WELCOME BACK : Western Pride captain Niall McCarthy (middle) chats to teammates Joel Hancock and Peter Drager before a groin injury ruled him out for eight games.
WELCOME BACK : Western Pride captain Niall McCarthy (middle) chats to teammates Joel Hancock and Peter Drager before a groin injury ruled him out for eight games. Sarah Harvey

Returning Pride skipper keen to make his mark

BEING forced to sit out eight games through injury, Western Pride captain Niall McCarthy found it tough motivating his players.

However, he's rebounded with a renewed purpose after watching his team make positive strides in the National Premier League state competition.

The Pride skipper is keen to start in tonight's clash against Northern Fury at Bundamba, having played off the bench in his return game.

Defender McCarthy was given a tough welcome back, landing on his back shortly after coming on.

"It was my first touch in about 10 weeks and I got smashed in the knees," he said.

However, McCarthy appreciates coach Kasey Wehrman giving him an extra couple of weeks to recover.

"Kasey is a smart guy," McCarthy said.

"I had an opportunity to play against Olympic in the last game of the round and then also against QAS but I just wasn't right.

"Rather than rush me back into it when the team was doing well - as frustrating as it was - I'm old enough and mature enough to know that it's best to come back at 100 percent rather than 80 percent and do more damage to myself."

McCarthy, 26, tore his groin muscle in April.

"It was frustrating to a point of which I was just hanging out doing nothing," he said.

"You can't motivate people when you haven't played for a number of weeks.

"I took two or three weeks to kind of really get going with my leg and my groin.

"Now I'm back, it's a relief."

Pride's on-field leader is happy there's enough games left in the second round to step up.

"I should be able to capitalise on that and hopefully add some value back to the team as well," he said.

Before his comeback, McCarthy watched every game.

He was most impressed with midfielder Lincoln Rule, strikers Peter Drager and Russell "Rusty" Woodruffe and goalkeeper Steve Purdy.

"I would say that Lincoln Rule has done well," the captain said.

"He's got the job done. He's been pretty influential in some games as well.

"Pete Drager is a mercurial talent. He's very hard to defend against.

"I think Rusty has come on this year too.

"He's played at a good level for a number of years but he has been able to get involved a lot.

"And Steve in goals has done well too.

"The first couple of games were a bit rough for him. But since then, it's been really stable and helped us out as well."

Former Premier League and State League player McCarthy was also happy with the efforts of stand-in captain Will Jordan.

"He's a switched on guy. He's a clever boy," McCarthy said.

"I've been on the sidelines for all the games but it's a bit different being on the sideline.

"Hopefully I can have some influence the next couple of weeks with my football ability and leadership as well."

Before suffering his groin injury, McCarthy played in Pride's first away game against Northern Fury in Townsville. Pride lost 3-0.

McCarthy is tipping a more confident Pride side in tonight's 6pm return clash.

"One result which is interesting is the goals we've conceded. I think we're fourth on the list so our defence is quite tight," McCarthy said.

"Definitely Joel (Hancock) and Devon (Munn) have done really well.

"Now our focus is to get some goals up front."



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