Opinion

Socceroos hero Jedinak a quiet achiever with nerves of steel

Former Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak has announced his retirement from football Source: AAP

Socceroos legend Mile Jedinak, who announced his retirement from the game on Sunday, will be remembered as an exemplary captain with a fighting spirit and fierce determination to reach the top of his profession.

Throughout his career, Jedinak was an unflappable footballer with nerves of steel.

These latter qualities were no better illustrated than in a crucial FIFA World Cup match in Brazil in 2014.

The Socceroos were facing the mighty Netherlands in a Group B clash in Porto Alegre and with the scores level at 1-1 nine minutes into the second half they were awarded a penalty after substitute Oliver Bozanic's attempted cross was handled by Daryl Janmaat.

With the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders, Jedinak was a beacon of concentration as he prepared to take the biggest kick of his career.

As thousands of Australians at the ground and millions of others around the world watched with bated breath, Jedinak nonchalantly sent goalkeeper Jasper Cilessen the wrong way and slotted the ball home with a low shot.

The Socceroos who dared to dream were on the cusp of greatness and as the entire squad was going berserk Jedinak simply raised his arm in muted jubilation and went straight back to his half to get on with things. The job was not done yet.

That was Jedinak to a tee.

Australia eventually lost 3-2 in a spellbinding thriller but the captain's strong influence on the side left nobody in any doubt about his stature as a player and a person.

And it is a fitting tribute to his personality that you will not find a bad word said about him from anyone in a career that started in Sydney's west and effectively ended on the biggest stage of all: the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Jedinak, who will be 36 next month, played 73 full internationals and led the Socceroos to their first major honour when the Socceroos claimed an uplifting AFC Asian Cup triumph in 2015 on home soil.

The consistency he showed either in defence or in midfield for club and country throughout his career made him a most valuable and reliable asset to any coach lucky enough to have him under their wings.

Jedinak was also a handy dead-ball specialist, mind you.

He ended up scoring 18 goals for the Socceroos, ranging from a sweetly struck free-kick against Germany in a friendly in Kaiserslautern in 2011 to a hat-trick against Honduras in a World Cup playoff in Sydney in 2017.

Jedinak played with distinction for several clubs and he reached the peak of his ambition when he led Crystal Palace to the Premier League in 2013. He was voted the Londoners' player of the season.

In his first season in the premiership Jedinak's commitment to the cause was illustrated when he did not miss a minute's play in the entire campaign until he was injured in the last half an hour of Palace's last match of the season.

No wonder Palace still regard him very highly. "A leader of men and club legend," was how the London club greeted his retirement.

Jedinak finished his career in 2018-19 with Aston Villa in the Championship helping the Birmingham-based side secure promotion back to the Premier League.

One man who knows Jedinak very well is former Central Coast Mariners coach Lawrie McKinna.

Jedinak was a key player when the Mariners won the A-League Premiers' Plate in 2008 and McKinna, who is now Newcastle Jets chief executive, could not speak highly enough of his former protege.

"Mile was driven to be a professional player since he was young," McKinna said.

"He became a great player, leader and role model.

"He also was and still is a very special person."

Jedinak's announcement of his retirement puts to bed any speculation that he could join the A-League next season.