Wollongong local Tate Russell said this pre-season with A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers has been one of his toughest yet, as the Young Socceroo approaches his fifth A-League campaign.
The former Wollongong Olympic junior has been a part of the WSW set up since 2015. The once aspiring youngster is now one of the longest servants at the club.
The 22 year old has made 70 competitive appearances for WSW and said he is feeling as ready as ever to take on a more senior role.
"It definitely feels weird being considered one of the older players now. I'm finding myself taking charge and organising stuff in the change rooms but it's something that I'm happy to do," Russell said.
As WSW prepare to fly to the Gold Coast as part of their pre-season, Russell said Mark Rudan has been prepping the squad very well in his full-season.
"All pre-seasons are tough to be fair, everyone has their techniques but the boss really has the team behind him this year and he has been working us very hard. Everyone seems to be on the same page of where we want to be and what we want to do. My goal of course this season is to lock down that starting position and make it my own."
The Wanderers have gone five seasons without finals football and finished tenth last season with six wins out of 26. It is a predicament the club is not used to following such a successful start to a club that was established just under 10 years ago. In their first season WSW won an A-League minor premiership and in 2014 they lifted the coveted Asian Champions League title.
Russell said he has noticed a change in mindset from the coach this season, saying that new signings have boosted the mentality for everyone inside the club.
"I think the fact that this season is a clean slate makes it better for us more than anything. The fact that the coach has got his signings that we wanted and he's still looking for more has helped the boys that were here last season which didn't go so great. I did notice a change in mindset from the middle of last season where he was taking a lot of positives out of games regardless of the scoreline so it definitely feels as though change is happening at the club."
Rudan has already shown his intent, making 15 new signings in the off-season, including former Socceroo Oliver Bozanic, former A-League winner Lawrence Thomas and most-notably former Sydney FC marquee and two-time Johnny Warren Medal winner, Milos Ninkovic.
Russell said training with Ninkovic has been a joy.
"It was a bit funny the first couple of days with him being with us but he's a great guy and deals with the boys well. I already knew what he was like playing against him and not being able to touch him and it's still not much different."
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