Words: ACFC Media
Thursday 24 November 2016
AUCKLAND, New Zealand - All Whites and Auckland City FC midfielder Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi is set for a lengthy injury lay-off after a training ground fall on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old has five caps for New Zealand and played a lead role for Auckland City FC as they surged to their sixth consecutive OFC Champions League title earlier this year.
Hudson-Wihongi, who started the All Whites last FIFA World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in Kone, is still getting used to the idea he faces time out from the sport he loves.
"I just went to change direction and I heard a pop. Unfortunately these things happen but it’s just part and parcel of the game and you just have to look forward to getting back on the field as soon as possible.
"I just feel like there’s no point in being disappointed. You can’t change what’s happened and it’s going to set you back even more if you’re mentally not there to recover quickly. So I have to be positive and things will get better sooner," he said.
Hudson-Wihongi started last year's match with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and turned in a solid display in the heart of the Navy Blues midfield and while he's set to miss the club's biggest game of the season he's determined to remain in the mix for the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
"It’s disappointing missing out on the Club World Cup. It’s a massive tournament for the club and myself personally but I have a Confederations Cup in seven or eight months time to look forward to and hopefully I can be recovered by then and put myself in the best position to make the squad.
"It will be a great way for me to keep positive and get my recovery going," he said.
While Hudson-Wihongi remains determined to bounce back as soon as possible, he dismisses any talk Auckland City FC are on the way down after dominating past Stirling Sports Premierships and OFC Champions Leagues but struggling for results this season.
"We’ve had the right mindset going into these games and we’ve been dominating in these matches and creating plenty of chances. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about – sooner or later these chances are going to be put away.
"We’ve been dominating and creating so many chances it’s almost beyond a joke that we haven’t scored. But these things happen in football.
"The new teams in the competition are doing very well, especially Eastern Suburbs – they have a good team and we play then when we get back from Japan as our last game of the year so hopefully that will be a good game to play," he said.
Japan is a country Hudson-Wihongi has fond memories of having played there several times as a youngster and he only has positive things to say about the standard of football.
"Obviously we’ll meet a team who are technically unbelievable and tactically very good as well so it will be the biggest test we have all year and as a team we look forward to that.
"All the players enjoy the Japanese culture. It’s such a nice place to be and the people are generally really nice to us," he said.
Coach Ramon Tribulietx says the loss of a talented and versatile player of Hudson-Wihongi's calibre is a blow for club and country.
"One hundred percent – it’s a big loss. This season we’ve been trying to play him at centre back because I think he’s got everything to play in that position and with Mario Bilen coming back onto the team we could afford to have him play at the back.
"His distribution from the back is fantastic. That’s going to affect our game but at the end of the day we’re going to play with 11 regardless.
"We’re losing an important player and we all wish him a speedy recovery. We’re still waiting for the results. They’re coming through today and again we just wish him all the best.
"When he comes through it he’s going to be an important player not just for Auckland City FC but also for New Zealand. He’s got great potential to be a very important All Whites player," he said.
The Navy Blues leave for the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2016 on Monday morning.
The playoff game with the J.League winners is set for December 8 at the Yokohama International Stadium.
Stirling Sports Premiership
Saturday 26 November, 2016
Auckland City FC v Hawke's Bay United
Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Kick-off: 4.35pm NZST
Live Sky Sport
Auckland City FC (from) 1. Enaut Zubikarai (GK), 3, Takuya Iwata, 4. Mario Bilen, 5. Angel Berlanga, 7. Reid Drake, 8. Albert Riera, 9. Darren White, 10. Ryan De Vries, 11. Fabrizio Tavano, 12. Nicolai Berry, 13. Alfie Rogers, 14. Clayton Lewis, 15. Ivan Vicelich, 16. Dae Wook Kim, 17. Joao Moreira, 18. Danyon Drake (GK), 19. Micah Lea'alafa, 20. Emiliano Tade, 21. Harry Edge, 23. Marko Dordevic, 24. Jacob Spoonley (GK), 29. Sean Cooper.
Injured: Yousif Al-Khalisy (leg), Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi (knee)
Coach: Ramon Tribulietx
28 February 2018, Trusts Arena, kickoff: 4pm NZST