Rees earns his ton

Gold Coast United defender Kristian Rees will play in his 100th Hyundai A-League game this weekend - and the hard-nosed veteran has had to earn every single one of them.

Gold Coast United defender Kristian Rees will play in his 100th Hyundai A-League game this weekend - and the hard-nosed veteran has had to earn every single one of them.

One of Australian football's true warriors, Rees will notch his century when United take on Sydney FC at the SFS on Sunday, but it's a milestone that has certainly not come easily.

It looked like the reliable centre-half's career was over in May 2007 when he was surprisingly released by his hometown club Adelaide after their AFC Asian Champions League campaign.

But proving you can't keep a good man down, Rees knuckled down and joined Victorian Premier League club Whittlesea Zebras, where he was far and away the standout player.

So impressive was his form that the move brought about his return to professional football with Wellington the following season and, after that, he became a foundation player at Gold Coast.

"I had a bit of time out of the league after Adelaide, but I wanted to get back in so I did the hard work," the 31-year-old said.

"It's hard work, persistence, determination ... and you've got to sacrifice a bit, but I was lucky enough to join the Phoenix before coming here."

"I don't think I've really ever had it easy to try and find a spot."

Indeed, after two solid seasons under Miron Bleiberg it looked like Rees' position in the United boss' preferred starting XI was in jeopardy when Croatian defender Ante Rozic was signed by the club in August.

At the time, Rees was recovering from off-season knee surgery and with Rozic's arrival - and that of a host of up-and-coming defenders promoted from the club's youth team - he had an uphill battle on to reclaim his spot.

But with Rozic now sidelined with a knee injury for at least another week, Rees has his chance and put in a full shift in Sunday's 3-1 win over Newcastle.

"I needed that 90 minutes," he said. "Hopefully that match fitness is a little bit more for Sydney and I can keep on building from there."

"I've just got to do my job and hopefully we can get a few clean sheets, but if Miron decides to make that change (when Rozic returns), that's up to him."

"Having the competition for spots is something that you need. You can always get dropped but it's harder to get dropped with a clean sheet."

"The opportunity came up with Ante's injury and it's disappointing for him but they're the opportunities you've got to take."

For a player who's been through more than his fair share of ups and downs, the 100-game mark means a lot to Rees - but for the moment, his focus remains on the task at hand.

"It's good to get to that milestone. It's taken a while. It means I'm getting on a bit. My hair's starting to fall out," he laughed.

"I'll look back on this at the end of my career and say it was good to get to that, but at the moment I want to focus on playing more games for the club and doing well."