BRETT HOLMAN insisted the furthest thing from his mind when named men’s player of the year at the annual Australian Football Awards during the week were the cyber bullies and critics who once tormented him on social media sites.
The 28-year-old former Canterbury junior, who cut his teeth with Parramatta Power in the NSL, left Dutch club AZ in July for Aston Villa in the English Premier League.
He was rewarded for his outstanding form on Wednesday night with a gong previously given to Mark Schwarzer and midfielder Matt McKay.
Holman was unable to attend the dinner, but said the acknowledgement was welcome and a far cry from the days before he came into his own at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when faceless cowards started a ‘‘Brett Holman is a Joke’’ Facebook page.
There were suggestions the page and similar attacks were born out of frustration with the tactics former Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek employed, but many thought it was unfair Holman was made the scapegoat.
However, with more than 50 caps, a reputation as a big-game player and eight international goals – two at the last World Cup – Holman refused to take any delight in putting his tormentors in their place.
“I have never felt as though I’ve had to prove myself to anyone,” he said.
“If anything, I hope [my success] helps to show people that hard work and perseverance is rewarded.
"I’ve put a lot into my career, and I’d like to think it means a lot to my parents, my family, those people who helped me and a few close friends who’ve supported me all the way.
“You always have critics but there’s nothing to be gained by making it your goal to prove them wrong, or even right. I just did what I was taught – to do all the right things and to do things well.”
Holman said the award was a boost after he’d been confined to Villa’s bench in the past few weeks.
He said he was in a situation where he needed to seize upon any sniff of an opportunity.
“Obviously it is disappointing, being on the bench for the last couple of games, but I’ve started the majority of the games this season,” he said.
“I just want to play in every game and there are still a lot of matches to be played.”