Broxham ready to make mark

If his brilliant pre-season is any guide, pint-sized midfielder Leigh Broxham is set to break back into the Melbourne Victory first XI for Thursday's Hyundai A-League opener against Central Coast and it is not a position he will relinquish readily.

If his brilliant pre-season is any guide, pint-sized midfielder Leigh Broxham is set to break back into the Melbourne Victory first XI for Thursday's Hyundai A-League opener against Central Coast and it is not a position he will relinquish readily.

The 2008/09 season could have been career-defining for Broxham, with selection in the Olympic team and a spot with a club which would go on to win the Premiership and Championship. But injuries and bad luck saw Broxham play no part in the Olyroos campaign in Beijing and he spent just 127 minutes on the field in Melbourne's magical season.

It was a massive come down for a player who had gone from being the club's gear steward to playing a role in the club's 2006/07 Grand Final success. The fairytale nature of his introduction to the Hyundai A-League only became apparent when Broxham was battling fitness and form last season.

"It was one of those fairytale sort of stories. I was lucky to play in the final and you appreciate all that and you come to appreciate it more when you have a season like you did last year. It was a tough year," Broxham told melbournevictory.com.au this week.

"I picked up a few injuries which are all sorted now, but I think you learn a lot about yourself and a lot about the people at the club. You'd prefer not to learn about things like that, but that's the way it went and I feel better off for some of those things that went wrong last year."

Coach Ernie Merrick, who has coached Broxham since he was 14 at the Victorian Institute of Sport, took the approach with his young determined player that adversity could only make him stronger in the long-term.

"It was a tough gig for him," Merrick said. "But as I said to him all along, sitting out for a year is not good for you physically and skilfully, but mentally it is vital. If you can come back from this you'll realise what it means to be playing. You'll get an opportunity and you won't let it go."

Broxham said Merrick has been relentless in his motivation and development of the young midfielder. In those dark days last season, when Broxham could not get a look-in, Merrick ensured that 21-year-old was becoming a better footballer.

"Even though I wasn't playing a lot last year, there were a lot of things I was working on at training. Ernie was on my back about them. Pre-season he was on my back about those type of things. I've been able to stake a claim, which I've felt I've done and Ernie has been pretty happy with me so far. I'm just happy to be in the frame."

Strong performances against Fulham and Adelaide have certainly helped his cause. But Broxham has had enough of reflecting on the bench and wants to be part of the action from the outset this year.

"The best way of learning at my age is playing football at a high level. That's my aim," he said. "The previous 12 months, I didn't really play a full senior game. At this stage and at my age, I just need to be playing. Obviously, I want to play as many games as I can this year and play Champions League and get a lot of experience."

When asked if he believes he will be named in the run-on side next Thursday, Broxham was quietly confident.

"I think I've done enough, I've been playing through the past six weeks and I feel I've done enough."

Merrick is ready to grant that wish, saying he believed that Broxham's fitness and attitude have catapulted him into first-team selection.

"I thought he was probably one of the best on the ground against Fulham. He's back to being a first-XI player," Merrick said.

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