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Hudson-Wihongi itching for action

Words: ACFC Media

Thursday 28 September 2017

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - It should come as no surprise Te Atawhai Hudson Wihongi is itching to get back onto competitive action with the Navy Blues.

Representing Auckland City FC at the launch of this season’s ISPS Handa Premiership at QBE Stadium in Albany alongside players from nine other clubs, Hudson-Wihongi more than anyone wants it to be game day already.

When Auckland City’s season gets underway on October 15 against defending champions Team Wellington it will have been 327 long days since he went to change direction in training and heard an ominous pop. Pain and frustration followed.

It was just a week after he earned his fifth All Whites cap during a World Cup qualifier in New Caledonia and a few days before his club departed for Japan and another tilt at the FIFA Club World Cup.

He stayed positive throughout, initially recalibrating his sights on the FIFA Confederations Cup, but targets came and went with Hudson-Wihongi still working his way back.

There have been small but memorable milestones along the way, with a normally run-of-the-mill moment during a winter training session still burning bright.

“I remember it to this day,” Hudson-Wihongi says.

“I had been out there passing and whatnot but hadn’t been involved in any drills. It was a training for [winter club] Central United and I hopped into a passing drill. I was allowed just to play it in, get it back and play it wide for a cross. That feeling was unbelievable to do that again. If I could bottle it I’d definitely keep it.”

Patience has been key to Hudson-Wihongi’s progress and while he is clearly still managing his frustration, he his pragmatic about the final steps of his path to full fitness.

“Pre-season is going well. I’m just getting a few minutes under my belt at the moment which is the hardest part for me.

“Training is good but to be able to get out on to the pitch in a real-life scenario where there is pressure on you not to give the ball away because it could lead to a goal – that’s still coming.

“I’ve been out for nine or ten months so it’s been a while and I need to be patient, realise I’ve been out for that amount of time and I won’t be at the same level I was when I got injured. It’ll take time to get back to that level and then improve on that.”

The 22-year-old is clear about his immediate personal ambitions for club and country.

“At club level, the goal is to get back on the field in a competitive game as soon as possible and then it’s the FIFA Club World Cup. I don’t want to go to Abu Dhabi for a holiday – I want to play.

“There’s a lot of ground to make up and there are players playing well in my position so it will be tough. But the goal is to start that Club World Cup game.

“For country, I’m ready to be picked at any time. I have to get the form back and if Anthony [Hudson] thinks I’m good for the team I’m sure he can count on me. If he doesn’t call I’ll still be100 per cent behind the team but not getting picked is part and parcel of football and it’s how you react to those situations.”

With Kris Bright and Liam Graham among the recent additions to City’s squad, Hudson-Wihongi believes the team is poised to build on last season but expects another fiercely competitive battle on the domestic front.

“We’ve improved but the other teams in the league have as well so I’m sure it be similar to last season.”

He said twin losses to Waitakere and defeat to Hawke’s Bay a week after lifting the Lunar New Year Cup in Hong Kong showed that Auckland City needed to be up for every game, especially if they wanted to reclaim a national league trophy that has spent the last two season away from Kiwitea Street.

“Obviously, we have a target on our back and everyone wants to beat us as we’ve been the benchmark for the last ten or so years but we have to take each game and play it just as we would a Club World Cup game.”

“I’ve been here for two seasons and we haven’t won the premiership trophy in that time. It’s definitely a goal for us to win the double. Fortunately enough, we’ve been able to keep winning the OFC Champions League which is the one that gets us to the Club World Cup so we’re happy about that but you want to win both trophies and with the squad we have we should be doing that.

“On any given day the results can go either way and credit to Team Wellington for winning it the last couple of years but we want to win it back.”

Ends


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