Camaraderie will be a huge benefit says Leijer

Adrian Leijer has been there for the long haul and has no doubts the terrific camaraderie that exists amongst the group will be of immense benefit by the time the Olympics commence in a little under a month’s time.

Adrian Leijer has been there for the long haul and has no doubts the terrific camaraderie that exists amongst the group will be of immense benefit by the time the Olympics commence in a little under a month-s time.

The Fulham Athletic defender has been a mainstay throughout the campaign and is one of the quartet of very talented central defenders that will be battling for two starting spots come the first game against Serbia in Shanghai on August 7.

But it-s the camaraderie that has developed amongst the players over the past two and half years, which Leijer believes will play a major role during the games.

“Yeah I think so,” he said, when asked if the camaraderie among the players will help during the finals. “I think it-s a massive part in any team sport.

“We-ve been together for two years and experienced a hell of a lot. So to have gone through that, we know that any challenge that is thrown at us we-ll be able to cope with.

“We-ve been in camp a lot together and we are quite a close team and that-s something that-s going to help us," he added. "We are used to it and going to have to keep getting used to and keep pushing each other all the way, especially in Beijing."

Leijer likes the squad and while he felt sorry for many of the boys that missed out, he was more than delighted and relieved that he was amongst the final 18 players chosen.

“It-s a good squad,” he said, after a lively practice session at North Sydney Oval. “It-s always going to be tight for places when you only have an 18-man squad that includes three over-age players.

“It was more a relief,” he said of hearing of his selection. “There are a lot of players that have missed out who could well be in this squad; some players are very unfortunate but fortunately enough for myself I am here and really looking forward to the experience.”

The former Melbourne Victory player knows however that he has a tough fight on his hands to get a starting spot, especially with Newcastle Jets captain Jade North named as one of the three over-age players.

“With Jade North in there that-s an extra defender, so that makes it interesting and we all have to fight for our spots. Jado (North) is a great player and has got a lot of experience. Whether he plays at centre back or right back it-s up to Arnie (Graham Arnold) and we-ll see who he puts on the park, but we are a whole team of 18 and whoever is out there, we-ll all be supporting them.

Leijer is determined to make the most of the opportunity, which he hopes will then transform over to his club football, where his first season at Fulham was one of frustration. “Yeah it was frustrating; I wanted to get out there and get my debut but that-s the way it went. I have that experience now of being on the bench and I suppose now I have just got to fight that one step further to get on the park.

“After the Olympics I will be back in there and I have got that year behind me now, so I know what it-s all about and hopefully I can get in there and show them how desperate I am to play.”

“Yeah I think it will,” he said, when asked if the Olympics will help him to get that first team spot. “It-s the same for all the boys; it-s a massive shop window for us; it-s a massive opportunity.”

Leijer this season will joined at Fulham this season by none other than national team keeper Mark Schwarzer and can-t wait to hopefully get on the park with.

“I was buzzing when I heard that news and Schwarz is a great guy and will add a lot to our team. Just to have another Aussie in the dressing rooms as well, it does help you and he has been around a long time and will be someone good for advice as well.

Once I head back there after the Olympics, I will catch with him and have a chat and hopefully he will be able to get me in the defence in front of him.”

First up though is the match on Saturday against the Kiwi-s (New Zealand), who will also be heading to the Olympics, where they face hosts China, Brazil and Belgium. It-s a match the Melbournian is looking forward to

“The last time we played them was during the Oceania qualifiers and that was some years ago, so it will be good to play them again. They-ve got a good squad and some good over-age players.

“They-ll be doing everything they can to make an impact in Beijing as well, so it-s a pretty important game for both us.

“We-ll be wanting to win the game; obviously you go into every game wanting to win. Arnie has already said that we are going to training hard this week and if we are a bit flat Saturday then we are a bit flat.

“We-ve got to look at our main goal; the big picture and that-s not Saturday, it-s Beijing and that-s where we really want to do well.”

The Qantas Under 23-s feature in a double header with the Matildas against New Zealand on Saturday at North Sydney Oval in Sydney. The Matildas kick-off at 12 noon, while the Qantas Under 23-s match kicks off at 2.00pm.

Tickets can be purchased at the match venue.