Words: Michael Flynn | Image: SportsPics
He was over 7000 miles away for his side's last Westfield FFA Cup outing, but Gold Coast City winger Nikola Mirkovic cannot wait to return to knock-out football on Wednesday night.
Mirkovic is set to return to the starting eleven for City’s Quarter Final clash against South Melbourne at Cbus Stadium after business commitments in the United States saw him miss City’s last two competitive games - including the dramatic extra time Round of 16 win over Moreton Bay United.
Prior to that the 22-year-old was a mainstay for City in qualifying and national stage tie in the club’s Westfield FFA Cup history, sitting only behind defender Eoghan Murphy in appearances for the club in the high-profile competition.
Alongside club captain Justyn McKay, Mirkovic is the only foundation player to have played every season with City since 2013 – and this year became the club’s second player to notch 100 competitive appearances for the team.
Speaking following the club’s final training session ahead of the South Melbourne clash, Mirkovic said he was determined to make amends for his last round absence.
“It was hard having to miss the last cup game. Especially since it was the Round of 16 and not just a qualifier against a local team,” Mirkovic said.
“I woke up in America and was really pleased to see the result that we got, especially since the last game I played was against Moreton Bay in the league and we lost that.”
“But it was really disappointing to have missed the match, so I really am more pumped than ever to be back for the Quarter Final.”
After five seasons with the club, Mirkovic said he doesn’t need any extra motivation to help his side become the first Queensland club to reach the Semi-Final stage of the competition.
“I’ve been with the club for a long time and it is such a good bunch of lads that all get along. So having this opportunity – against another state league team and at home – it is such a good draw and we want to make the most of it.”
“This is definitely the biggest game for everyone in the team. There is a really good chance that whoever wins this will get a home Semi-Final against an A-League club, which would just be great for our club.”
Mirkovic’s dedication to the team was evidenced by his last appearance for the club, fitting in the opening 45 minutes against Jets in the league before making a mad dash to the airport to catch his flight.
Despite being a co-founder of highly-successful teeth-whitening business Hi-Smile, Mirkovic says he seeks no special treatment from City coach Grae Piddick when it comes to his team responsibilities.
“I spoke to Grae at the start of the year and said I want to give as much to the team as I can. I want to keep my business and my football separate - black-and-white, so to speak.”
“I was honest with him when I found out about the trip. I knew when I had to leave but said I could still play the first half if he wanted me to but only if he thought that was best for the team, which he did.”
Mirkovic’s business success has seen him become a social media personality in his own right, with public-speaking and television appearances increasingly part of his routine.
Agreeing that he is not one to shirk the limelight, he said there is no chance he be overawed by the occasion on Wednesday night.
“The games you really want to play in are these big games, with the television coverage and all the attention that comes with it,” he explained.
“I expect a lot of people will be paying close attention to this game, especially with the attention that South Melbourne bring as a club and playing in a big stadium.”
“I’m looking forward to it and I always try to rise to the occasion,” he concluded.
Westfield FFA Cup 2017 – Quarter Final
Gold Coast City FC v South Melbourne FC
Wednesday, September 20 | 7:30PM (Gates open 6:30PM)
Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
Tickets available at Gata B from 5:30PM - $15 Adults, $5 Concession
The match will be available via LIVE STREAM thanks to Westfield FFA Cup official broadcast partner Fox Sports