On the verge of winning the A-League Championship during the 2014/15 season, Nathan Coe suffered an injury that continues to cast huge doubts over his football career. Eager to return but unsure of when he will get back on the pitch Coe shares with us the battle he has faced and why the PFA’s support has been so important to him and his family.

Like all players Nathan Coe had heard the stories of players’ careers being ripped away from them. During pre-season he sat in the PFA’s inductions and witnessed Lucas Pantelis give a presentation on how his career had ended in an instant and the upheaval it caused. “You always think ‘it is not going to happen to me he was just the unlucky one,’” says of what he thought during Pantelis’ presentation.

On the eve of the A-League finals Coe felt some tightness in his back after a game in Wellington. After a host of physio he attempted to train to prove his fitness ahead of the weekend’s match.  “I went out and my foot was floppy and when I went to kick the ball I just kept slipping over,” said the former Inter Milan and PSV keeper.

The hope was that a series of injections would make room for the nerve to fire and he would be back playing. It didn’t work out that way and instead of being on the pitch to celebrate the club’s Championship, he was in the stand waiting for improvement. The injections didn’t work as hoped and instead, with his contract having expired with the Victory, he faced surgery. Still he remained optimistic that he would be back swiftly.

“I thought ‘ok surgery will work and I’ll be out for three months then I will be back.’ Even a few weeks out from that three months I still thought I was going to be fine until it came to the point that I realised something was a bit more serious than I imagined. A bit of disc and bone fragment had come off and were resting against the nerve and that was causing the disruptive feeling of loss of power to my left leg and that was due to damage to the nerve.”

Three months after surgery it became clear that his hopes for a swift recovery were dashed.

“I thought once the pressure was removed the nerve would be ok, but that has not been the case. Every day you are like ‘is it getting better?’ It was doing my head in. It was tough because I have had injuries before and you have four weeks out or three or whatever but with this there is no time frame, it could better tomorrow, it could be better in three weeks or four years, you just don’t know and that is really frustrating.

“At the start it was easier because I had that three month time frame that I gave myself but after that I just stopped watching all football. I just didn’t want it in my face while I couldn’t play and was injured. I spoke to a few of the guys but tried to just focus on things outside of football.”

Having opened a cafe in Port Melbourne and preparing to open another in Richmond, Coe put his focus into that and his young family.

“I have surprised myself with how I have taken it. I thought I would have been really depressed, I thought I would be hating life. I am fortunate I live in a good city, I have family here, I have young kids so that helped. I love football but it has shown me you don’t just have to love one thing, you can love doing a lot of things.

“When I was playing I was always thinking of things I wanted to do but you never do anything about it. Coming back to the A-League and working with the PFA made me realise to put it in motion. I never wanted to go to Uni, that wasn’t me. I wanted to learn and put my time into other things. Having the cafe allowed me to put my focus onto other things and be around different people.”

Coe says a key component to being able to cope with the uncertainty he faces with his  football career had been the A-League insurance policy, which was negotiated by the PFA as part of the collective bargaining agreement. He is one of countless players that have been able to support themselves and their families when they suffer injury and are unable continue to perform their duties as a professional footballer.

Under the terms of the insurance policy players are entitled to up to 104 weeks of income protection, capped at $350,000 p.a. In the event that they suffer a career ending injury, players are insured for up to an amount of $500,000 (with amounts payable determined by age under these policies).

“Having a young family you need to support them and it is hard, you don’t finish football and just waltz into a job as you don’t have the necessary experience. The insurance allows you try to get back playing. If you want to play in the A-League it takes  a lot of time to get to the necessary fitness level.

“Overseas I don’t remember any player associations that had this sort of insurance policy so for me coming back I needed to know the ins and outs. The PFA knew them and if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have the policy in the first place.

“The PFA has not just supported me financially but also emotionally as well. To have the PFA to be able to help and guide you in the right way is important. I probably didn’t use the PFA’s Player Development Program to the full extent and I wish I would have.”

For Coe he hopes that players can listen to what he has been through and learn from it – put plans in place knowing that the PFA will continue to support you on and off the pitch.


For information on the PFA’s A-League Income Protection and Career Ending Insurance contact PFA Player Relations Manager Simon Colosimo via simon@pfa.net.au