There always seemed to be someone ahead of Alex Rufer in the midfield pecking order.

Vince Lia, Alex Rodriguez, Michael McGlinchey. During the 2017/18 A-League season, even his fellow Phoenix academy graduate Matthew Ridenton got first team football, before departing to the Newcastle Jets. But Rufer remained on the outskirts of the squad.

Despite the understandable frustration of eternally being on the bench – and often not even that – Rufer acknowledges that he came out better as a result.

“Being on the bench prepared me well, as it showed me just how tough it was, and is, to get into the first team and it made me mentally strong as a result,” he said.

“When you’re in that position, always be positive. Set goals. Work hard. Do extras. If you really persevere, try try again, you will end up in the first team.”

After being on the peripheral for so long, Rufer jumped at the chance that Mark Rudan offered, and hasn’t looked back.

Embed from Getty Images

“Mark [Rudan] showed me a lot of faith and gave me a chance and I took it, and ever since then I’ve just been trying to improve and work hard to keep that place.

“He’s helped me a lot, making get on the ball more, getting me to disrupt play in the centre of the pitch, making me do box to box more and he’s also helped me get fitter.”

You can watch the A-League live for only $25 a month. Click here to read our review of Kayo Sports and to start your 14-day free trial.

Michal “Kopa” Kopczynski and Mandi have arrived from Europe to Wellington this season, and Rufer has a considerable amount of admiration for the pair.

“Mandi and Kopa are top professionals, they’ve played at a really high level, they’re calm and composed on the ball, they’re strong, they’re really strong. I’ve really learnt quite a lot off them.”

Embed from Getty Images

The name Rufer is a name familiar to many NZ football fans, as he is the son of former NZ international Shane Rufer and nephew of Oceania player of the century and the greatest NZ football player of all time, Wynton Rufer.

And with a family of footballers, Rufer has no shortage of motivation.

“My family is a huge motivation, as I really want to make them proud of me. Family is very much a big thing for me.”

Embed from Getty Images

With the Phoenix above all expectations in this season’s A-League, Rufer is putting no cap on what the Nix can achieve.

“I believe we can do really well this season. We’ve got nothing to lose. Everyone had written us off. Everyone tipped us to get the wooden spoon. We’re right up in the top six, I think anything can happen. We’ve just had a nine-game unbeaten run. If we can just pick up results like we have been – especially away from home – anything can happen.

“Everyone’s against us. We’re a Kiwi team. We want to beat the Australians, the Australians want to beat us.”

Featured image credit: Cameron McIntosh

SHARE
The Football Sack's resident teen kiwi football nut. Loves everything football except defeats.