Part of the Family: Morey Doner Thriving with New Team
Halifax, NS - The first goal of The Kickoff for the HFX Wanderers was one to remember for fullback Morey Doner and his new team. While he didn't end up with the goal - that honour belonged to João Morelli - Doner was the key architect in making it happen. Under pressure at the halfway mark of the pitch, a diving header from Doner kept the play alive. Winger Alex Marshall returned the favour with a pass back to Doner, who then showcased his blazing speed down the right flank with a perfect cross to set up the goal in an eventual 2-1 win over FC Edmonton.
It's Doner's third year in the league, but first with Halifax after spending two years playing for the club now known as York United. After a breakout year in the Canadian Premier League's inaugural season, Doner will be the first to say he wasn't happy with how he played at the Island Games on PEI last summer. After mutually parting ways with York, he was eager for a new challenge.
"To be honest, myself, I was really disappointed with how I played at the Island Games. I didn't have the best performances," says Morey Doner from Winnipeg.
Doner had a phone call from Wanderers head coach and general manager Stephen Hart after he became available. The player from Collingwood, Ont. was eager to start the next chapter of his journey, flying into Halifax on New Year's Day so he could get the clock ticking on his 14-day quarantine.
"I just wanted to be able to reflect on (last season) and also just start going again. This is my job and I love football. It's the most important thing in my life. So just to be able to get things started right away in a new atmosphere was one of the most important things for me," the right-back says.
The 27-year-old wanted to get to know his new teammates who were still in Halifax during the off-season and was curious to know what they were like as people. Afterall, he knew most of them already from playing against the Wanderers for two seasons.
"It was really important just to get to know the personalities. That's only going to help us on the field. It's not only about the tendencies and where you want to pick up the ball but. Being able to hang out off the field and have laughs and just be able to be part of the family," Doner says.
Family. It's a word that this fast, but not too furious, right-back used when describing the locker room of the HFX Wanderers. This comradery is what's impressed him the most since joining his new time.
"The family-like atmosphere that the guys bring has really opened my eyes to things," he says.
Like every player who signed with the Wanderers for this season, the visit to the final at the Island Games was a big selling point and something players want to be part of. Another major factor continues to be the supporters.
"We really want to get back to the Wanderers Grounds. I think that's going to be a special place for us and a special place for me again. I've been lucky enough to play there in the past and I can't wait to be on the positive Halifax Wanderers," says Doner, saying he got plenty of stick from the fans while in Halifax as an opposing player.
"It's kind of like the downtown comes alive on game day. It's going to be really nice for me to just experience that. It's part of the reason why I came. I want to be, as a footballer you want to play in the biggest games and with as many fans as possible. It's something that motivates you, it's going to be great for us," says Doner.
Making it as a professional
Morey Doner had to put in hard work to make it to the professional level. He spent four years playing semi-pro in League1 Ontario. A typical match day for him was working a 9-5 job, going home and taking a nap, then driving two hours to Aurora. All the while, he was making his own highlight tapes, reaching out to agents, networking, and wondering if he'd get his chance.
"I didn't have my chance in the professional world until I was 25. The first thing is, I never take it for granted that I have it. There's a lot of good players at the League1 level and only a few players get that chance to come up to the professional level," Doner reflects. "The hardest thing to do is to get your chance. And when you get your chance, you have to take it."
Doner spent the first half of 2016 in Brazil training with professional teams where he learned more about the motivation and hunger involved in claiming a precious spot.
"I got the chance to really experience the culture there. It's an amazing place. There's millions and millions of players that want to play and only certain spots for a certain amount of professionals," reflects Doner.
It also means he picked up a little bit of Portuguese, giving him extra ammo to banter with his Brazillian teammates João Morelli and Eriks Santos.
"I've got about 50 words to my name so I'm holding on to that," the defender jokes.
Back on Track with the Wanderers
While the dynamic fullback didn't get his professional chance until a bit later than many footballers, he did keep moving up the ranks and was getting better with each season. He received all-star honours with Aurora and was in 2019 CPL Fan Awards Team of the Season. A disappointing Island Games was the first down period in Doner's football career but he's back on track with the Wanderers. He's one of two Halifax players to play every minute of the season so far, with midfielder Andre Rampersad being the other. His speed down the wing is giving opponents difficulty, while his crosses into the box continue to create dangerous chances for the Wanderers.
"Now I feel the best I've felt. Things are happening for me. I'm seeing the game in a different way and I think the team now is looking at me as a leader, looking at me as someone that can really make a force. They respect me. It's really a good start for me. I just want to continue that," says Doner.
Images from this story
HFX Wanderers fullback Morey Doner
HFX Wanderers fullback Morey Doner (far right) lines up with his team
HFX Wanderers fullback Morey Doner (left) battles for possession
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Canadian Premier League Stories from July 20, 2021
- Preview: Pacific FC vs. Atlético Ottawa - Match #29 - Atletico Ottawa
- Part of the Family: Morey Doner Thriving with New Team - HFX Wanderers FC
- FC Edmonton Partners with Shift Psych - FC Edmonton
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