Strike Force: Memorable night kicks-off big week

REWARDED: Wollongong born Western Sydney striker Brendon Santalab club's player of the year at Wanderers Medal night earlier this week. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
REWARDED: Wollongong born Western Sydney striker Brendon Santalab club's player of the year at Wanderers Medal night earlier this week. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Tuesday night was one I will never forget.

I’ve had some real highlights in my career, but to be named of the Western Sydney’s player of the year at the club’s Wanderers Medal night is right up at the top of the list.

It was truly a dream come true.

It’s the sort of accolade you never expect to receive as a footballer, but is one I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Of course, I never could have won it if it wasn’t for the support of everyone around the club.

That’s all of our coaching staff, my teammates and the supporters, who help make Western Sydney the best club in the competition to be a part of.

Even more important has been the constant support of those close to me.

My partner Stephanie, my family as well as my friends, have been with me through all the highs and lows throughout my career.

Without them in my corner, I doubt it would have been possible for me to have a sustained career at this level – a career that I hope can continue for a number of seasons to come.

It was also great to see a number of other players, including fellow Illawarra talent Caitlin Cooper, recognized on the evening.

Caitlin was named Western Sydney’s W-League player of the year.

It was well-deserved award for her on what turned out to be a fantastic night all around for the club.

Let’s hope we have another night that’s just as memorable on Friday when we begin our finals campaign against the Brisbane Roar.

Given it is an elimination final, everything is obviously on the line for both clubs.

However, it is never difficult to get motivated at this time of year, regardless of what is at stake.

Finals time is what players look forward to all season long.

The chance to finally get out there on the big stage and pursue grand final glory is motivation enough for any player to put their best foot forward.

The way we see it, we are just two wins away from another grand final berth and the chance to create our very own slice of A-League history. No club has won a grand final from sixth position in the competition before, but we believe we have the team that’s capable of doing it.

That quest may seem unlikely to some, but we certainly aren’t underestimating our chances in the post-season.

To do it we will have to get past Brisbane first-up, who have a lot of talent on their roster that we have a lot of respect for.

Their squad is also laced with an abundance of finals experience as well.

They are always a team that are going to cause some problems for you at the back, with guys like Jamie Maclaren and Brett Holman in the attacking third, and boasted one of the stronger defences in the competition this season.

We will need to be at our best at both ends of the pitch, which I am confident we will be.

One thing we can count on is the knowledge we come into the match in top form.

We’ve been unbeaten in our past six-games in the league heading in so let’s hope we can extend that run to seven at Suncorp Stadium.

Should we get past Brisbane, a match with bitter cross-town rivals Sydney FC would be our next assignment.

A Sydney Derby at finals time is something that has never happened before in the A-League’s history and would undoubtedly be a very, very special night to be a part of.

However, at the moment we can’t dwell on those possibilities.

We have to focus on the task in front of us and that’s beating Brisbane Roar in our eliminator.



Friday, (7.50pm)

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Live: Fox Sports