The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers opening the season with an undefeated October was a fitting way to meet the club’s first anniversary of its maiden Hyundai A-League goal and win.
The NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers opening the season with an undefeated October was a fitting way to meet the club-s first anniversary of its maiden Hyundai A-League goal and win.
Saturday 28th October 2012 will forever be entrenched in the club-s folklore as a lone Mark Bridge goal at Suncorp Stadium handed the Wanderers not only a first goal but a first taste of victory.
A year on from that historic night in Brisbane - the first of four wins against the Roar last season - the memory of Mark Bridge-s 19th minute header proudly occupies fans- mental show reel of a dream debut season.
It came moments after an Aaron Mooy drive ricocheted off both posts - an indication that the heavens might be turning their backs on the Red and Black yet again - but there was light soon enough as a 288 minute wait for a goal was over when Bridge had the ball in the back of the net.
“The whole team was a bit relieved because the pressure was suddenly off us,” remembers Bridge.
“Until that point everyone was at us because we hadn-t scored our first goal yet and wondering would the goal come.
“We were unlucky in the first three games not to grab any goals but we knew we were playing some good football and once we had scored the first one that we-d roll on with it and have a successful season and that-s exactly what happened.”
That first Hyundai A-League win was accompanied by a first victory at Parramatta Stadium a week later against Melbourne Heart. Like a Corvette along the M4, momentum took the team from strength to strength; switching through gears and mauling over speed bumps.
“It was good for me because I-ve been a Western Sydney boy my whole life. I was born and raised here and all my family and friends are still here,” says Bridge.
“You ask any footballer growing up and they always want to play for their local club.
“I was unlucky the Wanderers wasn-t around when I was coming up so I had to leave home to go to Newcastle and then back to Sydney FC.
“Even at Sydney FC I was still looking at an hour travel from Western Sydney so it wasn-t really home.
“Now all the people of Western Sydney and all the players have something to aim for and I couldn-t be happier being a part of this club.”
Bridge would go on to net a total of 11 goals on the road to the Grand Final, contributing to the unprecedented 13-match winning streak. Missing out on the ultimate prize was painful but it ensures no complacency is present at the start of season two.
“Obviously we have got our own team expectations and what we are aiming for and I-m sure the public has expectations of us to achieve similar to what we achieved last season,” says Bridge.
“What-s different is we-ve worked harder and teams aren-t going to be as surprised by us as they were at the beginning.
Since stepping out for Newcastle Jets in 2005, Bridge has scaled the heights of the Hyundai A-League and also endured his fair share of frustrations. Two Premierships and Grand Final goals later, he is finally at home and repaying Tony Popovic-s faith in him.
“I felt that I was becoming very complacent in my football and I needed to leave Sydney FC,” says Bridge.
“I still had a year left at Sydney but it wasn-t smart for me to stay there as I believed it wasn-t good for my career.
“Luckily enough the Western Sydney opportunity came up, I spoke with Popa and the rest is history.”
Home for Mark Bridge is about more than simply turning out at Blacktown Sportspark day in-day out. It is difficult to avoid being engulfed by the community spirit that has made the club it is today and why would you?
“We are very lucky where we had a lot of Western Sydney people dying for a Western Sydney club,” says Bridge.
“Our fans have been there from day one and they are our extra player.
“Not just at home at Parramatta but also at games in Central Coast or Newcastle - they turn it into a home game for us.
“We couldn-t thank them enough for all their support and I-m sure it-s going to continue for plenty of time yet.”
They say a lot can change over a year in football and the Wanderers are a testament to that.
Reputation, respect and growth are all on the red and black horizon. A year on from the club-s first goal and win in the Hyundai A-League, the foundation laid by the people of Western Sydney continues to be built upon.