For Sydney United 58’s Matthew Bilic, lifting the TAFE NSW Waratah Cup would feel that little bit sweeter after his recent recovery from a serious knee injury.
The 25-year-old is United 58 through and through, having been a member of the club’s juniors since Under 12’s and representing the first team from the age of 17.
Despite having experienced a hatful of success with the Edensor Park club since then, the past couple of seasons have been some of his most challenging yet.
“The last 12 months have been a bit of a long journey for me,” Bilic reflected.
“I tore my ACL last year and have only started to work my way back into the team halfway through this season.
“It’s good to be back and this weekend there’s a trophy on the line so I’m looking to give it everything I’ve got.”
Despite his age, Bilic boasts an incredible amount of experience on the big stage.
The defender is a National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiership and Championship winner and has additionally taken home the National Premier Leagues Finals Series where he was a member of the United 58 outfit who defeated South Hobart to become the inaugural champions of the competition in 2013.
He also took part in the Reds’ glamour clash with Sydney FC in the 2014 FFA Cup Round of 16, and recently contributed to Sydney United’s last TAFE NSW Waratah Cup victory back in 2016.
Bilic is confident that drawing on these past experiences will inspire his teammates to success this coming Sunday.
“I think we definitely have the ability and desire to do it again, which I think is an advantage for us,” the left-back anticipates.
“If everything goes to plan and we can execute our game plan, we have the ability to beat any team on our day.
“We’ll take our experience and quality into the final to see if we can lift that trophy again.”
Standing in the way of United 58’s quest for silverware this Sunday at Lily Holmes Stadium is an old foe: the Marconi Stallions.
The combination of the two clubs’ historic rivalry, as well as recent league results this campaign has further boosted Bilic and United’s desire to emerge victorious.
“Growing up a United junior I’ve been familiar with the massive rivalry between Sydney United and Marconi for a while now,” he said.
“The first game this season (a 5-0 Stallions’ victory) was very uncharacteristic of us, and the last game we played (a 0-0 draw) we were unfortunate to not score and get the win despite them having ten men.
“We’ll be looking to get our revenge in the final on Sunday.”
Bilic revealed that Miro Vlastelica’s squad are well aware of the weight of recent and historical success that sits on their shoulders as the club look to add yet another trophy to the cabinet.
“Any time we’re given the opportunity (to win a trophy) the expectation is that we take it.
“All the boys are on the same page; we all know the history of the club.
“We know the significance not only to the club but to the fans.
“But it’s also important to us as players; we take every opportunity seriously and this weekend is one of them.”
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)
2019 TAFE NSW Waratah Cup Final
Sunday 14th July
Lily Homes Stadium – 2:30pm kick-off
Marconi Stallions v Sydney United 58