Ice baths, flexibility and prickly pears – Rostyn Griffiths ready for City’s busy stretch

A well-periodized pre-season and strong emphasis on recovery have Melbourne City defensive midfielder-cum-centreback Rostyn Griffiths feeling good heading into a busy run of games and the challenge of facing Perth Glory’s Bruno Fornaroli. 

A maiden A-League premiership coming more into focus with every point gained, City is set to play Glory in West Australia tonight, before returning to Melbourne on Thursday ahead of a meeting with in-form Brisbane Roar on Sunday afternoon. 

Adelaide United will then head to AAMI Park the following Thursday, before finals contenders Wellington Phoenix makes the trek down to Victoria for another Sunday afternoon fixture. 

Des Buckingham will serve as a caretaker for at least the first two fixtures after coach Patrick Kisnorbo suffered an achilles injury requiring surgery. 

Despite being top of the table and able to go four points clear of second-placed Central Coast should they down Glory, City has played the equal-second fewest games in the A-League to this point in the 2020-21 campaign: only eighth-placed Brisbane and tenth-placed Glory seeing the field on fewer occasions. 

Even though the A-League’s league leaders have earned significant praise throughout the league for their physicality and fitness throughout the season, the stretch of four games is a challenging one – especially considering the bombastic style with which the side plays. 

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One of their elder statesmen, Griffiths ability to back up intense games isn’t at the same level as what it was when he suited up for North Queensland Fury and Central Coast Mariners. Nonetheless, the 33-year-old says that a greater focus on recovery and the facilities on hand at the City Football Academy has, to this point, enabled him to continue to back up for his side. 

“Personally, touchwood, I feel good,” he said. “In some ways [the packed schedule] probably suits me more because the club allows me to recover in between games.

“I think one the major bonus of being at this club is that the facilities and medical staff that we have allow us to operate with quick turnovers. 

“The way they set up pre-season was based around how this might be the situation. The way we trained was very hard one day, recovery, recovery and very hard the next day almost to replicate a short turnaround in matches would be like during the season.

“I think we’re all attuned that way at this stage and I can’t give enough credit to the medical and coaching staff for that. 

“Because while we work harder when we work hard, certainly in between we have plenty of recovery and we’ve got the facility as well that allows you to recover. 

“Ice baths and massage recovery stuff. I spend a lot of time on that after games to get back up for the next one!”

Griffiths ability to recover and prepare for his next challenge is made somewhat more complicated by the fact that he has no idea what position he’ll be playing that week until preparations properly begin. 

Standing at almost 190cm tall and age having robbed some level of speed and dynamism from his legs, Griffiths, though ostensibly a defensive midfielder by trade, has increasingly found himself deployed as a centreback as an alternative to his role at the base of midfield since arriving in Bundoora. 

Not afraid to through his sizable frame around, the former ECU Joondalup prospect has proven himself able to perform in both roles – starting seven games in the defence and seven in the midfield so far in 2020-21. 

“I had a couple of weeks where I set up at six and ended up at centreback and had a couple of weeks where I started at centreback and ended up as a six,” he grinned.  

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“It’s obviously a bit dependent on what’s happening with other players – if we’ve picked up an injury or something along the way. Or what the selection of the other team going to be like. Do they have a bigger striker or a smaller striker? Little things like that. 

“For me, it’s a very similar role. And the way I play it is very similar. 

“A little bit different to [fellow City defensive midfielder] Aiden O’Neill, who’s probably a bit more dynamic… not probably, fact, he’s more dynamic than me, he can get around the pitch better than I can. We play that same position that we do it a bit differently. 

“I enjoy both positions. I probably prefer the centreback role more now but that’s [because with] the way that we play it allows me to face forward more and get a lot more touches, which is something I enjoy. 

“It probably has been a perfect split, although I certainly feel the recovery after I play in the midfield is harder than when I play at centreback, let’s put it that way.” 

But regardless of if Griffiths plays as a six or a centreback, the task of marshalling Glory talisman Fornaroli looms large. 

Like Griffiths, the man known as ‘El Tuna’ is 33-years-of-age and while the undefeated Father Time looms over his career also, he remains one of the best players in A-League history at knowing where and how to position his frame to best manipulate and bully his opposite number. 

Even if his club-record goal-scoring tally seems all but certain to be bested by Jamie Maclaren in the coming days, the Uruguayan striker still casts a long shadow over Bundoora – his ouster by then-coach Warren Joyce and subsequent move to Perth remaining a sore spot for City fans that saw him as one of the club’s first true icons. 

He has scored eight goals for Glory in 2020-21, good for equal fourth in the Golden Boot race.

“Bruno, to be honest, Bruno’s got his strengths and everyone kind of knows what his strengths are,” said Griffiths. “That’s pretty much coming to ball with feet. 

“We have to be super careful of that, especially in and around the box because he’s sort of waiting for that contact basically to roll you. It takes a little bit of experience to sort of play against Bruno. 

“But, on the flip side chances are he’s not going to run you in behind either. There are elements of the game that you’ve maybe got an advantage against. But his link-up play with Diego Castro, you’ve got to watch Bruno because if he holds it up long enough he can bring people into the game.”

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Header Image Credit: Melbourne City

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