A footballer’s career can be full of ups and downs; a fact to which New Zealand forward Jeremy Brockie can attest as much as anyone. Now 25, Brockie has packed in more highs and lows than many do in an entire career, experiencing everything from a succession of serious injuries to representing his country in front of a global audience at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
After a bright opening to his A-League journey, Brockie’s career went into a downward spiral and he spent two years as a semi-professional, with all the challenges that brings. Now despite, or perhaps because of, that experience, Brockie is enjoying career-best form and both the All Whites and Wellington Phoenix are the beneficiaries.
Brockie is currently joint-top on the A-League scoring chart, and with just two rounds remaining is in touching distance of claiming the golden boot. It would be a remarkable achievement considering Wellington have propped up the ladder for most of the season, and yet further evidence of the turnaround in Brockie’s career.
It hasn’t been the best season for the team, but when you can come home after a disappointing result and see a little girl smiling at you, you always forget that pretty quickly.
For now though, Brockie’s focus is on helping New Zealand defeat fellow Oceania aspirants New Caledonia on Friday in a crucial Brazil 2014 qualifier. Victory would assure the All Whites of progression to the intercontinental play-off later this year, against a yet-to-be determined CONCACAF opponent. However, defeat against the second-placed New Caledonians would mean a nerve-jangling trip to the Solomon Islands on Tuesday’s final matchday.
Home is where the heart is
A free-spirited youngster, Brockie cut a distinctive figure in his younger days with his long blond dreadlocks a trademark. However, numerous injuries and a lack of consistency seemed set to curtail a promising career that has now taken in five A-League clubs.
A return to New Zealand to link up with the Phoenix at the start of this season has seemingly proved a perfect fit for Brockie. His tally of 15 goals, at better than a goal every other game, is only one short of his output over five previous A-League seasons.
“Being injury free and getting consistency with playing time, I think that has contributed a lot,” Brockie told FIFA.com about his new-found form. “I have settled down off the field, being married now and I just had my first kid as well, so am very happy on and off the park.
“It hasn’t been the best season for the team, but when you can come home after a disappointing result and see a little girl smiling at you, you always forget that pretty quickly. Being closer to the family and having a lot of support in New Zealand always helps. I’m happy with where I’m at for the moment, and scoring goals makes things a lot easier.”
Brockie is anything but a penalty area goal-poacher, although he says it is a part of his game he would to improve. A quick glance through Brockie’s highlights reel reveals that scoring exceptional goals has become almost routine. Around half of his goals this season have been scored from outside the penalty area or via sumptuously-timed volleys.
“I spent a lot of time practising with my mates after school, and after training,” said Brockie, casting his mind back to his teenage years in Christchurch. “Practising volleys and that sort of technique stuff has definitely helped me throughout my career. It is something I have always loved doing.”
Despite his erratic club career, the international section of Brockie’s football resume is bulging and includes four FIFA tournaments, highlighted by South Africa 2010. Brockie also scored New Zealand’s first-ever goal at an Olympic Football Tournament when he netted against host nation China PR at Beijing 2008.
On the debit side, Brockie has yet to score during a seven-year All Whites career, although current form suggests he will “get the monkey off the back” sooner rather than later. A goal on Friday against Les Cagous would be an ideal time to strike.
“We are looking forward to trying to obtain that play-off position,” Brockie said. “We will be focussed for the New Caledonia match and hopefully we get the job done, and there is no reason why we can’t.”
Victory in Dunedin will leave New Zealand just 180 minutes away from achieving history and successive FIFA World Cup appearances for the first time.
“Growing up representing your country at a World Cup is something that you always wanted to do,” said Brockie. “And that is not something that has come along often for New Zealand, so it [South Africa] was an experience I will never forget. Now we are in a position to put a strong case forward to achieving back-to-back World Cups, which would be another piece of history for New Zealand football.”