Bonetig all business on the pitch

Alex Bonetig is one of the most promising defenders to have come through the youth ranks at Western Sydney Wanderers.

The centre back, who signed a scholarship deal in 2022, has slowly been integrated into the team over the past year, yet the 21-year-old admits it was only very recently that he took up a position in the rearguard of the pitch.

“I played midfield my whole life, [it’s only been] the last two years that I started playing centre back and picking up that defensive mentality,” said Bonetig.

“That’s been a big thing for me because that’s what I missed in the past, but the boss has really tried to instill that in me, and it’s working at the moment.”

It makes his rise to the first team all the more impressive, and he is already building strong reserves of mental toughness after battling injury problems that made him miss large chunks of the A-League Men and NPL NSW season.

However, he says the entire team helped him through his troubles, showing the tight knit nature of the group.

“I came off the back of a pretty big injury, but all the boys around me, even the coaching staff (and) physio staff. (I’ve) got to thank them a lot, because they brought me right back into it.”

Whilst he feels the love from the whole squad, club captain Marcelo is someone who Bonetig has been able to rely on for extra advice and support on and off the pitch.

“Marcelo is my role model. He stays back after training with me, does extras with me, gives me a lot of information. And I feel comfortable with him next to me, and he’s always talking to me on and off the pitch, which is huge.”

Despite his injury issues, he managed to make his senior debut off the bench last season against the Newcastle Jets, coming on midway through the first-half and acquitted himself well in a 1-1 draw.

He made two further appearances as a substitute – including in a 4-0 Sydney Derby win – and he also played a key role in the NPL NSW side, where he helped them secure their status in the division for another season.

He may get the opportunity to feature more in the first team this upcoming season after the departure of Tomi Mrcela, leaving a large hole beside Marcelo in the centre of defence.

Bonetig has been given a chance to impress in the Australia Cup, where he started twice including in the side’s dominant 5-1 win at home against Adelaide United.

He is happy with where he is at the moment, but knows he needs to be mentally prepared for the ups and downs that come with the life of being a professional footballer.

“At the moment, I’m starting games, and now I’ve got to make sure I stay on the pitch.

“But in the back of my mind, it’s always about doing the little things and being resilient, because it’s not always going to be happy days, and they’re gonna have some tough days. So you’ve got to deal with it and get on with it.

“I’d say my goal this year is to play a pivotal role in this starting eleven.

“Last year, I was constantly on the bench, in and out of the squad every now and then. And this year, now that I’m fit and healthy, I want to be in that starting eleven.”

The goal for the squad as a whole is to improve on their fourth placed finish last season, and Bonetig believes the way the squad has gelled in pre-season despite a raft of new signings is evidence the team can achieve big things in 2023/24.

“We have a very good group of boys this year, I think it’s the same, if not better (than last season) to be honest,” explained Bonetig.

“All the boys are getting along really well, we’ve got the old guys mixing in with the younger boys, there’s no egos, everyone’s having a laugh in a change room, and then it’s all business out on the pitch.”