Elrich looks to Asia, Heffernan back in November

Central Coast Mariners midfielder Ahmad Elrich has contributed to the Mariners’ Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign for the last time, with scans confirming the Qantas Socceroo has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will be sidelined for a minimum of six months.

Central Coast Mariners midfielder Ahmad Elrich has contributed to the Mariners- Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign for the last time, with scans confirming the Qantas Socceroo has ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will be sidelined for a minimum of six months.

Elrich was withdrawn from the Mariners 4-2 triumph over the Queensland Roar last Sunday with only 12 minutes played after turning awkwardly off the ball.

Elrich will undergo knee reconstructive surgery next week, with an aim to returning to light training almost immediately thanks to an accelerated rehabilitation program that will be overseen and has been co-ordinated by Mariners physiotherapists Peter Buffon and Denny Shearwood of the Hills Street Sports Medicine Centre.

Through this program, it is hoped that Elrich will be eligible for selection by early to mid-2009, at which time the Mariners are expected to be contesting the group stage of their inaugural AFC Champions League tilt.

"Personally, it-s obviously a devastating blow for me, especially considering how fit I was feeling and how much progress I had made throughout the pre-season and the early part of the Hyundai A-League season," said Elrich.

"However, it-s good that I know exactly what I-m dealing with as I-ve been through this exact procedure before and I-ve come back from it - I know that I-ll come back again.

"Now, the hard work starts for me in terms of looking after myself during this long break and taking the careful steps to get back to where I was only recently and I know that with the help of the Mariners, my team-mates and with my family close by, I can return to my best and hopefully contribute in some way to our AFC Champions League campaign."

Furthermore, Qantas Socceroo prospect Dean Heffernan, who has yet to make an appearance for the Mariners in the Hyundai A-League this season, has endured a setback in his recovery from the leg break he suffered in December of last year when the Mariners went down 5-4 to southern rivals Sydney FC at Bluetongue Stadium.

Heffernan-s leg is now back in plaster and will be so for another three weeks, during which time Heffernan will have an accelerated bone healing mechanic applied to his damaged tibia, with an aim to have the left wingback flyer competing for a starting eleven berth by November.

"It-s great to have located the current problem and to now be on the right track to putting this injury behind me for good," said Heffernan.

"I-ve maintained a good level of general fitness throughout my rehabilitation and I-m confident that upon commencing light training I-ll be in a position to put my hand up for selection soon after and it goes without saying that I-m itching to get back onto the pitch and contribute to the new season."

Beyond Elrich and Heffernan-s long-term concerns, the Mariners will soon welcome back midfield lynchpin Greg Owens, who has made impressive progress in overcoming his hamstring injury in recent weeks.

It is hoped that Owens will be eligible for selection by mid-October, by which time the Mariners will have completed a third of their Hyundai A-League 2008/09 campaign.

Shortly afterwards, fellow midfielder Andre Gumprecht is expected to return to full fitness, having recently commenced light training after suffering a medial ligament tear at Brisbane-s Perry Park against the Queensland Roar in the final round of the 2008 Pre-Season Cup.

Attacking ace Adrian Caceres, who missed the Mariners- breakthrough triumph of season four with a back strain, will resume full training in the coming days and is expected to be available for selection for the Mariners- sojourn to the New Zealand capital in a fortnight.

More positively, previously long-term injured pair Nik Mrdja and Paul O-Grady have trained strongly for much of the past two months and are each fully fit and available for selection, as the Mariners look to build upon their Hyundai A-League Premiership defence in the coming weeks and months.

"We-ve had a tough start to the season in terms of injuries, but the Hyundai A-League experience that has been gained by some of our so-called fringe players in such time has been invaluable," said Football Manager Lawrie McKinna.

"Pedj Bojic has performed like a Hyundai A-League veteran and will only get better, Bradley Porter has been a rock for us in midfield and Matt Simon has been in exceptional form up front and when you add the likes of Gumprecht, Heffernan and Owens to that equation, our playing stocks are very impressive.

"We-ve shown glimpses of our potential in previous weeks, not least our win against the Queensland Roar last Sunday, but we still have a lot of improving to do and if we can keep our current group of players fit, in addition to gaining our injured players back in the near future, I-m very confident that we-ll give our Premiership defence a mighty shake."

The Mariners- Hyundai A-League campaign will pause for one week due to next weekend-s FIFA International Match Day break, with the yellow and navy to return to competitive action against the Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, 14 September. Kick off is at 3pm AEST.

The Mariners are next at their Bluetongue Stadium home on Saturday, 20 September, when they host season two Champions and Premiers the Melbourne Victory in Round 5. Kick off is at 7pm.

Tickets for this match are now on sale from Ticketek outlets, from the Ticketek website - www.ticketek.com.au, or via phone on 132 849.

Mariners Memberships for the Hyundai A-League 2008/09 season are now on sale at www.ccmariners.com.au.