While the Wanderers rested in week one of the Finals Series, attacking midfielder Mitch Nichols said the squad was pushed to the limit on the training pitch to ensure they are ready for Roar in Sunday’s Hyundai A-League semi final.
Nichols said the team was “smashed” in training last weekend as the biggest game of the season approaches at Pirtek Stadium – better known as “Wanderland”.
The crucial clash will also be the very last for the club at Wanderland before the ground is knocked down and rebuilt for a snazzy new 30,000 all-seater.
“It’s a semi-final, with a chance to go into the [Grand] Final, so that’s enough motivation as it is.
“But being the last game, we want to send our fans home happy and looking towards the final and with good memories of Pirtek before it gets redeveloped,” Nichols said on Tuesday.
Nichols has enjoyed his most consistent and influential season in the Hyundai A-League but it will mean nothing unless Wanderers clinch the Hyundai A-League Championship.
In his first season at Wanderland, Nichols has been a shining light for Tony Popovic’s side, starting every game and morphing into a massive contributor to the club’s second-place finish in the league.
The 26-year-old is the side’s equal-leading scorer with 10 for the campaign, while he’s provided four assists and created 59 chances for his team-mates.
It’s the type of form that has had his name mentioned for a possible return to the Caltex Socceroos squad, but its team success Nichols ultimately craves.
“I came here to play good football and get back to scoring and enjoy my football,” Nichols, a one-time Roar player, told reporters on Tuesday.
“I’ve started every game and it’s something I wanted to do and probably haven’t managed before so on a personal level it’s been good.
“When I was Brisbane I had a good year as well and scored some goals.
“But I’ve probably been a bit more consistent and contributed to the team more [this season].
“But if I don’t come away with silverware I wouldn’t regard it as a successful season.”
Standing between Nichols’ Wanderers and a berth in the grand final is the midfielder’s former club.
Nichols won two championships during his time in Brisbane under Ange Postecoglou, a part of their incredible come-from-behind grand final wins over the Mariners (2011) and Perth (2012).
It’s why he wasn’t surprised when they overturned a 1-0 deficit last weekend to comeback and beat Melbourne Victory.
“It’s something Ange installed in the team back then. They just play the football they want to play and keep going,” Nichols explained of Roar’s late heroics.
“They have that never-say-die attitude and you could tell once they equalised there was only going to be one winner in that game.
“They have a lot of boys there that have been there for those championships so they know what to do on the big stage. But come Sunday it’s about us performing and us stepping up and matching that.”