With pre-season preparations well under way at Knights Stadium, head coach Andrew Marth continues to build his squad for the 2017 season with a number of key new signings and re-signings.
One of the first players announced to have recommitted was fan-favourite and former gold medalist Marijan Cvitkovic.
Cvitkovic admitted that despite having some initial doubts, the disappointment of last season’s FFA cup exit motivated him to seek redemption in 2017.
“There was a brief moment where I thought I could relax and drop down to Division 1 or 2, but thinking about it more and more it felt like the wrong decision. That is something I can do in five or six years down the track. I had some time in the off-season to reflect. I thought as good as the club did last season, I was restricted to cameo appearances or so to speak. I would have one good game and not back it up the following week. I had a couple of injuries and went into the Gully (FFA Cup) game a bit underdone. Looking back and knowing we could have gone further in the cup and how disappointed I felt, I didn’t want that to be my last game for the Knights and wearing the red-white & blue.”
Having been hampered by a luckless run of injuries, Cvitkovic has dedicated this off-season in ensuring his body and fitness are in peak condition for the beginning of the campaign. Having visibly trimmed off a few kilograms, the attacker is now enjoying an injury free pre-season
“I’ve been around for a while now to understand just skill alone won’t cut it anymore. Especially as the season goes on, you realise that you need to be an athlete and it’s something that I feel I took the foot off the peddle a bit last season. Injuries didn’t help and I came into the squad about 6-7 weeks later then everyone else. I felt like from the start I was always behind fitness wise. So far I’ve been to every session, building up my core and I’m feeling really good. It’s always nice when people notice that you’ve trimmed down, I’ve really looked after my body and my diet and it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.”
Season 2017 could also see Cvitkovic notch up a personal milestone, having pulled on the famous red shirt in 85 appearances for the club. While admitting it would be a nice achievement, team success is what he would like to achieve.
“I think it’s a nice little milestone from a personal point of view. Obviously we play in a team sport so it’s all about the team success which I’ve fortunately been a part of. I would love to be at the club as long as I can. My brother and I have very fond memories of coming to watch Melbourne Croatia teams of the early to mid 90’s with our father. I love this club and it motivates me to work harder and be better.”
The presence of Cvitkovic will bring some familiarity to the Knights attacking third, with James McGarry and Stipo Andrijasevic departing the club and being replaced with new faces in Tom Cahill and Kym Harris. Cvitkovic is adamant the club is still headed in the right direction.
“Losing a player like Stipo – who for me is the best player in the league – as well as McGarry and Glavan – who featured heavily in the squad last season – will be a challenge. However we have been down this road before with the likes of Tommy (Uskok), Barisic and Zilic departing through the years. We have always proven we can re-build: as a Club we always strive for success and the aim is to always make finals and FFA Cup.
“Missing out on the finals last season is a big disappointment and it’s something we’ll look to rectify next season. With Cahill and Harris they are strong and solid players who like to hold the ball up and score goals. They are very similar to Barisic when he was the main target up front and we gelled well with me playing behind him. I feel my best position is playing behind the main strikers and with the two new strikers we have in the team, if we can click we well hopefully we can have some success.”