It might have been 15 years in the making, but it won’t lessen the importance, the pride, the passion or the achievement when Captain Courageous, Ollie Bozanic, walks out on the field to knock up a century of appearances for the Central Coast Mariners.
While he is more about focussing on the club and the community rather than dwelling on personal accolades and records Bozanic, a Coastie through and through, understands the significance of the occasion.
No doubt playing in front of his wife, children and parents, particularly his father Vic who was such a guiding light during his early days, will bring out a lot of emotion for the 32-year-old midfielder as will celebrating it with the fans and the Central Coast community who have been such a large and important part of his life and career.
“It’s been a long journey to get here to 100 games. I’ve been at the club before and come back again,” Bozanic said. “It’s going to be a very special moment for me.
“To be my home town club and to have my family there will be a great night and a great experience.
“The whole family will be there. My Dad has been a major support and played a huge role in my early career especially. He guided me through those early years to where I am today.”
Raised in Avoca where he played all his junior football, Bozanic graduated to the Mariners Academy in 2006 as a 17-year-old but was soon off overseas joining English club Reading before going on loan spells to Woking, where he made his senior debut at 20, Cheltenham and Aldershot.
Returning to Australia in 2010, there was only one club for Bozanic, the Mariners. It was a bitter sweet time for him.
Bozanic scored in extra time to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead over Brisbane Roar in the 2011 Grand Final only to see the Roar equalise almost with the last kick of the game to send it into a penalty shoot out which the home side eventually won.
But, the Grand Final demons were exorcised two years later with Bozanic playing a leading role as the Yellow and Navy beat Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 to claim their first championship success after three previous championship deciding defeats.
“That was simply amazing for the club to win their first title, to lift the trophy was huge,” he recalls. “It was a special time for the community and the people of the Central Coast.
“Of course, winning another championship is something we are desperate to do again.”
Not surprisingly, the lure of trying his hand at European football was too strong and he was off again. Bozanic landed a deal with Swiss club Luzern, playing 51 times for them between 2013 and 2015 before he returned for a stint with Melbourne Victory in 2015.
There was then a short spell with Melbourne City sandwiched between a stint in Japan and a couple of seasons with Scottish club Hearts before Bozanic came back for good last season to once again link with the club that has always been in his heart.
His impact was instant. Off the back of his experience and class, the Mariners cast aside six seasons of despair to reach the finals. The Mariners had their identity back, due in no small part to his leadership and fighting qualities.
Understandably, there was plenty of interest from A-League clubs, so why did he opt to return to the Mariners?
“Being my home town club, my community, my family… they were the major reasons for me coming back,” he says without any reservation.
“I love playing at home in front of our fans. It’s special, just like the night we had the other day (against Sydney FC) … winning games in front of the home fans, there’s no better feeling.”
Bozanic is excited about the new season and happy with the way the club has started. The emergence of so much wonderful talent gives him great heart for the future of the club.
“It’s been a good start. The result in two games didn’t go the way we wanted but I still thought we had very good performances so you have to take the positives from that,”he says. “Against Sydney FC we had a very good performance and got the result we were after.
“It’s still early on but I think we are moving in the right direction.
“As for the young guys, it’s very exciting. We have some great talent coming through. They are all willing to learn and myself and the other older players love working with and helping them.”
Bozanic, who has been capped seven times for the Socceroos but has not played in the Green and Gold since 2013, hasn’t given up hope of getting back in the national team. Certainly his form from last season and this start of this season deserves serious consideration.
“Of course, you always want to play for your country. It’s every player’s dream. If that opportunity was to arise again I would definitely take it with both hands,” he added.