Russell on first goal back

Tate Russell, what a story.

The Wanderers full-back has returned in a big way since missing the entirety of last season through a torn ACL suffered just over a month before the campaign got underway in September 2022.

Prior to injury, Russell had emerged from the Wanderers Academy, debuting in the senior side in the 2018/19 season and making 69 appearances, playing under the likes of Markus Babbel, Jean-Paul de Marigny, Carl Robinson and Marko Rudan.

During his rehab and in a show of faith from the Wanderers hierarchy, Russell was awarded with a two-year contract extension and fought his way back into the side in the off-season.

Injuries to full-back duo Gabriel Cleur and Aiden Simmons also opened the door for him to break back into the team and he hasn’t looked back since returning in Round 1 against Wellington Phoenix for his first match since May 2022.

“Coming back from such a long time, you never really know what you’re going to expect in that next year,” Russell told Paramount +.

“To be able to play the games that I have already is quite the privilege, especially for this team, just coming and score.

“My first goal back is such an unreal feeling and now putting ourselves in a good position [ahead of] this break now and then the Derby up next.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 11: Tate Russell of the Wanderers celebrates scoring a goal with teammates during the A-League Men round four match between Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory at CommBank Stadium, on November 11, 2023, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Rudan also paid tribute to Russell and the way he’s battled back from a serious injury in the last few months.

“It’s a great story. I mean, he’s been in this club ever since he was in his nappies, basically,” the Wanderers boss said on Paramount +.

“A real tough one for him, last year in pre-season, he went down with an ACL and he bided his time. He was very professional, he was headstrong as well. We got around him and football’s got a funny way of paying dividends and respecting you, if you respect it.

“It just so happens that both full-backs Gabby Cleur and ‘Simmo’ (Aiden Simmons) went down with an injury in pre-season, and the door opens with someone, and you need to be ready and he’s been ready.

“He now understands that Gabby’s had a full week of training, Simmo’s back for the next game as well. It’s his to lose.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit for his durability, his persistence, his positivity over the course of the last 12 or 14 months or so and he deserves all the good things that come his way.”