TWG: Who are your favourite goalkeepers - the ones you admire most?
MR: At the moment it's Manuel Neuer. For me, he's the best 'keeper in the world. For his size, he's tremendously athletic. He's a sweeper-keeper, but he has every aspect of the game covered and he could be any style of keeper that he wanted to be. He's a goalkeeper that I really look up to and being a sweeper-keeper myself I try to find similarities in our games, which I think there's a few, and when I watch him play I try to learn from the things that he's doing.
How many genuine sweeper-keepers do you see in Europe now?
Good question. I think in the Spanish league there are a lot of them, because of the way they like to play football there. It's well-known for playing the tika-taka football and there are plenty of teams there where the keepers are very good with the ball at their feet. And now in Italy, when I watch Juventus play I see Gianluigi Buffon - who isn't typically a sweeper-keeper, or hasn't been in his career - but now in Champions League games their centre-backs are opening up right to the byline when there's a goal-kick and he's playing in tight spaces and that sort of thing. So I'm seeing it become more and more common these days. I'm not saying sweeper-keeper is definitely the way to go - it's all about what style best suits a team and there are traditional styles that continue to work very well in the modern game.
Some great goalkeepers have played at the highest level right up until 40. Dino Zoff won a World Cup at 40 and more recently you've got a player like Mark Schwarzer still playing in his 40s. You're only 23, so that's another 17 years for you. Do you look at that as a possibility and think 'wow, I could be playing for that long as well'?
Yeah, I mean, the people you talk about get mentioned to me quite a lot, actually, but it sounds a long way away and I try not to look too far ahead. I always try to look just one day at a time, but in 17 years' time you never know what can happen in life so hopefully one day I'll be getting near that age and coming towards the end of what has hopefully been a great career. We'll just wait for time to play out.
Your mum, Carol, is a very special person in your life, isn't she.
Yeah, I think it's been well documented how much she did for me growing up, as a single parent to my sister and I, and I'm very grateful to her for all the sacrifices she made for us. I wouldn't be where I am today with my football without her travelling around for me, driving me around as a youngster, paying off in instalments my school fees at Westfields Sports High, my soccer fees at Blacktown and all these things. As a single mum working in the office at a transport company, on just an average working-class wage, I owe a lot to her for what she's done for me.
She said in an interview that driving you home from games as a kid you would be very hard on yourself if your team lost. You were never interested in palming off the blame for any goals conceded. Is that how you remember it?
Yeah, pretty much. If we won a game 7-1 I'd be pretty shitty about conceding a goal. It didn't matter if it went in top corner or whatever, I was just disappointed that it went in at all. Mum had to put up with me being a little brat about things like that, I guess, back in my immature days. But my mum raised me and my sister to always strive for more, work hard, try not to take things for granted and try to be better.
How are you spending your time during your break in Sydney?
Just trying to get out and see everyone. This is the first time I've been back for this amount of time since I first left to play in Belgium and I'm just trying to pop around and see the friends, see the family and enjoy trying a few restaurants and going out a bit. It's just about freshening up because I've had so much football in the last two years it's been crazy.
What's the strangest thing that has happened to you on your world travels?
Probably not so much strange, but very memorable was the Europa League game we played for Brugge against Besiktas in Turkey. The passion of the home fans and their loyalty and support for their team was something I'd never witnessed before. Istanbul has 14 or 15 million people living in the city and there were 70,000 at that game. On the way to the stadium, as the team bus was trying to get through, people were jumping out of their cars with flags and trying to intimidate us, and when we got to the stadium the fans were screaming so loud. The roar from the crowd during the game was the biggest I've ever heard. That night certainly sticks in my mind.
Did you win?
Yeah, we won 3-1. It was a great away result in the second leg and we progressed from that. It was a great feeling. There were 69,000-plus Besiktas fans and 400 Brugge fans and after the game it was only the Brugge fans who were left there celebrating. All the Besiktas fans had cleared out.
Describe Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou as you find him.
Very ambitious and very clear in his view of where he wants to take the team. He's very committed to what he's trying to do with the national team and the way he delivers the message - I haven't met a better coach in getting you up for a game and making you want to be a part of this team more than anything. He wants us to be something special that no-one in Australian football has ever witnessed before and every player that comes into camp he somehow motivates to buy in to what he wants to do. He gets every player to understand what we need to do to get there and I think we're well on the way to becoming that force to be reckoned with, not only in Asia but throughout Europe. We want to be making finals of World Cups in the near future and while it's a work in progress I think the improvement is there for all to see.
If you weren't a footballer, but you were a star in another sport, what would you like that sport to be?
Growing up it was always between football and tennis. I still wonder how good a tennis player I could have been. I was playing against guys like James Duckworth, but I chose my path and I have no regrets. It's just interesting to let the mind wander every now and then, but in saying that I love playing golf now and you learn to appreciate how professional golfers can hit the ball with pin-point accuracy 99 per cent of the time. I'm a big rugby league fan also - a big Parramatta Eels fan - and it would be nice to score the winning try in a grand final or for NSW in an Origin match. That would be something special also. But if I had to pick one I'd say tennis, because you get a lot out of that - you get to travel and see the world and enjoy playing a great sport.
If you could have front-row seats to the concert of your choice and the opportunity to meet the performer afterwards, who would it be?
I'd say a Chris Brown concert. I'm a bit of an R&B guy and I think he's the best in that area - it would be a good night.
Is it important to you what people think of you? Do you like people to respect you and think positive things about you, or do you not care what people think?
As a person I treat people how I like to be treated. I'm kind and respectful to everyone, because at the end of the day we're all human beings and there's no reason to be treated any differently to anyone else. On the football side of things, you're always going to have people with their opinions out there - positive and negative - and I try to take on-board the positive feedback that could make me better and cut out the negative stuff. I listen to the people closest to me, who I trust, and try to block out the ones I feel don't have my best interests at heart.
Will you ever forget your western Sydney roots?
As I'm talking to you now I'm driving to St Marys leagues club to take my grandparents to dinner, so it's pretty hard to forget my roots from here. I never forget where I come from. Every time I'm back in Australia I'm always out to my grandparents' place at Shalvey and most of the rest of my family either live close-by or further west up the mountains. My mum was a single mum, but I still had strong family support through my uncles and grandparents playing the father role. My cousins, growing up, we were all brought up the same way, to have the best qualities as people. We were all taught to work hard and learn the importance of supporting your family and I think those are all great traits. We all seemed to grow up into a pretty good group that was never in too much trouble and I guess I've got my grandparents along with my mum to thank for instilling those morals in me.