Wollongong Wolves exciting young 21-year-old Left Back Bilal Belkadi has been hard at work during lockdown to ensure he can pick up where he left from after an early season leg injury that nearly derailed his maiden NPL NSW Men’s campaign.
The life of a young footballer is fragile at best.
You’re hungry to prove yourself as you constantly search to improve day in day out.
There have been many footballers brimming with talent in recent years that have gone too far too soon or in devastating cases, succumb to injuries that stunt or end their career before it begins.
For Belkadi, a broken fibula in the early stages of the year posed that very threat.
In very rare circumstances however, the budding footballers’ injury didn’t require surgery with the left-back only spending weeks on the sideline.
“I was very disappointed when I injured my leg.
“Having to move away from home on the Central Coast to a new place took time but I felt like I adjusted really well and slotted into the squad well under Luke’s (Wilkshire) leadership, so when the injury came it was tough mentally.
“I was, however, very lucky to only miss a few games and get back out onto the park quickly so I’m very grateful.”
For Belkadi, a return saw a string of strong performances for a player looking very comfortable within the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition.
Having come through the academy at the Central Coast Mariners amassing several years at a first grade NPL level, Belkadi says he felt that he adapted well physically.
“Moving to Wollongong and into the NPL NSW Men’s league I didn’t find the physical challenge all that difficult.
“I was used to it in the years prior but the technicality of the players is definitely higher so that took some adjusting too but I feel I’ve handled it really well.”
Belkadi, with his vast experience against those older than him, poses a threat for those he comes up against each week.
An old head on young shoulders is certainly something that would be of benefit to any side and for a Wolves side right in the hunt for finals football this year, Belkadi is sure to have an important role to play.
“We started off a bit slow this year.
“There were new players like myself that came in and it showed early on.
“Although once we came together, we clicked well, and the performances came. We’ve qualified for the FFA Cup along with putting ourselves in a position to fight for the finals which is great.
“The timing of the lockdown was a shame but there’s plenty of teams like us who were starting to find form so we’re staying positive and looking forward to when the season restarts.”
As Belkadi, like many of us, sits tight amidst the enforced lockdown, he has been staying quite busy with the opportunity to play on the national stage along with a chance to play finals football at the forefront of his mind.
“When the lockdown first started, I was at home on the Central Coast. I have 3 brothers and a sister so it was great to be with my family.
“My brothers and I worked a lot in the backyard with bootcamp style training along with plenty of running to the beach and back.
“Coach Luke has also sent the squad training programs and we have a team zoom call three times a week involving core work which has been very beneficial for us. Of course, in my downtime, the PlayStation has been very handy (laughs).
“The squad is very keen to get back to training and playing together as we have a lot to look forward to.
“We’re going to be pushing for finals and of course the FFA Cup is exciting. It will be my first time in it, I can’t wait to show what I and the team can do but with all the work we’ve put in individually, we’ll be ready for a big end to the year.”
-By Joseph Esposito