In the week when Play Football is the focus, the amazing story of WA club ECU Joondalup is timely with seven current Perth Glory players hailing from the club.
For many years, ECU Joondalup has been renowned for producing some of Western Australia’s finest footballers who've gone on to play for the Socceroos and in the Hyundai A-League.
The club has even represented Australia on the world stage. But more about that later.
Perth Glory has seven players from its current squad having spent time at the PS4 NPL club in their junior years. That's an incredible number.
Defenders Aryn Williams, Alex Grant, Josh Risdon and Shane Lowry, strikers Joe Knowles and Adam Taggart along with midfielder Mitch Oxborrow, have all honed their football craft at some point at ECU Joondalup.
“I played there from the age of 14 until about 16 when I decided to make the move to Perth permanently and focus on my football” said Bunbury-born Risdon.
“I learned a lot about the sport from my coaches and my time there really helped shape my football” he said.
All seven Glory players paid a visit to the club this week.
Joe Knowles said it was a great to go back and catch up with his friends.
“It brought back lots of memories for me, all good ones,” he said.
“I played my whole junior career here so it’s always good to see the coaches and former team mates.
"I like the way ECU have developed and changed these last few months, things are looking really professional and positive and it’s great to see the club moving forward.”
ECU Joondalup player-coach and former Glory star Steven McGarry, said he was delighted to have the Perth players pop in for a visit.
“What a great night,” he said.
“The club is really proud of the players, and we hope ECU has helped them in a small way along the road to becoming a professional football player.
“The juniors enjoyed talking to the players and although they were a little shy, some of the questions made the Glory lads laugh, especially the young lad who asked Shane Lowry about the Fahid Ben Khalfallah sending off on Saturday.”
Back in 2011, ECU Joondalup won through to compete with some of the best young players in the world after taking out the inaugural Volkswagen Junior Masters Australia in Sydney – amassing 23 goals while conceding just twice – to lift the trophy and book their place as Australia’s representative at the Junior World Masters in Warsaw, Poland, the following May.
Teams from all the footballing continents of the world met in Poland with ECU Joondalup the only Australian entrant against teams from Brazil, Argentina, Holland, Germany and Spain.
And an outstanding performance from ECU Joondalup under 13s saw them qualify for the quarter finals after finishing second in their group.
The Australian team emerged from the tournament with huge credit in the knowledge that having played six matches they only lost to the two teams that competed in the final – Germany and day one opponents Italy.
In the opening game of the tournament they drew 1-1 with Kazakhstan.
Next up it was Russia. They looked like a tough opponent on paper although they were coming off a 2-0 opening loss to Italy.
Strong performances at the back from Ashwin Jayakumar and Stefan Vranesevic kept the talented Russian attack at bay and James Owen was able to score a goal in the second half for the win.
The third game against one of the pre-tournament favourites, Italy, was an experience the ECU Joondalup boys will never forget against a true powerhouse in world football. They matched Italy across the park and were unfortunate to go down 1-0.
They went into day two knowing that two wins in the final two group matches would secure a quarter final place, and that is exactly what they achieved.
A 2-1 win against Mexico was followed by a nail biting 1-0 win against Sweden to book a quarter final place against tournament favourites Germany
Australia kicked off day two against Mexico and took an early 2-0 lead thanks to two goals from forward Ryan Charles.
A swirling wind was causing both teams problems, and in the second half the Mexicans got a deserved goal back but Australia had too much for them and held out for a 2-1 win.
That meant it all came down to the final group game against Sweden. Anything other than a win would see Russia progress to the quarter finals with group winners Italy.
The tension on the sidelines from ECU Joondalup’s loyal and vocal band of supporters was huge.
The match was poised at 0-0 and in spite of having chances Australia weren’t able to make the break through until a goal from Ayden Dragun with just two minutes to go sent the crowd and the players into ecstasy.
They were able to hold on for a 1-0 win which secured a quarter final spot and qualification from a very tough group.
Incredible memories and a great example in this Play Football week .
This weekend, the Hyundai A-League action will be celebrated with the Play Football campaign which encourages football fans to register with their local club.
Supporters can get involved and join the game as a player, coach, or referee by registering at myfootballclub.com.au .
With more than 42,000 people playing the sport in WA, now is the time to be involved with the world game.