Alex Rufer keen to follow in family's footsteps

Wellington Phoenix midfielder Alex Rufer plans to follow his father, Shane, and uncle, Wynton, into European football eventually, but he isn't getting ahead of himself and wants to gain plenty of experience in the A-League before seriously contemplating an overseas move.


Alex Rufer (right) contests the ball during an FFA Cup clash earlier this season Source: Getty Images

Rufer was obviously born with the football genes, but it's his ability which has seen him move through the grades quickly.

He made his A-League debut for Wellington Phoenix as a 17 year-old and his New Zealand All Whites debut at 19.

Last weekend, against Brisbane Roar in Cairns, Rufer started an A-League game for the first time and is now waiting to see if Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick starts him again in Saturday night's game against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.

Asked if he felt ready to become a regular starter, Rufer said: "Oh, for sure. This is my third season at the club and I've had a great time learning off some of the best players in the A-League and obviously off Ernie as well and I've learned a lot.

"I hope Ernie sees me as a regular starter. I started against Brisbane and I was comfortable and I've had a lot of experience now. I'd come off the bench quite a bit before that.

"The conditions were hard, with the heat, but I was very happy to get out there and I thought we did really well, in the first half especially. We went up 1-0 and we were unlucky we didn't get that second goal.

"Then they got one back and unfortunately for us they ended up getting the winner as well. It was a great game and we were proud of how we fought as a team."

Rufer said the experienced and calm Merrick was a very positive influence on him.

"Ernie lets you know in clear terms what he wants you to do and he helps you improve a lot as a footballer. That's certainly my experience with him," Rufer said.

Alex's uncle, Wynton Rufer had a tremendous career in Europe, playing for Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga and FC Zurich, in the Swiss Super League, who his father Shane Rufer also played for.

Alex Rufer said coming from a family that was football royalty in New Zealand, which could have potentially led to him feeling pressure to live up to the name, had been a help rather than a hindrance.

He said both his father and uncle had provided tremendous support for him

"I see it as a big positive for me, because as you know they both had amazing careers and they have both helped me a lot and they can continue to help me a lot," Rufer said.

"I've learned a lot off them, especially my dad. He's been teaching me things from day one and I believe he has helped me more than anyone and I have a lot of appreciation for that.

"It's also good just to know they've been there and done it as well, so I could see it can be done. I've looked up to both of them."

Rufer is determined to make his own name though and is greatful for receiving a great grounding in the game from his junior years onwards.

"Yeah, I've worked hard and I've been very fortunate as well," he said.

"I signed at the Phoenix when I'd just turned 17, so I've basically been a fulltime pro ever since. I'm 19 now.

"I played for the under 17 national team, the 20s, the 23s and now I've played for the All Whites and before all of that that I was in Christchurch at a football academy from which a lot of players have gone on to bigger things.

"I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had and I'm very happy with where my career is at right now."

Rufer said he would love to play in either Holland or Germany eventually.

"Playing in Europe is a big goal of mine and hopefully I can continue to progress here for a while and find some consistently good form and then look to go overseas," Rufer said.

"The most important thing right now is to play regular football, get some games and establish myself first. I'll look at the rest of it later, when the time is right.

"I'd love to play in Holland, like Ryan Thomas is doing. I play in the national team with him and he has done really well. I can see myself playing in a league like that, or even Germany. I think those leagues would suit my style best."

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5 min read
Published 18 December 2015 at 2:50pm
By Greg Prichard