Rockdale Ilinden’s new 2020 signing Samuel Gulisano was left one frustrated footballer after COVID-19 put a halt to what was a promising start with his new club.
The 22-year-old was slowly finding his feet playing some decent football following his move from APIA Leichhardt FC until the NPL was put on temporary hold in March this year.
Returning back to Illinden, a club he spent time with as a junior before playing for the likes of APIA and the Marconi Stallions, COVID-19 viris rocked the rising NPL star’s progress to the top.
“We worked so hard during pre-season to get off to the start that we did.
“Head-coach Steve Zoric and his assistants Jane Talcevski and Gary Deprato had done such a professional job in getting us all fit and playing a really nice style of football which I was really enjoying.
“I felt like I was getting into a groove with my new club and with the confidence shown in me by Steve, Jane and Gary, I was just starting to showcase what I could do, and then it all just came to a halt, which was disappointing, but looking forward to hopefully being able to pick up where we left off.”
Now with training sessions only brought back into play as Level 1 restrictions take centre stage, Gulisano was eagerly anticipating the next steps in getting the sport back to normality once more.
“It definitely did put a smile on my face I won’t lie when we were told training sessions were back on.
“It’s been pleasing to see that as a community we’ve been able to work together to follow and maintain social distancing to allow for this to happen.
“Working on training on my own has kept me sane but knowing we’ll be heading back to training with the first-grade squad any day now is a great feeling. Nothing can compare to it.
“I’ve really missed the healthy competition; being able to grow around quality players; and getting smashed at training by head-coach Steve and his assistants.
“I’ve also missed the banter being around the boys in the change rooms and just the passion of playing football and competing for three points week in week out – something we hope to get back as restrictions ease even further.”
Keeping the body and mind occupied in a positive manner was something Gulisano has continued to do especially throughout the isolation period – that and keeping up his status as an apparent FIFA 20 Champion.
“We got given programs from the coaching staff at Rockdale which I’ve been following in keeping the legs ticking over.
“I have also been getting together to train with a couple of the other Rockdale boys like Patty Savor and keeper David Bradasevic to stay fit although at the end of the day, it can never replicate match fitness.
“I suppose every player in our league will be in the same boat once we kick off again.
“Outside of football, I’ve just been spending some quality down-time with my family.
“My girlfriend has also been trying to get me to learn how to cook.
“I can’t say that you’ll be seeing me on MasterChef anytime soon but I will say my butter to toast spread ratio is spot on.
“I’d also be lying if I said there haven’t been any late-night FIFA tournaments and Call of Duty online parties with the boys.
“I’m a self-proclaimed FIFA champ so I’m happy to put a challenge out there for anyone who thinks they can take me on.
“I’ve found it hard not having the usual sports to follow during the lockdown period such as the EPL and other European Football Leagues, so I’m just happy that the NRL is finally back at least, as outside of football, I’m a massive Parramatta Eels fan and would love to see them win a Premiership while I’m still alive.”
Following on with the theme, the talented attacker picked up a couple of new hobbies during his new-found down-time that included FIFA 20 of course as well as the purchase of a fire-pit!
“Other than the attempted cooking skills mentioned earlier and FIFA challenges, my girlfriend and her family bought a fire-pit which we like to sit around and chill together while playing a few card games – It’s been a nice way to relax and kill time.”
Playing football since he was five, the current Rockdale star also had a couple of jobs that kept him busy, that is until COVID-19 came into play, although he managed to bag himself a gig at Woolworths.
“Before COVID-19 hit I was working for a business called “Play-on”- we teach sport and resilience in primary schools which obviously had to stop due to restrictions.
“However I was lucky enough to be provided ‘JobKeeper’ by my other employer, “Aussie Pacific” – a wholesale clothing company, and massive shoutout to them as they’ve always been so accommodating and understanding of my football commitments.
“As “Play-on” work paused, I managed to pick up a job at Woolworths to help during this time.
“I guess you could call me essential now.”
Back to the NPL, Gulisano was asked what the message behind his famous goal celebration was during Rockdale’s round 2 clash against rivals Sutherland Sharks meant after scoring his maiden goal for the club.
The image itself captured by Football NSW photography Jeremy Ng went viral as it showed Gulisano making what appeared to be a phone call using one of his shin pads.
“To be honest there wasn’t really much behind that celebration!
“I’d spoken to my friends and some team-mates about some possible funny/different post-goal celebrations in the past and suggested that one because I’d never seen it done anywhere around the world of football before, so was good to get the opportunity to crack a goal and have that celebration with my team-mates.
“The goal happened to break the deadlock in a really tight match at a crucial part of the game towards the back end of the second half and at that moment the goal celebration just felt right.
“The Football NSW photographer did a great job in capturing that moment and it will definitely go down as a highlight for me.
“When people have asked me what it was about, I just tell them I was calling the missus.”