Teetotaller Bridge finds new reserves
On target ... Mark Bridge is off alcohol this season. Photo: Getty Images
MARK BRIDGE will enter Sunday's clash with Adelaide United boosted by the sense that his self-imposed alcohol ban this season has brought him to the physical peak of his career.
The Western Sydney Wanderers marksman may also draw upon memories of his hat-trick against the Reds before Christmas, as the high-flying western Sydney outfit looks to douse any revival Adelaide may try to launch after weeks of turmoil.
''It was my first hat-trick in the A-League, which was brilliant on a personal level,'' Bridge said of the 6-1 thrashing. ''It was one of the performances from us that we look back at and think 'wow'. Everything just clicked that day. It doesn't happen often in football, but it was just one of those games. If that can happen again, brilliant.''
However, Bridge suggested after two defeats and the resignation of coach John Kosmina, the Reds will be a tricky prospect.
''After a team loses a coach, they always seem to bounce back the next week,'' he said. ''Although we beat them 6-1 at Parramatta Stadium, I don't think that's going to mean much now. It's a totally different scenario. They'll all be out to prove themselves to a new coach and they've made Hindmarsh a bit of a fortress.''
It's unlikely anyone at the Wanderers will be intimidated, especially after the team's stirring 10-man triumph last round over Melbourne Heart. Bridge said he entered this season driven by a desire to prove he still had the mettle to cut it as a professional footballer.
''It was about proving to myself that I still had the passion, that I still wanted to do it,'' he said. ''It's why I wanted to make sure I did all the right things, to give it my all, to make sure I had a good season. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and, so far, I have proven it. I've been pretty consistent this season. It wasn't just the pre-season, it's been the whole season. I put myself on a drinking ban all this season.
''Everyone in our team watches their diet. All those things away from the field have helped - make sure you get enough sleep, make sure you do the right recovery, do it consistently and the results pay off.''
Bridge said it was the first time he had sworn off alcohol .
''It's helped my fitness more than I thought,'' he said. ''It's things like, if you drink after a game, it takes that little bit longer to recover. If you have a niggling injury, drinking is quite stupid … I feel better than I ever have. I feel very fit. It's a big part of what I've changed.
''But you have to be like that at this kind of club. If not, you get found out pretty quickly. You wouldn't be playing, simple as that. Pre-season was probably the toughest I'd ever done. If you're not doing the right things here you'll get found out, you'll get injuries, you won't play well.''
In team news, coach Tony Popovic will be without right-back Jerome Polenz after he was sent off against the Heart, with Shannon Cole, Tarek Elrich and Iacopo La Rocca as possible replacements.