From broken neck to club captaincy

Mernda started their 2018 Northern Football Netball League Division 3 season with an 83-point victory over pre-season flag favourites Panton Hill, kicking 22.10 (142) to 8.11 (59).

The game was Josh Delaney’s first as captain of Mernda, and was determined not to let the opportunity go to waste. Indeed, he shares a different story to many others who had taken the captaincy before him.

Back in 2012, then just 20 years old, had established himself as a regular in the senior side, before suffering a serious neck injury against St Mary’s late in the season. He was initially told he would never play football again.

“I woke up the next morning, and the doctors told me what was going on, that I can’t play footy ever again,” he said. “So it was hard to take in, and I had a bit of a cry, as you do, because you love your sport and the footy club.”

“I just wanted to be out there, but when you get told that you can’t play footy again, your mind just turns over and you want to be determined to shut those doctors up and pull on the red and blue again”

The injury meant Delaney missed out on the club’s premiership triumph, but then-coach Brett Wilson, realising the enormity of the situation he was in, donated his premiership medallion to Delaney on the dais.

Making his comeback in Round 4, 2014 against Epping, Delaney says that his parents had mixed feelings about his comeback, which has been successful, both football-wise and injury-wise.

“Mum being mum, she was a bit scared, and dad’s dad, he wants me to play football. The guys around the club, they didn’t really want me to play football. They wanted me to look after myself. Everybody was a bit worried about myself, but I just wanted to play football for the love of the game.”

Delaney’s reward was being named club captain for 2018 at the club’s season launch night, a feeling which left him ‘overwhelmed’.

His first game as captain could not have gone any better, kicking a goal in the win. He credits his teammates for their all-round performance.

“Everyone just communicated with each other,” he said. “All the on-ballers, forwards, made sure it just worked fluently. Probably the best game, communication-wise and direction-wise and I think our speed of the game was from that. It was a great day for us.”

Delaney’s second game as captain takes place this weekend against South Morang.