Week after week, the 2020-21 A-League season is empowering more and more youngsters to endear themselves to fans but, for Melbourne City supporters, they’d be forgiven for thinking that Stefan Colakovski had been specifically grown in a lab for such a purpose.
While much of the attention has, rightly, been monopolised by the crisis enveloping Melbourne Victory following their heavy defeat - coach Grant Brebner refusing to be drawn on his future following the contest - the night will be forever remembered by Colakovski as the one in which he netted a maiden professional goal in a 6-0 demolition of his side’s greatest rivals.
Making it even more special, the 20-year-old, having hitched his wagon to then-Melbourne Heart as a ten-year-old when they first entered the A-League, did so while playing for his childhood club.
First joining City on a youth deal, the bombastic youngster persevered through an ACL tear during that rise through their academy and, after initially being overlooked for a scholarship contract by the club’s brass, was awarded one after impressing then-coach Erick Mombaerts in senior training.
Making his A-League debut in round four of the 2019-20 season, he signed a senior contract to keep him at Bundoora/Casey Fields until at least the end of the 2021-22 season later that year, completing his journey from fan to academy to scholarship to professional.
And on Saturday, the young attacker ducked and weaved to open an angle in the 93rd minute to deliver a coup-de-grace to City’s foes after Jamie Maclaren, Florin Berenguer, Rostyn Griffiths, and Connor Metcalfe (twice) had already piled on the pain.
“Maaaan, this is one of the best moments of my life, let alone in a City shirt,” a beaming Colakovski, who is eligible to represent both Australia and Macedonia at an international level, told The World Game post-win.
“I’ve been telling the boys before every game: ‘I’m scoring today, I’m scoring today’. And today was the perfect day to score - and against Victory!
“We’ll see in the coming weeks, but now I’m going to go into games knowing ‘ok, I’ve done it once, I can do it again and again and again.’
“It’s all good to train well and do shooting practice with Macca [Maclaren] and beat him and he beats me, it’s always good competing, but in the end it's what happens at the stadiums and in the real matches that matter.
“And now that I’ve got that first goal I don’t want to stop.
“On the bench in the first five, ten minutes we were saying what we thought the final score [against Victory] would be. Some of the boys said two or three-nil but I said I thought this could be big, like four or five-nil.
“I’m not going to say we saw this coming, but we had the belief it could happen.”
The three-points taken by Colakovski and his teammates move them into the fourth position on the A-League’s table and just two points back of second-place Macarthur FC, who will head to AAMI Park to take on coach Patrick Kisbnorbo’s side on Friday night. They also retain a hand on their nearby rivals.
Winners of three straight, City’s run of form sits in stark contrast to what they were experiencing just a month ago when whispers began to be uttered around the side - widely tapped as title-contenders this season - as they slumped to three straight defeats and slipped towards the bottom of the table.
“We had injuries,” recalled Colakovksi. “When you’re losing players like Griff [Griffiths]... we didn’t have Nuna [Nuno Reis], Aiden O’Neill is out, Andy Nabbout was out, these are big players.
“They’re not your average squaddie - they’re massive losses. We knew the three losses weren’t good enough but we knew it was going to come good. We all believed it and now we want to keep winning.
“We can get goals from anywhere. Obviously our front three, those guys are unbelievable, but you’ve also got Connor [Metcalfe], Flo [Berenguer], and Luna in behind. You’ve got the young lads like me, [Marco] Tilio, Naoki [Tsubaki] wanting to get goals. You’ve got Griffs’ [Griffiths’] big head and Goody’s [Curtis Good’s] big head at concerns. Even the fullbacks!
“Everyone can get a goal, and even if Nooney [Craig Noone] and Nabbout don’t get a goal, they’re chipping in with assists.
“Obviously with COVID it’s hard, COVID hasn’t been good for anyone, but if we can get as many fans as we can [to AAMI Park for the Macarthur clash]... the fans here tonight were brilliant.
“Even though it was that bay in the corner, it was unbelievable and everyone was singing and chanting and if we can get that every week it’s going to be hard to stop.
“We had to [celebrate with them during the Victory game]. Once we went four, five, and six-nil up we had to go celebrate with them.”