After completing a stellar 2015 season, South Melbourne FC right back Tim Mala believes there is still room for improvement in 2016.
Mala was strong in his defensive duties in 2015, contributing to a defensive unit that conceded less than a goal a game in last season’s NPL Victoria competition. Considering that South held off the Bentleigh Greens to be crowned back-to-back Premiers thanks to a superior goal difference, these efforts are exponentially heightened.
Mala’s performances were rewarded with a place in both The Corner Flag’s 2015 Media, and Fan Voted teams of the season. Despite these achievements, niggling injuries and a change to his usual off-field routine didn’t allow Mala to have as good a season as he had hoped.
“2014 was a really good year for me on-field but last year I had a couple of injuries that kept popping up. They were little injuries that didn’t keep me off the field, however they impacted me on the field” Mala tells smfc.com.au.
“I didn’t realise just how much they affected me because I might have been a bit naïve, so I was more doing a job than I was playing my game. Plus I had just opened up a business with my family so my whole body and routine was a bit off.”
It is moving forward as part of South’s attacking unit that Mala is looking to exploit more throughout the 2016 season. “I stopped who I needed to stop; maybe there was a couple of occasions where my opponent got the better of me. So on the whole, I did my job but it was more my going forward and linking up with those boys (the forwards) that was limited last season.”
The overlapping runs and crosses into the box that Mala’s body did not allow him to produce in 2015 are a particular area noted for improvement this season.
Having had one of his best pre-seasons yet, he is well on track to kick-start the 2016 campaign in a far more attacking manner. “This year my pre-season has been great. My tackles are much harder again and I’m getting in the face of the wingers and our opponents so I’m not holding back or being tentative at all.
“My aim is to just get back to the level of fitness I had in 2014 and just work with the team and try to win every bit of silverware available.”
Whilst remaining resolute in his team duties and responsibilities on-field, Mala is prone to having a laugh whenever possible away from football. He is the innovator of SMFC TV’s popular segment ‘Minute with Mala’, which is set to return in 2016 from a year-long hiatus. “I generally try and chill out and take the funny side of things,” he says.
Worringly for his teammates, Mala has a warning for them to be on constant lookout throughout 2016. “You can call me a little bit of a prankster. I think during every interview that’s occurred in pre-season, I’ve thrown stuff at people. Whoever is in the room – it doesn’t matter who it is – if you’re there and I see an opportunity, I’ll probably take it and deal with the outcome later!”
Surprisingly, the laid-back Mala plays some of his best football in the face of off-field adversity. “It’s funny how it works but I find that when I’m stressed outside of football, I can come here relaxed, ready to play and not have to worry about anything else that’s going on… so I guess coming and playing football for 90 minutes is the therapeutic release that you need.”