Oddly enough, Marco Rojas has barely tasted the sweetness of finals football for Melbourne Victory, despite having represented the A-League club on and off since 2011.
Melbourne Victory possess slim mathematical hopes of that occurring this year, but the attacking threat that the 28-year-old New Zealand international brings to interim coach Grant Brebner gives the club a fighting chance of making a serious challenge at a top-six spot before the finals begin on August 22.
Now in his third tour of duty with Melbourne Victory, around various transfers and loan moves around the leagues in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark within the last nine years, Rojas’s career has not been without domestic honors in Australia.
Ahead of his first overseas move to Germany’s VfB Stuttgart in 2013, Rojas captured the double honor of being the A-League’s Young Player of the Year and winner of the Johnny Warren Medal as the league’s most outstanding player, both following the 2012-13 season.
However, Rojas’s only sniffs of finals football for Melbourne Victory came with a pair of appearances in that season of dual personal honors, and then again with two more appearances in the 2016-17 finals – with both experiences ending in heartbreak for the club in falling short of Premiership honors.
But if Rojas plays a key role in getting Melbourne Victory to an unlikely finals berth, it might be as good as any other honor he has had in his three tours of duty with the club.
Rojas, still looking very youthful and aged just 28 years old despite having made his A-League debut for Wellington Phoenix in 2009, cannot wait to face down Melbourne Victory’s challenges with those five games remaining, starting with a Melbourne derby matchup against Western United on Saturday evening.
“It does feel good to have the games coming up soon again,” Rojas – dubbed as “the Kiwi Messi” by Melbourne Victory fans – said with enthusiasm on Wednesday.
“It’s been quite a while in between them, and that’s what we live for, is to play these games,” he added.
Rojas, signed in January for his third go-around with Melbourne Victory, hopes to add to the two goals he had scored in six games before the pandemic-mandated hiatus hit.
But he is also acutely aware that he must fit his dynamic style within the confines of what interim coach Grant Brebner expects out of his players, in Brebner’s debut match in the club’s hot seat.
“Every coach has a unique perspective on football and how they would like to have it played. But he [Brebner] hasn’t done that so much as just to get back to the Victory style of football,” Rojas said.
“We want to play an exciting style of football, a very direct, attacking style of football, and that’s been the main focus for us, to get that back. We think that’s been missing quite a bit for us this season,” he added.
Rojas – scorer of 29 goals in 77 overall appearances during his entire Melbourne Victory career – will be missing teammate Robbie Kruse as an influence in attack for the team’s remaining five games.
Kruse sustained a knee injury in the training run-up to re-start the season. However, Rojas admitted that the rest of the team is prepared to cover for him, with a combination of veterans and young players expected to feature in Brebner’s first sets of starting elevens.
“We have a pretty young squad at the moment, so we’ll definitely have to step up – and whoever does come in, they have to be made to feel comfortable right from the get-go, and know that we’re all right behind them, supporting them, and they can provide their best performances.
“As a team, we can only hope that we can plug the gaps that Robbie [Kruse] has left,” Rojas said.
And while playing in the A-League’s finals series isn’t as much of an expectation – although still remotely reachable – as it has been for the club in years past, the expectation upon Rojas and his teammates from Brebner comes in a much simpler, more basic set of ideals.
“We really need to think about doing more than just making it difficult for the teams that we are playing against,” said Rojas.
“Our duty is to win as many games as we possibly can, and do it in as exciting a style of football as we’d like to.
“We know where we sit, we know what kind of season we’re coming from, and we can only do what’s in our hands, and that’s to play good football in the next five games,” Rojas added.