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vandenBerg sets his sights on 2018

Matt Burgan  August 11, 2017 6:24 PM

I’ve got massive confidence in coming back and being in the best 22. You’ve got to have that confidence as a footballer if you want to be good at it

AARON vandenBerg says he’s as determined as ever to make his mark, and return to the side next year, after his 2017 season was ruined by injury.

vandenBerg played in the club’s opening two JLT Community Series matches this year, but suffered a heel injury in Melbourne’s second win against Carlton at Casey Fields and has since been sidelined.

After undergoing surgery, he has set his sights on an early pre-season start, once he returns from China, where he has been doing promotional work for the club and its partner China Southern Airlines in Guangzhou, Baiyun Airport.

vandenBerg was there to hand out free tickets to ‘The Welcome Game’, which is part of the festivities for this Sunday’s clash between Melbourne and St Kilda at the MCG.

He also showed local Chinese children and international travellers the basics of Australian football.  

Now, vandenBerg is travelling around China with his father, having already visited such places as Beijing, the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.

But once he returns to Melbourne, his focus will quickly shift to the 2018 season.

“I’ve got massive confidence in coming back and being in the best 22. You’ve got to have that confidence as a footballer if you want to be good at it,” he told melbournefc.com.au.

“I thought I was tracking in a really good direction before my injury and I was very confident it would’ve been my best season to date. But it went downhill from there.

“I’m confident that when I’m back, I’ll put myself back in the team through pure work-ethic and hold my spot. I’ve done a lot of education and become a student of the game.”

The 25-year-old said he was now “going really well” since his operation, adding that he had battled heel/ankle problems since 2015.

“After I got the diagnosis of what it was, following the Carlton JLT game, it was a bit of a rollercoaster ride after that. We weren’t really sure what the injury was, so it was quite a strange injury,” he said.

“I came up to Sydney and had a chat to a surgeon and he was fantastic. He was pretty confident with what the injury was and we went forward and operated, which was more than eight weeks ago.

“I don’t want to go jumping the gun, but it’s probably the best I’ve felt in nearly two years. Ever since I had that initial ankle injury in 2015, which was my first year at Melbourne, I haven’t quite been the same since.

“I’ve really been hampered with this and I think – or hope – that he’s found the cure for me.”

But vandenBerg acknowledged that it had been a “bittersweet” feeling watching on this year.

“You spend a lot of time with these guys and you want to see them do well and you want to see the club do well,” he said.

“It’s just unfortunate that you can’t be out there with them, because there have been massive improvements. We’re not getting blown away like we used to.

“I know when I was sitting with my foot up on the couch at Mum and Dad’s place, watching TV, the week after the operation, we had a great win against the Bulldogs. But it was almost a sickly feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t able to be out there.

“I had to just get away and go for a drive just to clear my head, as I wanted to be out there so bad.”

But with his training set to step-up in the coming weeks, once he returns from China on August 17, vandenBerg said he “really wants to make a point”.

“During the off-season, I can completely commit to my rehabilitation, because it’ll be quite serious at that time of the year. It was a good time to get away and then get back into it,” he said.