Power-ful memories inspire Elrich

After watching his older brother lose a grand final, Tarek Elrich is determined to go one better for Western Sydney.

Tarek Elrich-s footballing journey has taken him from a childhood as a goalkeeper, to teenage Parramatta Power fan, to Jets championship player.

Now he-s set for another grand final, this time as a Wanderer, it-s a grand final where he-ll be looking to do what his brother Ahmad could not - bring a premiership home to Western Sydney.

The scene was set in 2003/04 for Parramatta to bring home the final NSL trophy to football-s heartland in Western Sydney and after a recent match where they gave Perth Glory a 6-0 drubbing, the grand final for many appeared to be a foregone conclusion, in favour of the home side.

Ironically enough the match was held at Parramatta Stadium, a fortress for the Wanderers, but a place that ultimately delivered footballing heartbreak to Tarek-s older brother and the teenage version of the Wanderers- right back as he sat on the hill wearing an Elrich jersey.

Ahmad won the Joe Marston Medal in that match as he delivered a best on ground performance for the Power, but it wasn-t enough to get his team over the line as a Nik Mrdja golden goal saw the Glory finish the NSL as back-to-back champions.

Tarek Elrich remembers that day well and admits it is in part driving him towards success this weekend.

“I-ve still got the jersey,” Elrich says, “it-s actually packed up waiting for Ahmad-s kids or my kids to wear when they start footy.

“I remember that grand final; it was raining, it wasn-t the prettiest of games, it wasn-t the biggest turn out either - as they were playing against Perth Glory.

“Parramatta Power that year beat them 6-0 at home and were very dominant, but grand finals, they are a different ball game.

"I still remember it clearly; my brother Ahmad got man of the match, took home the Joe Marston Medal which was something he deserved. Parramatta dominated the game, but then it got to extra time and Nik Mrdja scores the winner.

"That-s the cruel game football is sometimes and that could have been the first grand final win Ahmad had and since then he never appeared in another one, and that-s disappointing for him.

“I-m lucky I-ve had the privilege of playing for Newcastle and winning a grand final, but it will be something extra-special winning one for Western Sydney.”

In case you couldn-t tell, Elrich is fiercely proud of his hometown and without any disrespect to the Jets, he freely admits winning a grand final in Wanderers colours will mean even more to him. Not just because of the hometown win, but because of being with so many players he shares a special and specific bond with.

“It (winning) will be something I dreamt about as a young boy and to have it happen in front of friends and family and these boys here, to think about it gives me goosebumps,” Elrich says.

“It has been an up-and-down season for me playing-wise, I really haven-t had much time but I have been playing towards the back end and am grateful for the opportunity, but to do it with these boys…

"The way Ante left his last club, my circumstances leaving Newcastle, Topor-Stanley, Bridge, the list goes on if players who were not wanted or having problems at their club, coming here and doing this makes it more special.

“Ante is the best keeper I have played with, Mark Bridge is scoring goals on the big occasions, hopefully he can make me proud, because I have grown up playing football with him and I-ll be very happy if he scores this weekend.

“And then there-s Megsy (Michael Beauchamp) I remember debuting for Sydney Olympic when I was a young boy and he was in the team. There-s a lot of history.”

This weekend, of course, the Wanderers are also out to make some history of their own. What Elrich-s role will be is unclear, although with Jerome Polenz rated just a 50/50 chance of starting, it could be time for Elrich, the inaugural vice-captain to step up.

Elrich has spent much of the season as a bit-part player, such is the impact the German defender has had. But when he has been called upon, Elrich has impressed; so often a hard-worker, he has had to suck up any ego and deal with the consequences of being a bench player.

Elrich admits it hasn-t been an easy year, but his character has grown because of it and come Sunday if he is called upon he-s ready to seize his moment.

“It-s not easy; it has been a while since I have been in and out of a squad, I played 140 games pretty much back-to-back."

“It made me more hungry to achieve something and be part of a squad week-in-week-out and when I have been called upon I am ready to give my all and playing in these colours is something we are very proud of.

"It-s been very hard but it-s part of a team sport you have to bide your time and football-s a funny game sometimes you grab those and don-t look back.”