Bradley Grobler: Living proof that goal-poaching might be heritable 

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Bradley Grobler is living proof that being prolific in front of goals might just be as heritable as one’s eye colour!

Of course, the story of his dad, Les Grobler’s eye for goal is a well-documented one. It’s been told over and over.

But, did you know that Grobler’s grandfather was a defender with the knack of scoring all-important goals? And did you know that the Bafana Bafana striker’s six-year old son is a new member of the SuperSport United academy?

Without a doubt, it is a case of talent running in the blood!

“My dad played football in the old days, he was a very accomplished player before the professional league came up,” Les tells FARPost.

Bradley recalls kicking a football at Boksburg Football Club as early as the age of 4. Obviously, at the time it was a game he was slowly but surely falling in love with.

“He was really young when I discovered he could play, maybe 4 or 5 when he showed some football intelligence. He loved football. He had talent early on,” continues Les, a revered striker who made his name with Moroka Swallows back in the day.

By his own admission, there was little teaching to do with Bradley. The boy had all manner of elements to excel in the game. But never did his dad imagine he would follow right after his footsteps and notch goals like he did. Understandably so, he started off playing in the middle of the park.

If Bradley had continued in that vein – granddad would have been the defence stalwart of the family, Bradley the one pulling the strings in midfield and Les the goal-poacher of the Grobler household. But alas, he chose the very same path his dad trudged some three decades ago.

“It was just a case of guiding him in the right direction, making sure the hunger and the passion remains all the time,” Les says.

And so, it was always an issue of when he was going to break into the professional ranks. Fortunately, when he was close to breaking into the professional ranks at the Platinum Stars Under-19 side, his dad was at the helm.

But there was a slight challenge before that. A good one, of course. Bradley was equally good at cricket. Much as he had the world at his feet, he had it in his hands too!

“At a time when football started becoming more serious around 13, I was also a decent cricket player. I enjoyed my cricket,” Bradley tells FARPost in a separate interview.

There was no doubt, however, which way it would go. Even with golf added to the mix, he was always going to follow the game his gramps played.

“When he went to high school he came to me and said he was giving up everything to play soccer,” recalls Les.

Bradley, the young attacking midfielder, considers himself blessed to have been guided by a dad who was a prolific forward. Perhaps it explains his transition later on to becoming a striker.

“When he was young he was a midfielder. He was always top-scoring from midfield,” senior Grobler recalls.

Interestingly, after breaking into the Platinum Stars first team as a forward in 2007 and doing well to earn a move to Turkish side Göztepe in 2011, he was often played in midfield at Göz Göz.

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He spent a season in Turkey, scoring six goals in 28 outings before returning home to join Ajax Cape Town. Luckily, the SuperSport United forward never felt pressured by his dad’s football achievements.

“A lot of players have had to live under the legacy of their dads. It’s been very difficult for those players. He (Les) did well but I think I’ve done pretty well for myself. My success is his success as well,” Bradley says.

Seemingly, he knows too well not to put pressure on his two sons – aged four and six – who are both sport-oriented.

“Troy (aged six) started club football recently. He really loves it, he was enjoying it,” Bradley says, adding that lockdown has disrupted his progress.

While he is not too sure what position the youngster will eventually settle for, Bradley suggests he could actually take after his great grandfather, who played at the back.

“I don’t think we’ve got there yet (to know the position Troy is comfortable in) because they usually play five aside. At the moment he looks more like a defender.”

Without a doubt, Troy can be anything. His dad is that magical talisman who perseveres. Nothing in his world can take the place of persistence!

He knows pretty well that talent alone will not take one to the Promised Land. It is that lesson that he is likely to pass onto his sons.

“Being a footballer myself I know there is no way you can do this unless you’re 100% committed.”

He is also aware that nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with brimming with talent. Persistence and determination, at least according to him, are omnipotent. And so, Press On isn’t just a slogan to him, it has been his way of life, at least where football is concerned.

Imagine, three surgeries in three years and still bouncing back to break a record! “Having three operations in three years was really hard. I’d have an operation, work hard, and get back to playing and then be called to the national team and then get injured and go back to square one.

“A lot of people would have thrown in the towel,” he rightly says, adding how he had surgery on both groins at some point.

It was really frustrating, he admits.

“When I thought I was back on track – a day before a national team game, I had a challenge in training and I strained one of my tendons in my ankle which sent me for that third operation.

“In the three years, it was a long term injury, eight months away from football.”

But after persevering, he is finally reaping the rewards. Just last week, he surpassed the late Abram Raselemane’s all-time scoring record at SuperSport United, scoring his 58th goal.

“It’s an amazing feeling to have broken that record at, not just any club, but a prestigious club who have a great history.

“It’s been difficult for me, I’ve had some good seasons, and I’ve had challenging seasons because of a couple of injuries.

“The club has been good to me over the years, they have stood with me through the good times and the bad times. They have always believed in me,” says Bradley, who has been with Matsatsantsa since 2013.

In his eight-year spell at the club, he has led Matsatsantsa to five championships; two back to back Nedbank Cup, one Telkom Knockout and two MTN8 trophies.

He adds that it is fulfilling to repay the club for their faith in him over the years.

“It’s a nice feeling for me to break that record, but it’s a better feeling to know that I’ve repaid the club for the faith they’ve shown in me.”

On the other hand, Les is ecstatic and reveals that he “had never thought he would end up in this position because of all the injuries”.

In fact, just three seasons ago (2017/18), Bradley was involved in the first 10 League games of the season, but played no part until the end, missing 20 League games because of a nagging knee injury.

His recent record-breaking goal took his tally to 10 in 10 league matches. It has taken a lot of persisting, determination and patience to reach the milestone.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bradley is only the second player in PSL history to score 10 goals in the opening 10 league games of the season for their club, following Christopher Katongo in 2006/07.

He credits his fiancée for also playing a crucial role in his career. The two met in high school several years ago. “We started dating in school. She’s been an incredible mother to our kids. She’s done an unbelievable job,” he says, adding that they are expecting their third child.

Bradley reveals he recently looked through a list of all time top goal scorers in local football. Retired striker Siyabonga Nomvethe holds the record with 123 PSL goals, while Bradley is on 84.

He is unapologetic about wanting his name on that list when he finally hangs his boots.

But, for now, he is bullish about pushing over the 20-goal barrier. He is half way through, in any case, and is confident if he can stay injury free, he will achieve that feat.

“I think someone needs to push over that 20-goal barrier, every year we go into a season and we’re always hearing about that 20 goals. I think it’s about time!

“People are scoring goals now. I don’t know if that’s down to the amount of pressure that’s being put on strikers over the years by the South African public and the media about not scoring.

“Maybe people are doing a lot more shooting drills at training. I’m gonna do my best to achieve that 20-goal barrier and I think I still have a lot to achieve in my career,” he says confidently.

This will come as music to his coach Kaitano Tembo’s ears. “Bradley has really done well. We’ve really managed him as a collective. The conditioning team have really done a good job on him‚” Tembo said recently.

“That’s why he’s always available‚ and he’s playing with no pain. We know that he’s a quality striker – he’s good technically and one of the best finishers in the league. And he has proven that time and time again.”

Just two points adrift of log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, Tembo knows if he is to challenge for honours this season, he will need a Bradley firing on all cylinders.

And Bradley is eager to stand the test of time and wear the crown at the end of his career. Just like his striking dad!

RELATED STORY: STATS: Breaking down Bradley Grobler’s goals

By Mthokozisi Dube

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