Malaysian Mission: Cornthwaite looking to break expectations at Perak

Andrew Whitelaw Andrew Whitelaw

Former Australia international Robbie Cornthwaite is a leader, a fan-favourite and a man you can always count on to pop-up and deliver when he’s needed most.

He’s loving life at his new home in Perak TBG having returned from Down Under for his second stint in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

A former captain at Western Sydney Wanderers, the 32-year-old has reunited with fellow Aussie Mehmet Durakovic with whom he enjoyed plenty of success at Selangor, lifting the Malaysia Cup in 2016.

The strapping, 6’5 centre-back with a keen eye for a headed goal was a popular figure with the Red Giants, so much so that when the club sought to include him in a clear-out of personnel, online unrest from fans lead to a dramatic U-turn.

Now, having already produced some notable results, he’s relishing the challenge with his new side.

Cornthwaite with Australian-born Malaysians Matthew Davies & Brendan Gan

“It’s going well so far,” Cornthwaite told FOX Sports Asia. “We’ve had a very, very difficult run of games.”

“[We had] a lot of away games to start the season but we’ve picked up a few points along the way and are into the quarter-finals of the [Malaysia FA] Cup, so the team’s very confident that we can achieve something this season.’

A high point from their opening matches was an emphatic 3-0 victory over his former employers.

“I have a great relationship with the fans there,” he added.

“So it was good to go along and see them and get a good reception after the game but more importantly, we got the three points.”

“It was probably one of our most comprehensive performances so far and I think that’s given our team a great deal of confidence and also the fans, and has sort of got people talking a little bit more about Perak and us being a bit more of a threat than people thought this year.”

This is a talented Perak squad with plenty of Malaysia internationals to go alongside their trio of Brazilian imports. They also potentially boast a strong weapon with their ASEAN import in Filipino star Misagh Bahadoran, if they can coax the best out of him.

“First and foremost he’s a top guy and a top player,” praised Cornthwaite.

“It’s his first time playing football outside of the Philippines so it’s been an eye-opener for him and a learning process on and off the field, so it’s up to players like myself and all the foreigners who’ve played in Malaysia to help him out as much as possible.”

“I’m sure as the season goes on he’s going to be showing more and more and more of what he’s capable of.”

Even at this early stage of the season, the sight of Johor Darul Ta’zim appears ominous for the chasing pack, with the Southern Tigers looking for an unprecedented fifth MSL title in a row. Despite their early two-point cushion at the top, Cornthwaite believes they can be stopped.

Cornthwaite has scored 3 goals in 7 caps for the Socceroos

The Australia international explained: “They’ve had a bit of an indifferent start to the season, there’s been a few issues with foreigners and they’ve already obviously lost a manager as well so I think they’ll be looking to bring in a couple of reinforcements.

“They’re still a very, very big threat but we’re very confident we can get something from that match.’

Perak were due to face JDT next Tuesday but – with the league rescheduling – they’ll have to wait until June to test themselves against the Champions.

In the meantime, the Ipoh-based side face PKNS FC in the FA Cup quarter-final this Saturday. And on the strength of their showings in the league to far, they could be a surprise package this season as they seek to improve on a respectable fifth-place finish in 2017.

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