FORMER Bathurst ’75-Western talent and now Wellington Phoenix striker Nathan Burns said getting a Socceroos recall was the biggest driver behind a barnstorming campaign which earned him the A-League Player of the Year award on Monday night.
Burns, the only Australian player in the top five, took home the Johnny Warren Medal, receiving 577 votes from his playing peers ahead of Adelaide United playmaker Marcelo Carrusca (366 votes), Melbourne Victory’s Fahid Ben Khalfallah (307 votes) and Kosta Barbarouses (277 votes).
“There’s so many good players in the A-League now it’s really hard to think you’re up there with the best,” a surprised Burns said.
“I’ve still got to pinch myself. It’s the biggest award of the year and on a personal level it’s fantastic.
“I actually thought Ben Khalfallah was going to win, so when I saw his name called third I was wondering who was going to win.
“I don’t how I got over the line.”
Blayney native Burns first burst on to the A-League scene with Adelaide United in 2006 before heading abroad with stints in Europe and Asia.
He returned home to join the Newcastle Jets in 2013, but it was with the Phoenix this season that the 27-year-old frontman really made a name for himself.
He netted an impressive 13 goals and earned a place in the Socceroos’ squad, playing a key role in their triumphant Asian Cup campaign.
“It was definitely a drive to come back and get back in the Socceroos,” Burns said.
“That was the whole incentive in coming back to the A-League. To get back and start playing well.
“So to be called up for the Socceroos was a great honour and to be involved in the Asian Cup.”
Burns credited Phoenix mentor Ernie Merrick for his form.
He said the attacking style Merrick implements, which had Wellington looking like title contenders before falling away to finish fourth on the ladder, brought the best out in him.
“The Wellington Phoenix system that I was playing in under Ernie Merrick – he really got the best out of my performance, he knew how to change me as a player and make me more attacking.
“So I think that’s been the difference to the previous years.”
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