Macarthur fans get the chance to be part of something special

That’s the thing about history – you don’t often realise you’re part of it until it’s officially history.

The 10,500 Western Sydney fans who turned up to Parramatta Stadium on October 6 2012 knew they were witnessing the start of something… but only eight months later did they realise just what a spectacular story they had been part of from the very beginning.

Western Sydney won the Premier’s Plate in that first campaign, reached the Grand Final and generally helped to create an incredible buzz around the A-League. Which is why it’s so fitting that they host the new kids on the block in Macarthur FC’s own first foray into competitive football on Wednesday night.

Already the Bulls are being tipped in some quarters as title contenders, given the quality of the squad put together by coach Ante Milicic (and given his own experiences as assistant coach in that historic first season for the Wanderers). 

If the new boys do fly it will be a boon for the whole league. And the Macarthur fans who literally show their faith from the start will have the satisfaction of being part of another chapter of A-League history.

Milicic understands what can happen when a new club goes toe-to-toe with its established rivals, especially those around the corner.

“That’s what we need to do as a new club, build those rivalries – that’s the part we have to play,” Milicic said.

“[In Round 1] we’re playing a club with a very proud history over a short space of time. When you look at their training ground, their stadium, you know what a difficult game this will be for us. But we have to be competitive.”

The lesson from the Wanderers’ own first season is that the initial wave of memberships quickly increases once locals realise their team is competitive on the field. Not only that – beginning with this short trip to Parramatta, the Bulls faithful have an unprecedented five opportunities to see their team play on the road just a car ride away, thanks to having four other teams based in NSW, including a Wellington Phoenix side camped in Wollongong due to the pandemic.

There are storylines to be written, on and off the field. The Wanderers fans who turned up each week in that first season helped to build a community of supporters. The starkest example was the two teenage girls who went with their parents every week from the start, and when their mother died of a heart attack on Christmas night, found solace among the friends they had made at the football.

But there were plenty of other examples, just as foundation members at all the clubs can tell stories of the friendships made in the grandstands.

Little did those Wanderers fans know that low-profile Aaron Mooy would be lighting up the Premier League and FIFA World Cup stage a few years later, Ante Covic would become the Asian Football Confederation MVP,  Youssouf Hersi and Shinji Ono would become cult heroes and local product Mark Bridge would fly the local flag.

Milicic has followed the Mooy formula and signed several Australian youth internationals yet to play domestically such as Alex Susnjar and Milislav Popovic, while Spanish maestros Beñat Etxebarria and Markel Susaeta have the ingredients to set the A-League alight.

Whether the Bulls run ahead of the pack in their first season will unfold in coming months – but their supporters have the chance to be along for the whole ride.

Macarthur FC