Tom Rogic will not be on the plane when Melbourne Victory flies to Japan for their clash with Yokohama F. Marinos on Monday morning in a game Victory surely needs at least a point from if it is to progress past the Asian Champions League knockout stage.
Coach Kevin Muscat had planned to use the promising Socceroo on the bench against Sydney on Saturday night but when the team sheet was produced he was not in the match-day squad. Victory officials made their mind up to leave him out of their Champions League plans following the draw with Sydney.
Other players not travelling are left back Adama Traore, who has only just returned from injury, Victory skipper Mark Milligan and young defender Nick Ansell, who has missed the last few matches.
Muscat's team will be further weakened by the loss of suspended centre back Pablo Contreras and forward Kosta Barbarouses.
Asked about Rogic after the Sydney game, Muscat said his body needed rest and that as he had said he was not in the right condition to play on Saturday night, the chances are he probably would not be in the right condition to travel to Japan. No risks would be taken, the coach insisted.
‘‘(The groin complaint) has genuinely been creeping in and we got to the point where this week we tried to manage it as best we could and haven’t been able to clear it up totally,’’ said Muscat.
‘‘It’s just a logical outcome.’’
Muscat is not one to criticise his players in public, but it’s fair to say there is some disappointment in the Victory camp about Rogic’s contribution since he arrived, with much fanfare, on a loan deal from Celtic in January.
No one doubts the midfielder’s ability, but there are some at AAMI Park who doubt his commitment to the cause, especially now at the business end of the season. There is speculation about just how desperate he might be to put his body on the line to help the club finish as high on the ladder as it can.
With the benefit of hindsight Rogic’s arrival may not have been the best thing for the club. It was more about his, and Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou’s, desire for him to play regularly in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Given Postecoglou’s previous position as Victory coach, his standing in the game and his relationships within the club, including with Muscat, there is enormous pressure on the Victory boss to actually play Rogic, even if he doesn’t think he is fit enough or the best option at any given time.
Of course, if Rogic performs as everyone knows he can, and sets up or scores the crucial goals that get Victory over the line in the finals or in the Asian Champions League, then all will be forgiven, if not forgotten.
Given his standing as the game’s great white hope, Rogic is scrutinised more than most players of his age and track record. The Victory faithful are hoping that, in the season’s climax, he delivers on the promise.