Stefan Colakovski’s Perth Glory journey is one of resilience and self-belief, fuelled by a vision he never lost sight of. The young winger tells aleagues.com.au how a challenging debut season in the west has led to better days.
When the going got tough, Stefan Colakovski could have easily called it quits.
Just six months into a two-year contract with Perth Glory, the young winger had seen just 63 minutes of game time across two bench appearances when the January transfer window opened.
Colakovski had trusted a gut feeling to leave his safe and familiar life in Melbourne behind, leaving his boyhood club Melbourne City, and bidding farewell to family and friends.
He lived alone in Perth in that first season, enduring a reality he never expected.
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But not once did the determined youngster think about leaving his new club behind. Not in January, and not even by the time he arrived at the end of the season without a single minute added to that figure of 63 clocked in two appearances before Round 5.
“There might be some players who would have wanted to jump ship, even in the middle of last season in the January transfer window,” Colakosvki tells a-leagues.com.au.
“Last year was the complete opposite of what I wanted to happen.
‘I don’t want to hold grudges or speak negatively about the season. The reality is, it’s just how it happened. I’m not happy about it, and I wish I could’ve contributed to the team.”
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Colakovski was brought to the club by former head coach Ruben Zadkovich, and after three seasons and three trophies earned at City, the then-22-year-old arrived in Perth to much fanfare.
But excitement soon turned to perplexion as Colakovski went from bit-part player early in the campaign, to a player on the periphery after just five rounds.
Colakovski had made 46 appearances for Melbourne City before his move west, and a mere seven starts. It was the move that was meant to launch his career, and yet in reality it pumped the brakes.
“I just wanted to help the team and I thought I could, but I wasn’t able to,” Colakovski says. “But I don’t want to look back on last year because it’s happened now, and I think life is all about looking forward, and looking at the season ahead.
“I’m not ignoring last year, I’m just accepting that’s football, and hopefully that doesn’t happen in my career again. A big part of me thought: regardless of what happened behind the scenes, I wanted to show the fans and the club why they signed me, and why they were excited about signing me.”
Six rounds into a new season, under a new coach in Alen Stajcic, the Glory faithful are starting to see glimpses of the brilliance Colakovski is capable of producing.
He’s still yet to make his first start in purple and orange – but having come off the bench in all six games to date, Colakovski has already quadrupled the number of match minutes he received last season. And with two goals and one assist on the board, he’s producing a score involvement once every 94 minutes.
On Friday night, Colakovski and Glory welcome his former side City to HBF Park; it’s a special fixture on the calendar for a player who left the club that inspired his love for football behind in an attempt to advance his career.
“I don’t regret the move at all – and I didn’t regret it even last year, when things weren’t going great for me,” Colakovski says.
“When I decided to move on, that’s what I thought was best for me and my career. Even just for my life, if I’m honest. I wanted to experience something new.
“I loved Melbourne City and I still do. I’ll forever be grateful to that club for the opportunities they gave me, and I don’t have one bad word to say about that club.
“Playing for such a high-calibre team and winning everything was great, I won three trophies there so my trophy cabinet is looking pretty good so far, I won’t lie. But on the flip side, this opportunity came up and I just felt something in my gut that said let’s try something new. Mentally, I was ready for it.
“Now that I’ve been here for 15 months, this is home now. It is very different to Melbourne, and Melbourne is home too – so I guess at the moment I’ve got two homes.
“Melbourne is where I grew up, all of my family and friends are there. But I’ve made some really good relationships here in Perth, and I really, really love the lifestyle. It’s been a very different experience in professional football compared to when I was in Melbourne. I feel like I’ve made a lot of strong relationships. with teammates who are also living on their own.
“Last season didn’t go how I wanted it to, but I still didn’t regret it because it was what I wanted, and I knew I just needed to look forward and think positive and it would all work out in the end.”
A key part of that positive thinking was visualising what success would look like at his new club. And to Colakovski, even in the lowest ebbs of last season, one clear vision was inspiring his belief in making his stay in Perth a success:
“That feeling of scoring in front of The Shed.
“It’s happened twice now, and long may it continue. It’s such a great feeling.
