The 2019/20 A-League season was unlike any ever seen before, and the challenges it provided were tough on all City players but none had more setbacks than Austrian central defender Richard Windbichler.
In what was his first season at the Club, Windbichler joined as a highly touted signing and looked set to play a big role in the heart of the City defence.
Unfortunately for the now 29-year-old and City fans alike, a lingering hamstring injury kept him sidelined for a large part of the season. He appeared just three times in City’s first 23 A-League fixtures and looking back on the injury now, he said it was a very tough experience to go through.
"It was probably one of the most, if not the most challenging time of my career so far,” Windbichler said, “The one thing you don't want as a professional athlete is to be injured.”
“Injury is the worst part of the job but it's part of it so you just have to get through it and come out stronger and better and I'm glad that it's now behind me."
In late March, the A-League season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and didn’t resume until the 18th of July, although City didn’t play again until the start of August.
This unprecedented three month lay-off was a blessing in disguise for Windbichler, who after being originally ruled for the season, was able to return to full fitness and play every game from that point.
He said that when returning to training after the long injury lay-off, there had been some nerves and worries in the back of his head but they quickly disappeared.
“Once you are able to get through that first training, through to the first week and then you play a game, it gives you more and more confidence and quickly the memory of the injury is gone," Windbichler said.
He played all but the final few moments of the 1-0 Grand Final loss to Sydney and said that immediately in the dressing room after the game, the focus was put on getting to that point again and striving for a better outcome.
“We know that we don't want to ever feel the same way as we did then, so all the hard work is going towards making Melbourne City proud and delivering the club its first A-League trophy," Windbichler said.
City is now a few weeks through its pre-season and Windbichler said the players are all working hard and know what they need to do to continue to improve in the 2020/21 season.
"Pre-season is always tough on the players but we know that if we want to go one step further than last season, we need to put in the work and the effort to be at an optimal level when the season begins," he said.
Despite a few new faces in the group, the camaraderie is at a great level and Windbichler said the feeling around the squad was very good and the new signings had settled in quickly and easily.
“Usually in most teams you'll have one or two players that don't get along or you don't like as much as others, but I have to say in this team everybody likes everyone and it’s a big factor that can make the difference,” he said.
“The new players have fit right in and adapted really quickly and three months of pre-season is plenty of time to connect."
Although not a new face at the club, Patrick Kisnorbo will take charge as head coach for the 2020/21 season but Windbichler said little has changed in the messaging from the coaching group.
“He (Kisnorbo) was already very present even though his role was as assistant coach,” he said, “To bring in Des (Buckingham) as an assistant compliments the existing coaching staff very well."
The 2020/21 A-League season will kick-off on December 27, stay tuned in the coming weeks for fixture information.