In July 2021, John Aloisi was sitting in a television studio watching the best football in the world; but something was missing in his life.
He might have been one of Australia’s favourite football sons; a Socceroos icon. But for three years, clubs in Australia did not consider him the man for their jobs.
Not coaching, hurt. He just knew, he needed someone to give him a shot.
“Did I think I was going to get another job in Australia? I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t,” he said.
On Saturday night, he marked his first season back in coaching with his first Grand Final as a coach.
He had come close at Brisbane Roar, but Western United’s extraordinary 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory, 4-2 on aggregate, at AAMI Park, qualified the fledgling club for their first decider, in just their third year.
“I am just grateful the club have given me this opportunity,” Aloisi said after the match.
“It was three years I hadn’t coached.
“I knew if I did get the opportunity again I would make something of it.
“I have made two major Semi Finals; unfortunate not to make the Grand Final.
“I knew I was close. Whereever I went, I knew I would make it work,
“I am grateful they gave me this opportunity because not many others would’ve. Or didn’t.”
Aloisi was in charge of Melbourne Heart in 2012, not long after retiring as a player, where he endured a baptism of fire, before returning as Roar boss from 2015 to 2018.
He continued: “After the Melbourne Heart job, that taught me a lot, that I was strong enough to be a coach. I dealt with a lot of things, not just results, things off the field.
“It taught me I knew I can be a coach at this level.
“At Brisbane Roar, we were so close.
He continued: “People still talk about the Melbourne Heart days, that’s 10 years ago, I’m thinking ‘come on, give me a break here’.
“I proved at Brisbane Roar that my teams are not bad.
“That’s why I’m grateful for these guys if they didn’t give me a job I would’ve had to have gone overseas and I was seriously considering I would have to leave Australia.
“My passion is coaching – I love it, I really do. I had to move away from my family to coach, my family is still in Brisbane, because I am so passionate … if I didn’t have their support I don’t know what I’d be or what I’m be doing… I enjoyed working on TV, at Optus, because it made me still involved, dissecting games, but my passion is coaching.
“I always wanted to get back in. Lucky that I did.
“Now, we’re not just happy to reach a Grand Final. We want to win.”
And after knocking off Melbourne Victory, showing an attacking efficiency to match their defensive resolve, they’re every chance of doing that against Melbourne City or Adelaide United.
“It is huge for the club,” he enthused.
“It is only the third season and there’s been a lot of people putting down the club and some things I understand because we haven’t got a stadium and are building our supporters base…take all the (negative) stuff out, we know that, we’re not there yet, we’re on a journey but to get there so quickly, is huge.
“(Making a Grand Final) helps the supporter base grow, and people to believe.”
The fans might be small in number, but the scenes at full-time were extremely emotional, and the noise, pound for pound, electric.
Neil Kilkenny was in tears. Jamie Young sprinted 100 metres to celebrate the final goal. Players had their kids on the ground.
“I spoke about my own personal sacrifice but there’s many players (making sacrifices) and Neil is one of them. Neil hasn’t seen his family, probably only two weeks out of 10 months and he has four young kids.
“He is sacrificing that because he wants to be out there for something he loves and for a club he respects and loves, that’s why all the emotion came out.
“Not only for Neil; it is all the hard work from the top – our board, chairman, right through the club. People don’t see it day in day out … I’m not saying other clubs are not like ours, but the hard work, energy and sacrifice, that is why all that emotion comes out.
“Also, our supporters … coming into the finals they were probably thinking: how we going to get to the Grand Final, with one point from nine? But they stuck with us and were here tonight and made a lot of noise.”