That Derby goal, a Premiership, a goal and an assist in a semi-final, capped off with a Championship was a dream breakthrough season for boyhood fan of the Club, Stefan Colakovski.
Cola, one of our own, started his journey with the club as a 10-year-old fan of Melbourne Heart and forced his way into Patrick Kisnorbo’s first team squad, after years of working away in the Club’s Academy.
“Being better mentally prepared was the biggest difference I had last season,” Colakovski said.
“I went into every game with the goal to help the team as best I could, no matter how many minutes I’d play.
“Whether that would be a 10 or 20 minute cameo - or a start - I was always ready and hungry to have an impact and change the game.”
With City ahead in Round 11’s Melbourne Derby by an astonishing scoreline of 0-5, the biggest moment of the fixture came in the final stages. The contingent of ‘away’ City fans were sent into raptures at Marvel Stadium when Colakovski received the ball on the edge of the area, shifted it to his right foot, and finished composedly across Victory ‘keeper Max Crocombe.
It was a huge moment for the Club and our fans; one of our own going from years of cheering the team on from the terraces of AAMI Park, to scoring his first goal in a City shirt.
A move from the wing into a more central attacking role benefitted Colakovski, who would find himself thrust into that position when star striker Jamie Maclaren departed on Socceroos duty.
A knock to the knee saw him miss the second last game of our season, but it didn’t prove to be too serious. He was back just a few days later and scored his second goal for the Club to not quite as much fanfare as the first – a dead-rubber, catch-up, behind closed doors fixture against Newcastle on a Thursday night.
Still, this match was a great opportunity for a new-look City front three to gain some valuable on-pitch minutes together, and Colakovski to get some run into his legs before a big Finals campaign.
As City fans will remember all too well, the right to a home Semi Final was denied and the fixture against Macarthur ultimately moved to Sydney.
Not to be deterred, the boys pulled off a strong backs-to-wall 2-0 win with Colakovski one of the stars, scoring and assisting in the biggest game of his life to that point.
If that debut goal at Marvel against Victory a few months earlier was any indication, in a normal, non-COVID affected world, who could imagine the scenes of a packed AAMI Park cheering on such a performance from one of our own?
Although there wasn’t a massive number of City fans present at Jubillee Stadium for obvious reasons; a fair percentage of them there had the surname ‘Colakovski’, as a large part of the clan made the trip across the border to see Stefan in action.
They were all there again the next week as 15,000 mostly City fans made their way to AAMI Park to witness our first ever home Grand Final. Colakovski again played a big role, and would eventually lift the Championship trophy in the stadium he had attended so many times as a fan.
“Words can't describe that feeling,” he said.
“It was such a massive moment for everyone involved in the Club; the fans, the players, and the staff.
“Being able to play a part and start in a Grand Final was a massive achievement for me, and of course to win it was unbelievable and something I'll hold close to my heart forever.”
He may have dreamt of it his whole life and already had years at the Club under his belt, but nothing could prepare Colakovski for the real thing, and it was the support of his friends and family that kept his feet on the ground.
“It was amazing to do it for the fans too,” he said.
“They’ve stuck by the Club no matter what, so to lift the trophy in front of them after the heartbreak from the previous year is something that I will forever be proud of.”
In recent weeks Colakovski has been working away at Casey Fields, in what has so far been another tough pre-season under Head Coach, Patrick Kisnorbo. Not ready to rest on its laurels, Colakovski said City needed to ‘feel the pain in pre-season’ if it wanted to experience the joy of winning trophies again.
He’ll now be absent for a number of weeks as the squad continue their preparations for the new season, but for good reason; having earlier this week been called up by the Football Federation of Macedonia for its upcoming UEFA under-21 Championship qualifiers against France and Serbia.
“It is a proud moment for me,” Colakovski said.
“I’ve dreamt of playing international football since I was a kid and I’m thankful to the Macedonian federation for giving me this opportunity.”
Colakovski will be back in training in late September following his mandatory two-week quarantine period, and no doubt will be looking to help City fight for more silverware in season 2021/22.