On June 5 this year, the lives of two Melbourne City players instantly transformed.
Forward Nick Fitzgerald and midfielder Luke Brattan became fathers for the first time, with the birth of their first children - Nick’s son Harrison and Luke’s daughter Amaya – with both born on the same day.
After four-and-a-half months of fatherhood, balancing responsibilities at home and on the training pitch with City during the pre-season, both players say their lives have changed for the better – and that may well be having an impact on City’s positive start to the season.
“[Being a father] is amazing, I think the balance between on field and off and has been great; off the field it’s a wonderful experience and I’ve been really happy and that’s carried onto the pitch, I’m feeling much more comfortable and much happier,” Fitzgerald said.
“It was a bit hard in pre-season when we were getting hammered every day Warren [Joyce] and not sleeping, but Harrison is doing really well now, sleeping well, and just growing up way too fast.
“I’m much more comfortable this year and it’s actually a good balance away from football to have that distraction, it’s been wonderful.”
Brattan agreed that the birth of his daughter with partner Courtney had been a ‘fantastic disruption’ away from football.
“I think we get caught up in football a lot and think about it all the time. “Everyone thinks that it’s all flashy lifestyle.
“We make mistakes like everyone else and have families, we’re normal people and we’re just very lucky to do what we do.
“Having a family like this brings you down to earth, keeps you level-headed and humble.
“Everyone tells you that your life is going to change, but it does in a good way, it’s very rewarding.
“Your priorities change… you’re more relaxed in training or in a match. If you have a bad day at training, then when you get home [to see your partner and baby], everything changes. I think it makes you a better person and that in turn makes you a better footballer.”
Fitzgerald said City’s start to the season – with Joyce’s team securing two wins from two matches – was not surprising, given the amount of work the players had put in during the off-season.
“I’m not surprised [with the team’s positive start]. As a team we worked extremely hard during the off-season… we came back to pre-season and hit the ground running, worked extremely hard, came in on days off and did extra running, so I’m not surprised with our games. Having said that, it is only round 2 and we still have a lot of improvement.”
Fitzgerald and Brattan, who has recovered from a minor knock sustained in training last week which saw him miss the Melbourne Derby, are both putting their hand up for selection as competition for spots in City’s squad heats up.
City tackle Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Saturday at 5.35pm, with kids having free entry into the stadium. Click here to get your tickets for the match
“It’s great as a kid growing up I used to go to NSL games and to be able to bring kids in for free, all families should be coming out, it’s an early kick-off at 5.30pm, so it’ll be great to see a good crowd for the Wellington game.”