They have become the ironmen of Brisbane Roar's mid-season form revival but the clock is ticking for midfield workhorses Matt McKay and Thomas Broich to get a rest.The pair has started in every game and played more than 600 minutes each since the Roar’s season resumed against Wellington Phoenix at Suncorp Stadium on Monday, 2 February.
Another 90 minutes looks likely for the duo against Sydney FC in Sydney on Sunday.
Broich has been an ever-present and McKay just a few minutes behind him in a Roar side that has won five games and drawn one in five Hyundai A-League and two AFC Champions League matches since the AFC Asian Cup break.
The Roar's only loss since the break was to Beijing Guoan when a stoppage time free kick deflected into the net.
With McKay and Broich driving the engine room, the Roar has scored 11 goals in seven games with McKay among the scorers and Broich providing the assist for six goals.
McKay’s efforts are even more admirable given he played in four games for the Socceroos as they won the AFC Asian Cup in January while Broich spent the break recovering from ankle surgery.
Both Broich and McKay say they are fit and ready to step up for the Roar whenever needed.
They are expected to be available for selection again on Sunday against Sydney FC, and if still fit after that, are likely to be in the mix for the starting line-up the following Wednesday against South Korea’s Suwon Blue Wings at Robina Stadium.
But the Roar's squad rotation to get through the double demands of Hyundai A-League and AFC Champions League commitments in March and April will include some downtime for the hard-working duo.
The Roar has 13 games over the next eight weeks.
Two weeks ago Roar interim Head Coach Frans Thijssen said no one would play the full schedule of games.
Roar Director of Football Ken Stead reiterated that this week and said no exceptions would be made – even in the case of the club captain and the international marquee.
"We all know what Matt and Thomas bring to the team and they would play all day every day if we let them," Stead said.
"But we can't approach this purely with the next game in mind. We have to look at our complete program over the next eight weeks.
"We have formulated a rotation plan, the players know that and we will be sharing the load across the entire squad. No one can possibly play all the games.''
When Broich and McKay are eventually rested – or Socceroo McKay gets another call up for the games against Germany and Macedonia later this month – the midfield focus will fall on Adam Sarota and Steven Lustica.
Sarota got a taste of Champions League football on Matchday One against Beijing Guoan, but since then has had to wait patiently on the bench with Lustica, who has not played since he got 11 minutes as a substitute against Newcastle Jets on 6 February.
Lustica’s last full game was against Sydney FC on December 30 while Sarota’s last 90 minutes was against Central Coast Mariners on 13 February.
“We are approaching this as a whole group not just a starting team,” Thijssen said.
“We have good depth in the squad and those who haven’t had much match time so far know their time will come.
“Those who haven’t been playing regularly have been doing additional training and we have no doubts that when we call on them they will step up and do the required job.”