What is it about certain players in sport that sees some elevated to, and the term is over used in modern times, ‘club legend’ status, or even ‘fan favourite,’ while others are condemned simply to be just ‘former players.’
There is no doubt skill has something to dow with it. The players who do the almost impossible and make it look so easy will always be remembered. There are also those who play with a certain élan no matter the state of the game or the importance. Then there are those who wear their hearts on their sleeve, who give everything to the cause. They may not share the skills of some of their team mates but they constantly give everything they have to the team. They are the worker bees, the unsung heroes.
One unsung hero at Perth Glory would have to be Dino Djulbic.
At the weekend in their A-League preliminary final, a game few on the East coast gave Perth Glory a chance of winning against Melbourne City, Djulbic deservedly won man of the match. Djulbic as he does week-in-week out put his body on the line for the team. He chased, he tackled, he berated and encouraged, but most of all he wanted to win.
This was one occasion where Dino Djulbic received the accolade he deserved, but overall has he received the recognition his career has warranted?
Djulbic was born in Yugoslavia in 1983, in 1991 the Yugoslav war broke out and aged nine he and his family fled to Germany, all bar Djulbic’s father who stayed behind to fight. The nine-year old boy, like many others who fled the conflict, had no idea from day to day whether his father was alive or not. His father survived the conflict and the family moved to Australia.
Here Dino followed in his father’s footsteps; His father had played professionally in Yugoslavia before becoming a professional referee. Dino played for Perth SC in the Western Australian State League, before moving to Melbourne to play in their State competition. In 2007 Ron Smith brought him back to Perth, and following injuries to Hayden Foxe he slotted into the back four and ended up coming third in the Most Glorious Player award.
In 2009 he decided to try his luck in Europe. He joined German Bundesliga division two club Rot Weiss Ahlen, a club he had played for as a junior after the family fled Yugoslavia. Unfortunately he was hampered by injuries during his time at the club. He returned to Australia after being snapped up by Gold Coast United and Miron Bleiberg, and was a consistent performer for the club during its brief spell in the A-League. The year before the club folded Djulbic was transferred to China, and here again he showed his worth earning selection in the Chinese Super League’s All Star team in 2012. From there he moved to Abu Dhabi before returning home to Perth in 2014. In 2013 he was rewarded with a call up to the Socceroos, making two appearances for the national team.
His reasons for coming home were very personal, his father, whom he looked up to was terminally ill with cancer. In July 2015 his father lost his fight with the disease. His son, who had always played with passion, vowed to play every game in memory of the father who gave him a love of football. He has kept that promise to himself.
Djulbic has as a result of his sometimes over-exuberant passion ended up leaving the field of play for an early bath, but he has continued to give everything he has, in every game, to try and ensure victory for Perth Glory, or to inspire those playing around him.
When Perth Glory fans talk about players who embodied the club, who always gave their all once they donned the famous purple shirt, they will talk of the likes of Gareth Naven, Bobby Despotovski, Jamie Harnwell and Scott Miller, local boys all. Players who understood what the club meant to the community, players who came through the local ranks. No doubt Josh Risdon will join that list, even though he is leaving the club at the end of this season. Surely Djulbic, not just for his display against Melbourne City at the weekend, deserves to be mentioned as well?
He has played over 100 games for the club in the city he now clearly calls home. He currently sits ninth on the list of most appearances for the club in the A-League; and in addition played 40 games for the Gold Coast. Of players currently in the Perth Glory squad only Risdon and Chris Harold have played more games.
How will fans remember Dino Djulbic in years to come? Will he be mentioned in the same breath as those whose performances epitomised the fighting spirit of Perth Glory? Will he be given the recognition his performances warranted? Time will no doubt be the judge.