Towering defender Nikola Topor-Stanley thought he was a good pro when he was at Newcastle Jets between 2009 and 2012.
However a four-season spell under Tony Popovic at Western Sydney Wanderers between 2012 and 2016 - plus a year in the United Arab Emirates with Hatta Club - highlighted how much more professional he needed to be if he, and his Club, were going to be successful.
Topor-Stanley, 32, is now back with the Jets for a second stint, and as he told local press following Ernie Merrick’s second session in charge of the Club on Tuesday he’s determined to take a “24-7” approach to take two in the Hunter.
If he can help others to do the same along the way that will be an added bonus for the 2014 AFC Champions League victor.
“I thought I knew a lot more than I did at the time,” Topor-Stanley said of his first spell in Newcastle. “Five years away has definitely helped me grow as a person and as a footballer.”
“I had an excellent mentor in Tony Popovic (at Wanderers) and you only have to look at his track record to see what he is capable of.
“I learnt a helluva lot and hopefully I can bring that mentality here to help.
“He (Popovic) taught me how to be a professional. I really saw that he brought a new level to what being a professional meant. That means looking after yourself 24-7, not just while you are on the pitch or at the training ground. While you are able and contracted it is a 24-7 thing.
“I learnt a lot of hard lessons with him but I am grateful that I had the time,” he said.
Topor-Stanley’s extended period under Popovic in red and black simply cannot be compared and contrasted to the two days that the Caltex Socceroo-capped defender has had under the tutelage of Merrick.
“I didn’t expect to see so much of the ball,” Topor-Stanley said about the first two days of pre-season. “But this is the coach’s methods and we have to buy into it.”
“We have to give him our full support and confidence.
“He is working a lot on the game plan and match play. It’s still early days but he is keen to put his will and stamp on things.
“The length of the pre-season gives us ample time to get the coach’s message right on the field,” he explained.
We’ve added Ernie Merrick, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Dimitri Petratos, Roy O’Donovan, Daniel Georgievski and Glen Moss to our Club for the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 Season, however we still feel that we’re missing a key piece of the puzzle - YOU! Click here to renew or purchase a 2017/18 Newcastle Jets Membership!