Now in its 15th year, the A-League can at last say youngsters coming through the ranks of club academies are truly playing for their boyhood teams.
Sydney FC’s Marco Tilio and Ben Koop – both goal scorers in the Sky Blues' 5-1 Y-League Grand Final win – served as ball boys for their club, as did Western Sydney Wanderers Daniel Wilmering. Anthony Lesiotis recently explained how it had been his dream to play for Melbourne Victory.
And with the nature of both Australian and global football becoming increasingly transient – nearly 60% of A-League players are set to be out of contract come the end of the 2019/20 season – the sight of a young player pulling on the shirt that he grew up idolising remains one of the most potent means of endearing both club and player to fan.
As Richard Scudamore said in his visit to Australia last year, “…the holy grail is the local boy made good.”
Now, in what very well could be a first for the club, Melbourne City (née Heart) can lay claim to ‘one of their own’ in their senior ranks proper after upgrading 19-year-old Stefan Colakovski’s contract to a senior deal mid-week.
“As soon as Melbourne Heart started my family started supporting them,” Colakovski told FTBL.
“My dad knew some of the staff behind the scenes and some of the coaching staff. So that kind of drove us towards Melbourne Heart.
“I was always a member and we always used to go to the post-match functions when Heart used to do it – like at the Collingwood training ground. We used to get photos. I got photos with John Aloisi, Rutger Worm, Alex Terra… all the OGs.
“I think my favourite player was Kliment Taseski when he was there, because was a Maco boy like me. I took a liking to him.
“[Re-signing] was obviously what I wanted. I wanted to stay at the club. As soon as they offered to elevate me to a pro-deal I was rapt that they saw something in me and I took it with both hands.
“The coaches here are unbelievable. I know it sounds cliché, but I literally am learning every day. I’m learning off [Jamie] Maclaren, who is scoring goals for fun.
“I’m not going to complain, I’m going to keep going with it and try to train my best, play my best and do the best I can.”