belinda Wilson (Brisbane Roar W-League coach) has been amazing support throughout my rehab and I probably wouldn’t be back this soon without her help,” said Shipard.

“My physio Scott Fraser and strength and conditioning coach Dave Watts at the QAS have been very understanding also and I can-t speak highly enough of their programs.”

Despite being sidelined by injury Shipard has maintained a strong link to football during her time off the field and proven herself to be quite the media talent. She became a columnist and social media manager for FFA, focusing on the women-s game in Australia and also had some guest commentary stints calling W-League matches.

“It was an incredible opportunity to grow in that space and is something I really enjoyed and may yet revisit when I retire,” said Shipard. “At the same time it was extremely difficult interviewing friends when I just wanted to be out there playing with them.

“I’m very excited to be playing again as that-s what I love.”

Shipard, who debuted for the Matildas nearly ten years ago at the tender age of 16, hasn’t ruled out a return to the national fold but at the moment is taking things one step at a time.

“I-d love to play for the green and gold again but the path just to get back to playing has been tough so I-ll take things as they come.

“The Matildas have some huge tournaments coming up with the World Cup in Canada in 2015 and the Brazil Olympics in 2016 and of course the Asian Cup next year.

“If I can contribute to the national team in any way I-d jump at the opportunity but right now I just want to be back playing.”

While Shipard has been busy strengthening her knees, her club have been working on their spine ahead of the start of the new Westfield W-League season. Shipard is relishing working under new head coach Liesbeth Migchelsen and can-t wait to get back out in front of the Canberra fans.

“Our squad will be getting an influx of internationals over the next couple of weeks,” revealed Shipard. “We-re all learning a huge amount from the system Liesbeth wants us to play.

“We get a huge amount of support in the nation-s capital, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and hopefully it-ll be a successful summer.”