He’s a legend of the #F3Derby, a Mariners great and now a Socceroos starter. He’s Alex Wilkinson, and for our first ‘Worldwide Wednesday’ we’ve got an exclusive chat with the Jeonbuk Hyundai defender.
In this interview, Wilko talks Brazil 2014, assesses the Mariners’ chances for Hyundai A-League season 10, rates Eddy Bosnar and Zac Anderson’s defensive partnership, explains why Central Coast vs. Newcastle games are always ones to look out for, and reveals information about his wife’s business collaboration with Kate Hutchinson (John’s wife).
We hope you enjoy the yak.
CCM: Wilko, the last time we interviewed you was in October 2013. Since then you’ve become a regular player for the Socceroos and played in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. How have you enjoyed being part of Ange Postecoglou’s national team set-up?
AW: It's been great. To represent your country is obviously the highest honour you can achieve so I am very happy to be involved in the national set up at the moment. The World Cup was an unbelievable experience - a dream come true to be honest. To play against the teams and players we did and to do it in Brazil, a country so passionate about football, was something that I will never forget.
CCM: The World Cup itself provided somewhat of a Mariners reunion – yourself, Maty Ryan, Mile Jedinak, and Oliver Bozanic were all in the final 23. Did being such great mates with these guys add to the Brazil experience?
AW: Yes I think so. And Tommy Rogic was there for the majority of the camp as well until he got injured. It was great to have so many close friends in the squad. Obviously with us all playing together every day at the Mariners you build up a strong friendship, so to be able to share and experience a World Cup was great. It was also great for the Mariners to have so many ex-players involved. It goes to show that the Club is developing players the right way.
CCM: You helped mentor Trent Sainsbury while you were skipper at the Mariners and now he too is commencing his international journey. Is this the start of big things for ‘Sains’?
AW: I think so. It was great to see Sains come into the national set up last month and get his first cap. It was a bit surreal lining up against Belgium with Maty Ryan in goals and myself and Sains in front of him. We all said to each other “who would have thought this would be happening a few years ago!” But I think Sains is a huge talent. He did so well in his first few years in the A-League and has now made the perfect move to a good club in the Netherlands. I think he will be heavily involved in the national team for the next 10 years.
CCM: You’ve been playing in Asia since mid-2012 and with the end of the 2014 K-League Classic just weeks away, your team, Jeonbuk Hyundai (first at time of writing), are a real shot at winning the Championship. Where would winning the K-League rate in your career?
AW: It would be a huge achievement. We are currently sitting top with nine games left so there’s still a long way to go. It would be great for the Club to win the Championship as we have finished second and third the last two years. We are in the FA Cup semi-final as well so we are hoping to do the double. Obviously I have had a few hard luck stories in Grand Finals over the years with the Mariners so I am definitely due a change of luck and a Championship medal!
CCM: Speaking of Asian football, the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia kicks off in January. How would playing for the Socceroos in front of family and friends across the eastern seaboard be for you? AW: It would be a wonderful experience. To have a tournament as big as the Asian Cup on home soil is huge for Australia. I don't think some people realise how big football is in Asia and how passionate the fans are. It’s also a great chance for Australia to win a tournament and all our focus after the World Cup has been on preparing well for January. To play for your country is always a fantastic experience but to do it in front of family, friends and home fans makes it even more special. Hopefully I can continue playing regularly at club level and give myself the best possible chance of being involved.
CCM: I know you keep a close eye on the Mariners and still have many friends involved with the Club. In your area of defence, how do you believe Central Coast are positioned for Hyundai A-League season 10? Can the likes of Eddy Bosnar and Zac Anderson produce the central defending goods?
AW: Yes I still keep a very close eye on the Mariners and try to watch as many games as I can from overseas. I think Mossy (Phil Moss) has recruited well this year and strengthened the squad by bringing in some fresh faces. Without a doubt I think Zac and Eddy will do great. They did very well playing together last year when Eddy came in and I think with a full pre-season under their belts, playing together regularly, you will see the partnership improve even further. Over the last few years the Mariners have always prided themselves on a good defensive structure and with these two guys at the back I’m sure that will continue.
CCM: From what you know of the Hyundai A-League this season, plus the Mariners, what are your predictions?
AW: As usual people are writing the Mariners off. But that will suit the boys fine, they are used to it! I think the boys will be hugely competitive again and I guess a spot in the finals series and Asian Champions League will be the goals. I think most teams have recruited very well this year and as usual I’m sure it will be a very close league again this year. I think Melbourne Victory, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney will be up there with the Mariners fighting for the Championship.
CCM: This interview will appear online before the first game of the season when the Mariners take on Newcastle Jets. You played in many #F3Derby’s alongside and against some of the greats of the rivalry – Hutchinson, Simon. What did the Derby mean to you, and what will it mean to the Mariners players this Saturday?
AW: The derbies are fantastic. The rivalry between the Mariners and the Jets has always been a strong one and that has just grown as the A-League has. There have been some fantastic games between the clubs over the years and hopefully this one is a cracker as well. It’s always a special game for the players and of course the fans. Bragging rights are on the line. Both teams will be eager to start the season on a positive note so hopefully that will add that extra bit of spice to an already huge encounter.
CCM: Away from the pitch, your wife Brooke and her friend Kate (Hutchinson, John’s wife) have started up an organic bedding business called ‘Mahli & Me’. Care to help the girls out and tell Mariners fans what it’s all about?
AW: Yes, they launched the business earlier this year after finding there was a real lack of 'trendy and modern' baby bedding products out there. It’s a lifestyle and baby bedding brand which offers a range of products made from 100% GOTS certified organic 300 thread count cotton. You can visit their website www.mahliandme.com.au for more info and to purchase the products.
Central Coast Mariners vs. Newcastle Jets (#F3Derby) – Hyundai A-League 2014/15 Round 1
Where: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
When: Saturday 11 October 2014
Tickets: www.Ticketek.com.au or www.CCMariners-Memberships.com.au
Twitter: @CCMariners #F3Derby