“The Shed is iconic within the A-League, and that’s great. Even when crowd numbers aren’t as high as they have been in the past when Glory were doing great, HBF Park is still rocking.
“That feeling, it wasn’t a relief but I had been thinking of that moment for a year. Since I signed, I’ve been picturing in my head how I’m going to feel, and what I’m going to do when I score in front of The Shed. I’ve seen that image, and seeing it come to life was great. And I’m going to continue to picture those moments because I want them to keep coming.”
Having ticked off the aim of breaking back into the first-team squad, and making his opportunities count when he’s received them this season, Colakovski’s next goal is turning bench minutes into a starting role.
He’s earned a reputation as a “super sub” throughout his time in the Isuzu UTE A-League, and though he gleefully admits “it’s better than being called a s*** sub”, it is a moniker he hopes to shed in the future.
Another goal against City on Friday night wouldn’t hurt his cause. The prospect of scoring against his former side produces complex emotions.
Glory begin Round 7 in 10th spot on the Isuzu UTE A-League table. It’s been a tough start to the season for Stajcic’s side; just one win from six games is a record that worsened across a three-game losing streak on the road.
But victory on Friday night would send Glory above City on the table; currently seventh, the reigning premiers have experienced an inconsistent start to the season, struggling to juggle the AFC Champions League group stage and the opening rounds of the domestic campaign.
“I was speaking to my old man the other day, and he actually asked me: ‘What are you going to do if you score?’ And I laughed,” Colakovski says.
“I don’t want to do anything cringe where they put their hands up – especially because it’s in Perth and not Melbourne.
“But out of respect for that love I still have for City, I’m not going to be taking off my top and running in front of Scott Jamo (Jamieson) on the sidelines!
“I’ve still got some great friends at Melbourne City,” added Colakovski. “Jamo is one of them. Jamie Maclaren, Curtis Good, and others – the backroom staff, the kit men – there are still people there I know and I’m in regular contact with, so it will be great to play against Melbourne City again.
“There aren’t as many boys there anymore that I know. I would have loved to score against Tommy Glover – I probably would have celebrated in front of him!
“But I’m really looking forward to it. Firstly, to see everyone from Melbourne CIty again but also to try and win. They’re a strong team, regardless of their start. We’ll try to get three points again, especially in front of the Glory fans.”
When speaking of the fans, Colakovski turns into somewhat of a football romantic.
Firstly at City and now in Perth, he uses his attachment to the fans to put meaning behind what he’s trying to achieve.
At City he fed off his connection to the club formed as a kid in the terraces supporting the old Melbourne Heart. That love flourished the day he joined City’s academy, furthermore when he broke into the first team, going on to become a semi-final goalscorer and, ultimately, a starter in City’s one Championship triumph in 2021.
Upon arriving in Perth, it was only natural Colakovski would look around for similar motivation.
He found it in the club’s rich history.
A sleeping giant that once dominated Australian football in the very last days of the National Soccer League, Colakovski resonates with the story behind the badge, and hopes to contribute to his new club’s resurgence into a force to be reckoned with.
“Perth Glory is a very big club,” he says. “It’s the only club in WA, they have one of the richest histories out of all the A-League clubs dating back to the NSL.
“I know the last couple of years haven’t gone to plan, but I wanted to contribute to getting the club back to where it belongs. That’s the truth.
“I didn’t want to jump ship just because one season didn’t go well. I signed a two-year deal and I wanted to honour that and show the fans and people who signed me why they did sign me, and what I can do.
“Football is for the fans. You play for the feeling and for stories. It is important to me, those things, and that’s another reason why I signed for Glory: because of the history and the size of the club. Regardless of what has happened in the last couple of years, having an actual feeling for the club I’m playing for is very important.
“Yes, people will talk s*** about the A-League and how some clubs have no history and no culture. But Perth is definitely one of the clubs that do have culture and history.
“It’s a huge honour to play for them, and I’m proud – I’m proud to play for Glory, just as proud as I was to play for City because of my childhood with them.”
Colakovski and Glory face off with City at HBF Park on Friday, December 8, kicking off at 6.45pm local time (9.45pm AEDT). You can watch all the action LIVE on Paramount+!