COVID-19 may have forced a very different season in 2020, but Rockdale Ilinden FC flyer Mickey Neill is adamant victory will be no less special if his side clinches grand final glory this Sunday.
It has been a historic season for Rockdale as they clinched their first Premiership in 51 years after narrowly edging Wollongong Wolves in a dramatic final day of the regular season.
Now making their first grand final appearance in seven years, defender turned winger Neill says it has been the sacrifices made off the pitch by his teammates which has made their successes extra special.
“With all the challenges faced by the players this season it really goes to show the passion of everyone in the team,” he said.
“With everything going on in the world with this pandemic it would’ve been very easy to take it easy and coast through this season.
“But that is not what this team is about and it has really been evident at training and in matches. It has been the hardships which have not only brought us closer together but they are also the reason why success will be even sweeter if we get the job done.”
Neill has been one of Rockdale’s outstanding performers this season after returning to the squad following a three-month stint with A-League outfit Newcastle Jets earlier this year.
The 26-year-old said working under former Jets coach Carl Robinson has been one of the best learning experiences of his career and has given him extra motivation to push for an A-League return next season.
“I’m a very hungry player and I’ve been working towards this (an A-League contract) for the past three years,” Neill said.
“It was great to be given the opportunity to return to playing the game professionally, albeit only for a few months,
“I have never learnt as much in a short period of time as I did during my time working under Carl Robinson at the Jets.
“Hopefully that experience and my form with Rockdale will keep me on the radar of A-League clubs ahead of next season when they are looking to fill their roster.”
While his A-League dream may be a driving force, Neill said his immediate focus is clinching a historic premiership and championship double with a grand final win against Sydney United.
“Playing in a grand final is the big occasion you look forward to as a player and you want to give everything for the team and the club,” he said.
“The feeling around the place since we won the premiership has been electric and as a team we’ve been feeding off that.
“Rockdale is a very special club so as a player it has been very special to deliver the success the fans have craved for so long.
“It has been an incredible season and we all want to cap it off with grand final success.”
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