Australia's Larissa Crummer has eyes on World Cup after almost losing leg three years ago

When she broke her left leg in two places during a match in 2019, then almost lost it during surgery, Larissa Crummer thought her football career was over. Her fight for a spot in Australia's World Cup squad in France was superseded by a battle to walk again.

But three years on, Crummer is not just walking again, she's right back in the thick of it after being named in the Matildas' 24-player squad to face Spain and Portugal in the June international window. Unaware of the imminent announcement, the apprentice plumber told ESPN she was at work when she got a call from Matildas assistant coach Mel Andreatta and, thinking it was a mistake, ignored her phone and went about her day.

"I've been out of socials and to be honest I didn't even know there was an upcoming camp, so I was pretty shocked," Crummer said. "I was at work when Mel tried to FaceTime me; I thought she had pocket dialled me at first, so I didn't answer it and called her back later on, but she said I had made the Matildas and they were excited to have me back."

While a national team call-up is always a huge achievement, Crummer has had to overcome more challenges than most to get back in the fold.

A dream start to her career saw her win the W-League championship in her debut season with Sydney FC aged just 16, and after a two-year spell at Brisbane Roar, she celebrated the Premiership/Championship double with Melbourne City in 2015-16, as well as collecting W-League Golden Boot and W-League Young Player of the Year accolades. International recognition had already come as she was selected as the youngest player in the Matildas squad for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, with the side losing 1-0 to Japan in the quarterfinals.

A spell with NWSL side Seattle Reign in 2017 saw her struggle with injury, but when she returned she won another W-League championship with Melbourne. Still, niggling injuries frustrated her progress over the following years and, after a move to Newcastle Jets, it was just months out from the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup when her career came to a screeching halt as she broke both lower left leg bones in a collision with Adelaide goalkeeper Sarah Willacy during a Round 13 W-League match. There was a delay of more than 13 minutes as Crummer received on-field treatment and had her leg placed in a splint before being taken to hospital.

"I remember before they operated, I said, 'Just make sure my leg is there when I wake up,'" Crummer said.

She soon found out how close that fear came to being realised.

"I remember waking up from surgery after they put the rod in my leg," she said. "I had big cuts either side of my leg about 20 stitches long and Dad was like, 'There was a complication during surgery, I think the surgeon is going to have to talk to you about it.'

"[The surgeon] basically said that my leg break was equivalent to a motorcycle accident, and I was pretty close to losing my leg if they didn't catch the Compartment Syndrome."

- A-League Women news and information
- LISTEN: The Far Post Podcast

Crummer spent nearly two weeks in hospital before returning home to rehab and, at that point, kicking a ball was low on her list of priorities. "I ended up getting a bone infection a couple of months down the track," she said. "So I guess playing football wasn't on my radar for the first year and a bit, just walking and running pain-free was the goal."

Crummer was eventually convinced to return to the pitch with Brisbane Roar in February 2021.

"There was a point there where I wasn't going to play again," she said. "I actually turned down [Brisbane] Roar that first season that I played. I turned them down a couple of times because I just didn't think I was ready and wasn't sure I wanted to, but in the end I'm glad I said yes, I'm glad I stuck to it and I'm really excited and really happy to be back playing."

Stronger than ever, a first ever injury-free season has given the 26-year-old full confidence in her body and put a World Cup spot for 2023 firmly back in her sights.

"Definitely, it's been on my radar since I've got back into the game" Crummer said. "Consistency for me at the moment is definitely a key and the more I keep playing, the better I seem to be getting."

Since the end of the Liberty A-League Women season in March, there's certainly been plenty of football on offer for Crummer with both NPL club Capalaba FC and the Future Matildas program keeping her clocking up the miles on and off the pitch.

"I train in Brisbane four times a week; it's an hour-and-a-half commute to get to training so a three-hour round trip," she said. "If I have [to go to the] gym I wake up at 4 a.m. and do it before I go to work, then do a full day's work labouring, knock off about 3 p.m. and head down to training."

That "full day's work of labouring" is part of Crummer's four-year plumbing apprenticeship which she is set to complete in June next year. However, she would gladly delay her graduation date if she lands a spot in the Matildas squad for the World Cup on home soil.

With a number of European-based players taking a much-needed break, the Matildas' upcoming matches against Spain and Portugal have given a host of players from the Liberty A-League a chance to break into Tony Gustavsson's World Cup squad.

Crummer's versatility in defence, in addition to her preferred forward role, could yet prove to be a valuable addition to the final squad of 23. And, while she knows she'll need to play well, right now she's just happy to have the opportunity to pull on a Green and Gold jersey again.

"It's definitely surreal," she said. "I feel like someone is going to flick me and I'll be back to where I was. I'm definitely excited and just can't wait to get out there!"