Relief and motivation ahead of return to the pitch, says Ben Garuccio

Ben Garuccio

Western United defender Ben Garuccio says he and his teammates are hungry to return to the pitch after almost a month away.

United hasn’t played since Boxing Day and has endured four consecutive postponements leading up to this weekend’s clash against Wellington Phoenix in Wollongong.

The Club has recovered from a number of COVID-19 cases within the squad, and Garuccio said everyone is grateful to be back.

“It’s a bit of a relief to all be back together as a big group. Before people hadn’t got Covid, you’re coming to training thinking ‘will someone get it today, will I get it tomorrow’? Hopefully everyone can move forward and train as normal now,” he said.

Since the beginning of pre-season, the playing group has enjoyed a tight-knit culture and Garuccio said that hasn’t changed as the players return to training.

The left-back praised the attitude and camaraderie of the group in adapting to different regulations with a “get on with it” attitude.

Ben Garuccio says the squad is back in top shape

Garuccio added that the players have returned to training in great condition, crediting the staff for their support after players had been infected with the virus.

“It takes a bit of time to get back into full team training. The strength and conditioning staff and coaches look after us, make sure that we’re ready. They’ve taken the time to make sure everyone’s fully fit, and everyone looks good,” he said.

The break in matches has also given unavailable players the chance to recover and build up their fitness levels behind the scenes.

Rene Krhin has joined his teammates in training and Garuccio said he has already shown the qualities he can bring to the side, while also hinting that Aleksandar Prijovic has looked strong after opening his A-League Men account in the last match.

Rene Krhin has looked sharp as he builds towards an A-League Men debut.

Despite the missed games, Western United remains in third place on the Isuzu UTE A-League Men table and will look to bounce back from defeat in that Boxing Day match against Melbourne Victory.

“It adds fuel for us. We can all see the ladder, it’s very tight, we know if we keep winning games we’ve got the opportunity to be right up there,” Garuccio said.

A win on Friday would in fact take United to the top of the table until at least Tuesday, with neither Victory nor Macarthur FC scheduled to play over the weekend.

Western United was on a club-record four-match winning streak prior to the Victory match and is riding a best start to a season in its short history.

Garuccio and co. will be out to continue that in Wollongong before two more matches in Melbourne – a home fixture against Melbourne City and an away match against Victory.

Match Details

Wellington Phoenix vs Western United

Friday, January 21

7:45pm kick-off

WIN Stadium, Wollongong

Broadcast: The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+