A recent purple patch has Rockdale City Suns shining brightly as three wins on the trot pushes the league’s in-form team into the top five.
Midfield maestro Blake Ricciuto credits the resurgence to good old fashioned hard work as his side have shed an inconsistent start to their season to place themselves in the thick of finals contention yet again in 2018.
Saturday night’s solid 2-0 victory away to Sydney United 58 saw Rockdale leapfrog their opponents into fifth after finding themselves sitting down in tenth a mere three rounds prior.
“We’ve got into a good run and are quite happy about that,” said Ricciuto.
“To be fair not much has changed in terms of personnel and things like that.
“At the start of the season we had some good performances, but things weren’t going our way.
“Now in the second round we’re three from three, and the boys have worked really hard to get out of that bad run we had.
“We know we have the players to do it; the personnel and the ability to be up in the top three.
“It’s just now down to hard work and the mentality of the boys.
“We go week by week, which I know is really cliché, but we just look to get three points each week and things now have gone our way.”
Ambitions at Ilinden Sports Centre are high as Ricciuto and co once aim to repeat last season’s success with another top three finish.
Rockdale have consistently placed in the top half of the table for the last half decade and have not once missed out on finals football since Ricciuto joined the club in 2016.
“This is my third year with Rockdale and we’ve been to the finals twice,” said Ricciuto.
“Obviously our aim is to be in the finals and to get there by being in the top three.
“If we finish fifth then that’s actually disappointing for us.
“We’re looking to be in the finals, Rockdale deserves to be there – we’re expected to be there with the players we’ve got – and I think we will be at the end of the season.”
Prior to joining the Suns, Ricciuto lived the experience of a lifetime as he developed his game in Uruguay, the birthplace of his father Alvaro.
After trialling with Danubio at 20 years of age, Ricciuto found his ultimate calling when he signed for Peñarol, the club he’d passionately supported as a child.
The decision to sign the curly haired Australian trialist was made by Juventus and Uruguay legend Paolo Montero, under whom the Sydney-born youngster learnt a great deal during his time at the Montevideo-based club.
A regular starter for Peñarol’s reserve team, Ricciuto would go on to gain valuable first team experience with a loan spell at Canadian in the Uruguayan Segunda División before returning to home to join Rockdale, where he won Player of the Year for the club and was selected in the NPL NSW Men’s team of the year in his first season.
“It was a very, very good experience,” Ricciuto reflected.
“I was there for two and a half years and I was at Peñarol with Montero as my coach.
“With a person like that – he was captain of Juventus and Uruguay as well – I learnt a lot from him and the experience that Uruguay gave was unbelievable.
“The passion of the people of Uruguay, how they live and breathe football every day was just incredible.
“I improved a lot, they firstly changed my position as I used to play right back when I arrived they changed me into a central midfielder.
“The way that I play now is passionately as everyone in Uruguay lives the game so intensely, especially at Peñarol, a big club where you have to perform each week with so many people watching.
“Playing in Uruguay and training every single day Monday to Friday, sometimes with a double session, your touch improves, tactically you improve, by training every single day you are constantly improving.
“The added hard work and dedication from realising what the Uruguayan or South American player brings; just wanting to win every single ball, make sure their first touch is good, and everything is precise.
“It really added a lot to my game.”
Next up for Rockdale is tonight’s Waratah Cup clash with APIA Leichhardt Tigers before a big home game against Bonnyrigg White Eagles over the weekend.
The Suns will be out to keep the good times rolling, seeking another two wins to keep their league and cup ambitions on track.
“(Tonight) we’re going out to win it,” declared Ricciuto.
“We’re not going to put in a weak team because we want to keep that momentum going on all fronts.
“We’ve won four in a row now with league and the cup game against Blacktown City.
“I always go into games confident that with the team we’ve got we can always win.
“I think we can do the double (this week) but we will keep taking it one game at a time to keep that momentum going.
“We’ll hopefully get that win against APIA tonight to progress in the Waratah Cup and then back it up with a big win against Bonnyrigg.
“The table is so close that with one loss you’re back out of the top five and can drop to third last or second last, it’s just so tight.”
Rockdale City Suns host Bonnyrigg White Eagles this Sunday afternoon. Kick off at Ilinden Sports Centre at 5pm.
– By Michael Shoolman