Melbourne Victory defender Adrian Leijer says being stripped of the club's captaincy was a disappointment, but is confident he will emerge a better player.
Melbourne Victory defender Adrian Leijer says being stripped of the club's captaincy was a disappointment, but is confident he will emerge from the experience a better player.
Leijer, 27, took over from Kevin Muscat as skipper in February 2011, but has now been relieved of the armband by head coach Ange Postecoglou, who has installed Mark Milligan as the team's new on-field leader.
Speaking to Goal Australia and Sportal.com.au's In Off The Post podcast, Leijer said the conversation with Postecoglou about his demotion had prompted some soul-searching, but he is now looking forward to the next phase of his career.
"We had a chat in the pre-season," he said.
"Obviously initially you are a little bit disappointed. You wonder what you could have done better.
"But in all honesty it's probably done me good. I've really enjoyed the whole pre-season. It's been a little bit of a weight off my shoulders, I've been able to concentrate on my own game and my own fitness.
"I certainly feel like I'm reaping the benefits."
Leijer backed team-mate Milligan to prove a success as the Victory's new captain, and said he will be ready to offer his support if called on to do so by the Australia international midfielder.
"Obviously Millsey's a leader, last season we worked well together and I leaned on him a hell of a lot and he'll do the same this year," he said.
"Millsey's led me before in the Under-20s and the Olyroos so I know he's got real quality in that area ... he'll deal with that really well."
With the new season set to kick off on October 11, Leijer said the playing group were well aware that they were expected to go one better than their semi-final defeat to the Central Coast Mariners in 2012-13.
"I think it's pretty clear from the outset what Ange expects and that's to be there grand final day," he said.
"Last year we fell one short in the semi-final. I think it's really important to finish in the top two, it gives you that home final and gives you that real chance to push on into the grand final.
"That's the aim and with a club like ours we expect to be there or thereabouts."