Waratah Cup Final a privilege for Stavroulakis
Sydney United 58 FC star Nick Stavroulakis learned the hard way that just crossing the white line week in, week out is a privilege in itself.
And that is why, after much of a season out after a horror injury that had Stavroulakis doubt he would ever return to play, he is more determined than ever to get his hand on the Waratah Cup for a third time.
“I was at a point in my life where it all could have been cut short for me,” Stavroulakis said.
“I’m privileged to be playing, but at the end of the day a final is a final and you just want to be a part of it.
“As a club and as a team, we are in a season that, at the moment, could turn into something extraordinary.
“But we take it week by week.”
Despite the seriousness of his injury last season, suffered in a preliminary Westfield FFA Cup game against APIA Leichhardt, and the incredible feat of returning to the field in time for the first round of this season, Stavroulakis wants to ensure the focus is on the team and not him.
But he cannot help but be incredibly thankful to Sydney United 58 FC for their support during his toughest hours.
“My self-focus is working on myself and getting my body right to play week in, week out,” he said.
“But I can’t speak highly enough of United and what they did for me, the way the conducted themselves during the toughest time of my career. They were second to none.
“[Coach Mark Rudan] ‘Rudes’ was there alongside Sam Krslovic who I have to mention and the president Mark Ivancic and Michael Irga, everyone was supportive.
“Even the fans, they had a message for me at the ground the week after my surgery when we played Parramatta FC. I’ll never forget what they did.”
And 'the little warrior' as he is referred to by a few of his peers, is delighted to be fighting for his third Waratah Cup final with such an experienced side, many of whom played in last year's triumph for Sydney United 58 FC or have won it elsewhere.
“The majority of us have played plenty of finals and I think that helps in all aspects," Stavroulakis said.
"For me, I am just buzzing to be a part of it.
"I play every game like a final, but now that there is a trophy up for grabs you want to earn the right to lift it. You just have to go for it.
"And for us, this is a great chance for us to continue our preparation for the end of the season. After this we have seven big games left in the league, so this is a great chance to condition ourselves for that high-pressure football.
“We’ve got a really tight knit group and I know the boys will be well up for this one on Sunday.”
Not that he is expecting anything to come easy against Manly United.
"I know [Manly coach] Paul [Dee] well, and what he has done there is nothing short of quality," he said.
"They are contenders for many things. I have a lot of respect for Paul as a person and as a coach.
"The way he has gone away things with his structure and got them playing is quality.
"You don't get guys like [new signing Richie] Cardozo go to a club for no reason.
"It's good for New South Wales football in general to see clubs like Manly United push up the league and do well because the more we can establish our league the better it is for everyone."
-By Matt Galea