As a vital cog in Queensland Roar’s midfield machine, MATT MCKAY knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work for Hyundai A-League success this year
As a vital cog in Queensland Roar-s midfield machine, MATT MCKAY knows it-s going to take a lot of hard work for Hyundai A-League success this year
Frank Farina-s Queensland Roar side have become one of the most versatile, athletic and physically fit sides in the league. Sides cite them as one of the most difficult teams to face, yet success in the Hyundai A-League has eluded them so far. Residing at the heart of Roar-s midfield, Matt McKay-s all-action performances make him one of the league-s most difficult competitors.
“Teams know when they play us they-re going to be in for a battle,” McKay explains. “We press sides and we work hard as a team. We-re a tough team to play against.”
McKay and equally industrious partner in the middle Massimo Murdocca have forged reputations built on a hard work ethic - perfectly representative of Farina-s side. And while McKay says running was always his forte as a kid, himself and Murdocca make sure they put the hard yards in during training. “We know it-s our strength and we work hard to make sure it-s up to scratch.
“Of course you don-t always enjoy it while you-re doing it, but we know how beneficial it is and that-s my job in the team, so I make sure I do my job.”
This attitude has made McKay an almost permanent fixture in Roar-s side since the start of the Hyundai A-League. “Frank likes players that go out there and give 100 per cent and work hard throughout the game,” McKay says.
Roar-s performances last season won them many fans for their attacking displays and a finals berth was the reward. A narrow exit meant those good performances couldn-t be converted into a title, but McKay thinks the gaps have been filled this time around. “It was disappointing last year,” he says. “But we-re stronger this year through the additions we-ve made - we-re a versatile side and everyone-s fighting for spots, so hopefully we-ll go one step further this season.”
But season 2008/09 began in underwhelming fashion for McKay and Roar. Sparks weren-t flying, even though performances remained positive. These performances failed to put sufficient points on the board, until the recent away double-header to league pace-setters Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC. Critics - AFW included - claimed the two games would plunge Roar-s season into crisis. Instead, the team stuck to its beliefs and came away with four points.
“It did feel like we weren-t there,” McKay says in retrospect of the tough two games. “We got four points and it-s hard to figure out what-s changed. People wrote us off and being the underdogs lifted a lot of pressure off us and that-s where we thrive.”
The pressure doesn-t end there though, as Roar need to back this up now at home and consistent home form is something that-s eluded the side so far this year, just as it did last season. “We seem to falter at home,” McKay tells us. “Every year I get asked about the home form and I always say it-s going to change this year, but to tell you the truth I don-t have a friggin- clue!
“Teams enjoy the trip to Suncorp and they rise to the occasion. We-ve just got to approach each game the same and go out with the right attitude. If the confidence is up we-ll be a hard side to stop.”
But time isn-t on your side in a short season when it comes to finding rhythm and McKay says the side is entering a crucial stage of the season. “The middle part of the season is extremely vital for us, we-ve got consistency away from home and we-re hoping it-s going to come at home and in the coming weeks.”
With Roar posting impressive performances away from home back-to-back, the tag of underdogs won-t be hung on the Queenslanders any more, and a different pressure and added weight of expectancy will be thrust upon the team in its place.
McKay says the team has the necessary players and expertise to handle this as the league table starts to take shape. “We-ve got experience with Charlie (Miller), (Danny) Tiatto and (Craig) Moore who can stand on the ball and calm the side.
“They-ll be stepping up in the next couple of weeks and if we can get a few results and keep that consistency we-ll be able to go one step further than last year.”
Regardless of how the story unfolds for Roar this season, you can be sure McKay and Murdocca will be the anchor in the middle of a busy midfield. Unsung in terms of the glory a goal brings, McKay is happy with his standing in the team.
“Of course you want to get on the end of chances and score goals, and if those opportunities present themselves I-m happy to take them,” McKay says. “Mas and I get our work done, and that-s the whole thing about being in that environment, you need people working hard to get chances for other people or to stop chances for other teams so it keeps you in the game, that-s what we-re all about.”
As much as McKay has become a permanent fixture in Roar-s side, he-s happy for it to continue a little longer yet; he feels there-s unfinished business and unfulfilled potential that he wants sorted.
“It-s a great club to be at and it has improved every year I-ve been here,” he explains. “If it wasn-t, you-d probably want to leave, but I can see it-s a good side and a great bunch of lads and a good manager.
“I don-t see why leaving now, before we-ve done anything, would be the right move, so hopefully we can win some silverware in the next couple of years.”
With each passing year, though, the league is becoming increasingly competitive and securing that maiden Hyundai A-League title will continue to be difficult for McKay and Queensland Roar.
If the title was handed out for industrious, hard-working displays, then Queensland-s midfield man would put a compelling case forward for his team, but as long as the wheels continue turn for the side, via the ever-busy midfield, they-ll always be in with a chance.