Melville player beats injury for Games spot

Hamilton's Adam Thomas has shrugged off a nagging knee injury in time to be part of the Olympic Games.

The versatile Melville United footballer was recently named in the New Zealand under-23 side for the Games in London despite not having played since April.

However, Thomas aims to be back on the park today and admitted he had some nervous moments before the OlyWhites squad was named.

"I did doubt myself, after being out injured for so long and being unable to either train or play when they were picking the team," Thomas said.

"But I had been in regular touch with the team doctor, Mark Fulcher, and he told me Neil [coach Neil Emblen] was saying that if I could get fit in time for the warmup games I'd be in.

"I was stoked to be named – there's not many New Zealand athletes get the chance to go to an Olympic Games."

Thomas said he struggled throughout the Olympic qualifiers with a knee tendon injury that was caused by over-use.

"I tried to keep playing but it got worse and worse."

However, he stopped in time before the tendon was torn and after his first full week of training this week, is hoping to play half a game for Melville when they host Waitakere City in a critical Northern League premier division match at Gower Park.

"It's the best it's ever been, pretty much pain-free," Thomas said of his rehabbed knee.

The NZ Olympic side leaves on July 9 to play warmup matches on the way to London against the Japan, South Korea and United Arab Emirates under-23 sides, with Thomas hopeful of getting a spot in the starting XI. The athletic and skilful Thomas can fill a number of positions, and played in the qualifiers as a wing-back on the right flank.

New Zealand have been drawn to meet Brazil, Belarus and Egypt at the Olympics, and Thomas expects a side that will contain over-age players Ryan Nelsen, Shane Smeltz and Michael McGlinchey, along with the likes of fellow All Whites Jake Gleeson, Ian Hogg, Tommy Smith, Cameron Howieson, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood and Marco Rojas, will be highly competitive.

"It's a tough group, but we're not going there just to make up the numbers – we'll give it all to get out of the group."

First though, Thomas will be hoping to play his part for Melville as they seek to beat fellow relegation contenders Waitakere today (2.45pm kickoff).

The two sides share second-to-bottom spot and a win for Melville would be a massive boost to their hopes of staying up. "We're capable of picking up points against any team," Thomas said.

"We've played pretty well at times but just struggled to get the points from that, which has been frustrating."

Also in the premier division, Hamilton Wanderers could do Melville a favour when they host bottom-placed Eastern Suburbs at Porritt Stadium.

In division one, Ngaruawahia United are at home to Mt Albert Ponsonby at Centennial Park while Matamata Swifts host Papakura City at Matamata Domain in division two.

Waikato Times