Rudan vows to continue to “put the game first”

Don’t expect Mark Rudan to self-censor anytime soon, with the Western United coach detailing that a desire to “put the game first” will always be placed “before a job” in his mind. 

In what was the first of a four-game road-trip, Western drew 0-0 with Adelaide United on Friday evening in a game that was beset by contention.

Losing Victor Sanchez to a second bookable offence after only 35 minutes, the Victorians also saw what they thought was a Dylan Pierias winner waved off after VAR determined the young flyer had been offside when picked out by Allesandro Diamanti. 

The Reds themselves lost Mohamed Toure to a second yellow card in injury time of the contest, and both coaches weren’t shy in expressing their frustration following the final whistle. 

“In my opinion, all those yellow cards in the first half, there was hardly anything in them,” Adelaide boss Carl Vaert said post-game. 

“And once you start giving silly yellow cards like that, you just make it very difficult for yourself.”

Rudan’s post-game view, though, was significantly more wide-reaching than his Adelaide counterpart: agreeing with a journalist that postulated that his side had been “robbed” and, as he has already done this season, questioning inconsistencies surrounding digital adjudication of offside decisions. 

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The Western coach then cast his eyes wider across the Australian football landscape, lamenting a perceived self-interest of State Member Federations and advocating for their absorption into Football Australia. Calls for work towards the introduction of promotion and relegation followed and, referencing his father, a plea for unification and reconciliation between the current professional setup and ‘old football’. 

Though none this season have been delivered with the same enthusiasm or with the broad scope that Friday’s was, it’s not the first time in 2020-21 that Rudan has delivered a footballing sermon from behind the microphone of a pre- or post-game press conference. 

Speaking to journalists on Monday, the 45-year-old confirmed he hadn’t received sanction from league officials in the aftermath of his Friday comments and went on to provide an insight into why he is so forthcoming with on-the-record observations on the state of the A-League and Australian football. 

“My job as a coach, I see myself as a leader,”he said. “There’s different forms of leadership and one thing that I’ve always done as a player, I always protected my players and my club. 

“As a coach I do the same – probably a lot more as a coach because you have to protect and look out for not just your players but also your staff and the office and your board and your fans. You’ve got to be the protector of everybody involved. 

“That’s just how I’ve always been. I won’t change who I am as a coach and as a person. That’s me and I won’t change.

“On Friday, I thought the second part of [his press conference] was about the game. 

“As far as I’m concerned, this game has given me everything and if I’ve got an opportunity to defend the game and put the game first, I’ll always put the game first – before a job that I’ve got or anything like that. 

“I’ve always been that way. It’s as simple as that.” 

Their trip to South Australia ticked off, Western will today fly to Queensland ahead of a Wednesday evening clash with Brisbane Roar. 

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Scheduled to then face Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday evening and Perth Glory on Wednesday week, the club doesn’t plan on returning to Melbourne until preparations begin for their clash with Sydney FC at AAMI Park on May 15. 

Like their foes on Wednesday, the COVID-affected A-League fixture also means that the sophomore A-League side is set for a frantic run home to the end of the season, which Rudan agrees may come down to a literal ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario.

“It tests the coaches, the staff, and putting a game plan together,” he said. “Your conditioning and your medical staff as well. 

“I can only speak for the guys at our club who do a fantastic job making sure the boys are ticking over, recovering well and ensuring their sleeping patterns are good. 

“I can’t praise them enough because that’s where you really have to focus a lot of time and energy: making sure the players are right for game day and getting the best out of them. 

“And whoever you decide to select in terms of rotating or resting or whatever your game plan is, it tests your resolve. 

“We went through it in the hub last year and I thought as a hub, collectively, we were superb. We communicated – as we do all the time. Every morning, we get together and after training we run through or walk through and talk about things.

“It comes purley down to communication and making sure we’re on top of every little detail.”

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