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Vela keen to impress

League News
by JACK HARBOUR Gold Coast Bulletin IN his years playing schoolboy football for Keebra Park Andrew Vela was touted as an NRL prodigy. But after three years and a string of serious injuries playing for the West Tigers under-20s ,Vela has returned to the Gold Coast to play with the Burleigh Bears with hopes of a second shot at the NRL. Vela graduated from Keebra Park State High School in 2011 amid concerns of an ankle injury sustained during a rugby sevens grand final. Since linking with the Tigers Vela has spent more than 18 months in recovery after a succession of injuries which required him to undergo a shoulder and knee reconstruction. “I played two footy games and then I did my shoulder. Then I was out for six months for that year,” he said. “The next year I played about eight games for 20s again and then I did my knee. “I was meant to be back in six months but it ended up being for a period of a year and a bit. “It just made it hard for me to get back into the system … the injuries just killed me.” Vela has been living with family on the Gold Coast since moving up from Sydney about two months ago. The forward says after a full pre-season with the Bears he feels fit enough to play elite level football. “I had a pretty solid pre-season,” he said. “No doubt that’s still my goal (the NRL). I’m still young.” Vela says he does not feel injury prone but believes luck was not on his side. “I was just unlucky, that’s all it was,” he said. “No one knows when they’re going to get injured … it just happens.” Burleigh Bears CEO Damian Driscoll said he saw it as the club’s role to give Gold Coasters a chance at playing professional football. “There’s an opportunity back on the Gold Coast from us and hopefully we can get Andrew back to the NRL,” he said. “He was on our radar all the time and when we found out that he’d had a few injuries and they weren’t going to renew his contract we were keen to get him back here.”