Fullback Shane Stefanutto has battled back from injury to earn a place in the Brisbane Roar squad for their Hyundai A-League Round 12 game against Central Coast Mariners in Gosford tomorrow.
Stefanutto has not played since he injured his groin in a Round 7 match against Melbourne Victory on November 21.
But he has trained strongly this week and proved to Roar medical staff and interim coach Frans Thijssen that he was ready for a return tomorrow as the Hyundai A-League’s non-stop #SummerFootball program continues.
Livewire striker Henrique, who was injured after scoring the Roar’s winner in their last match against Adelaide, also has trained well this week and is expected to travel with the team to Gosford later today.
Thijssen said no decisions had been made yet on his starting lineup for the Mariners match but he pointed out that Olyroo Corey Brown has performed well since getting an extended chance at left back for the Roar during Stefanutto’s injury layoff.
Stefanutto said he was happy to perform in “whatever role I’m required” by Thijssen.
“I’m never one to say I want this or that, I’m here for the Brisbane Roar and the new gaffer (coach). I’ll be there to help out in any way he needs me and in whatever role he needs,’’ Stefanutto said.
The 34-year-old Roar vice-captain has played more than 80 games for Brisbane since heading south after North Queensland Fury folded four years ago. He said he was itching to play again after a five-week layoff.
“The break made me stronger (mentally) and more determined to come back fitter and better,’’ he said.
“It was the same last year when I had my hamstring injury. It gives you a chance to freshen up a bit and you come back for the run in and you are keen and eager. I’m recharged and now I can’t wait to get back out there with the boys.”
Stefanutto said he was looking forward to battling with Brown for the Roar left back spot, but he was happy to play anywhere across the backline.
“Corey has done a great job,’’ he said.
“It is the club’s aim to have competition across all positions and I will be trying my hardest to get back into the starting side whereever I can.”
Stefanutto praised the Hyundai A-League’s non stop #SummerFootball’s 19 matches in 19 days schedule.
“A lot of people say it must be tough playing around Christmas and New Year, but I love it,’’ he said.
“Playing around Boxing Day and New Years is part of the holiday tradition now in my household and it’s really great.”