IT has been a difficult period for Aaron Oppedisano.
The day after the 2019 grand final he underwent groin surgery, having torn both adductors off the bone.
Oppedisano required a second operation the following year, but it was initially postponed in March because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
On the weekend, after eight months of rehabilitation and having changed clubs from Edgeworth to Charlestown, he returned to the Northern NSW National Premier League.
Azzurri defeated Rosebud 2-0 at Adamstown Oval on Saturday, but it was the comeback rather than result which mattered most for Oppendisano.
"It was first game back since the 2019 grand final," he told the Newcastle Herald.
"I was just enjoying being out there again because it's been such a long time. So far, so good."
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Oppedisano, 23, grew up playing in Port Macquarie where his family still lives. They fortunately missed the recent flooding and last summer's bushfires.
"My mum, dad and sister are up there at Lighthouse Beach. The fires weren't too bad for them and they weren't really affected by the flood. But there's plenty of friends in a bad situation," he said.
The Mid North Coast junior representative played for Port Saints, the same club as Angus Thurgate, and recalls an under-15 fixture in particular featuring the now A-League regular.
"He [Thurgate] was two or three years younger, but I remember one game on a Friday night when this little kid came on and he just tore it up," he said.
Straight out of high school Oppedisano relocated to Sydney after trialing with Marconi but didn't "enjoy it", describing the "sea change" as a "bit too much".
That's when he moved to Newcastle and linked with Edgeworth in 2017.
It was part of a successful stint at the Eagles - twice premiers, winning the last of three straight appearances in the decider and making the FFA Cup round of 16.
Oppedisano was grateful to then coach Damian Zane for helping manage his groin injury.
"There wasn't really a moment, it just happened over time," he said.
"I played with a lot of painkillers and did the best I could but Zaney was really good. I never played two weeks in a row, I'd just rotate from bench to start."
Oppedisano, based at Mayfield East, opted to make the switch from the Eagles to Azzurri after picking up work as a tax consultant with Newcastle-based office PricewaterhouseCoopers.
"Working in town it was going to be harder to make training out at Edgeworth so I decided to change it up with Charlestown being a bit closer," he said.
Oppedisano, who mainly plays as a right-side winger or defender, was pleased former Eagles teammate Dom Bizzarri joined him at Azzurri.
"I think we've got a good squad," he said.
* LAMBTON coach James Pascoe says he will likely have injured duo Luke Remington and Michael Sessions available for Sunday's encounter with Valentine at CB Complex.
* TYSON Jackson has returned to training for Edgeworth and Eagles coach Michael Bridges says he will come into contention to play against Lakes at Macquarie Field on Sunday.
* MAITLAND may have only won by a goal in each round but Magpies mentor Michael Bolch doesn't seem to mind and reckons "realistically, if you had of given me two from two at the start of the year, I would have taken it every day of the week".
They sit two points clear on top of the ladder with Broadmeadow (4) and Charlestown (3) the only other teams not yet suffering a loss in 2021.
* DAMIAN Zane was simply happy to get off the mark as Magic coach but the maiden win was made even sweeter being a local derby.
Broadmeadow beat Olympic 2-1 at home last week after playing out a 2-all draw with Lake Macquarie in the season opener.
"After a bit of an underwhelming performance in the first round it was nice to put in a pretty good performance and win a pretty big game for them. It's something different and unique to those two teams really. Until you're involved you don't realise how big it is," Zane, who joined the club from Edgeworth this season, said.
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