In Safe Hands - AWF Feature

Now he’s returned home, it’s a time of celebration for former Australia goalkeeper MARK BOSNICH, Central Coast Mariners and, of course, the Hyundai A-League

Now he-s returned home, it-s a time of celebration for former Australia goalkeeper MARK BOSNICH, Central Coast Mariners and, of course, the Hyundai A-League

HE-S a man who needs no introduction.

His credentials speak for themselves. And while his name has become synonymous with his off-field stories, it-s on the field, where he rightfully belongs, that Mark Bosnich is starting to reinforce himself as the player we all remember: one of Australia-s greats.

His arrival in the Hyundai A-League, on a seven-week contract with Central Coast Mariners to cover the suspended Danny Vukovic, is yet another indication of the positive strides being made in the game.

More importantly, perhaps, it-s a watershed for Bosnich. This is the start of a new chapter in his life. Gone are the controversies. Gone are the multi-million dollar contracts. Gone are the tabloid columns.

And what-s left is so much more newsworthy. So much more interesting. Here we have a player, one of the best this country has ever produced, returning to ply his trade.

Better still, Bosnich is hungry. He-s not here for a vacation. He-s not here to turn out for a few games, earn his money and disappear. He-s a man on a mission.

Spend just two minutes talking to him and there-s passion and determination in every word. There-s a burning desire to do well, to make a real go of this chance in a league he describes as in “an exceptional state” and possesses a standard that is “excellent”. Better still, you believe what he-s saying. It-s from the heart. It-s sincere. And just as he-s happy to be here, we-re happy to have him back. The positive effect isn-t lost on his new teammates, either. “It-s fantastic having Bos around,” Mariners- captain Alex Wilkinson says. “He-s fitted in really well with the boys.

“Bos is a larger than life character, he-s very loud in the change-room and you can-t shut him up, even if you want to. He-s a great person to have around the club.”

“It-s been an enjoyable and positive experience (having Bosnich at Central Coast),” Mariners- goalkeeper coach John Crawley explains. “It-s good to see him back on track and loving life again.

“It-s huge for the club and to get players like Mark back into our league is a real bonus. “The boys appreciate having him around, he-s got a big personality. He likes to take the mickey and have the boys take the mickey out of him, too. It-s a colourful environment when he-s there.”

But for all the bravado and brashness, Bosnich still has his quieter moments, like before his debut against Queensland Roar, in round three at Suncorp Stadium. “Up until 10 minutes before we went out to warm up he was reading a book quietly in the corner of the change-room,” Wilkinson explains. “Once you get him out on the pitch though, he-s loud for 90 minutes.

“It-s good to have a goalkeeper speaking all the time because it keeps the defence switched on.

“Even when we went 3-0 up he was still in our ears making sure we concentrated.”

One look in Bosnich-s eyes at half-time of the Queensland game, and that was all the indication you needed of his seriousness. The TV camera in the Mariners- dressing room revealed a man deep in thought, composing himself for the job ahead, ensuring he was there for the team that has welcomed him with open arms. Not that Bosnich was aware we were all with him - in spirit anyway - during the half-time break.

“Those are obviously very candid moments, but I-m definitely focused and here to do my job for Central Coast,” Bosnich tells us. “I want to give a good account of myself.”

And, on both fronts, he is certainly doing so. But his presence reaches further than one player covering for another during a suspension period - Bosnich sees it as his chance to give something back.

“It-s a wonderful opportunity to come back and spend time at home,” he says. “Also, to try and give something back to the game that nursed me as a child.

“If I have anything to prove, it would be to myself.” And it-s in that defiance you sense the motivation that existed years ago when he was lighting up the stage in England and playing for its biggest teams. Now he-s finally got an outlet in which to express himself again. To be part of something good, something positive.

And while Bosnich laughs at the notion of being an“ambassador” - he says he-s “still got a lot of work to do” in that department - there are signs his new-found responsibilities are placing him in a more mature and experienced position, and it-s one he-s happy with.

With Mariners- first-choice goalkeeper, Danny Vukovic, sitting out his five-match suspension, Bosnich is happy to offer advice to the young star - only when it-s asked for.

“I don-t want to impose myself on him because he is his own man,” Bosnich says. “But any time he-s asked for advice I-ve tried to help the best way I can. “I just wanted to give him space to breathe - if he-s got anything to ask that-s cool and if he hasn-t, that-s cool too.”

And he-s also quick to heap praise on the Olyroo keeper. “He-s a good kid and a really talented goalkeeper - he-s got the potential to be something really special.” High praise indeed.

Vukovic, for his part, has openly discussed becoming “good mates” with Bosnich, as well as the “smart” advice he-s had passed on to him. “The thing I learned most from [Mark] was to move on and look to the future. There is no point looking back,” Vukovic has said of his time so far with Bosnich. But even in the face of a much hyped return to football, Bosnich remains pragmatic about the occasion.

“You have got to enjoy it no matter what the situation and you-ve got to play the game and not the situation.” He says. “If don-t enjoy it, you shouldn-t be doing it.”

And even with the euphoria of the first game back in competitive football, Bosnich refuses to get carried away - eschewing a more calm, almost holistic approach to the interest and frenzy his appearance in the A-League is generating. “It was just really nice - I-m humbled,” he explains.

“I-m just trying to keep things in perspective, because there are still four games to go.” And Bosnich has one overriding thought right now: to take everything one step at a time. The football-loving public aren-t the only ones who want to know what Mark Bosnich is going to do next.

When we ask how far ahead he-s looked into his future, his response:

“Tomorrow.” After a dry laugh, he continues, “Seriously, I-ve said that to everyone, even my parents - even my parents ask that. “I-m really taking it step by step and it has to be like this. It just has to be.”

What happens next with Bosnich is unclear. Both player and club remain focused on the short-term, but we can expect an offer to come in from somewhere at the end of his stint with Central Coast. The positive outlook for Bosnich is a refreshing change after years in the football wilderness. Perhaps media column inches will start to focus on what-s in front of them right now: the rebirth of a football great.

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