By Lance Jenkinson
Ivan Vujica described the excitement surrounding the week leading up to Western United’s first ever game in the Hyundai A-League as one like no other in his career.
Vujica is a well travelled young player, having featured in top level competitions in Australia, with the Newcastle Jets, and Croatia, with Lokomotiva Zagreb and Dinamo Zagreb, all before the age of 22.
When Western United came calling in the off season, Vujica had no hesitation in making the move, knowing he would be going into a unique situation.
Vujica is excited by the firsts that lay ahead with United and he experienced that in the lead-up to Sunday’s season-opening 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix.
“There’s always a buzz at the start of a season, but this is an extra type of buzz,” Vujica said.
“It’s the first official game the club will play so the buzz is something very surreal.
“We’re making history here and this is something you only get to do once and every club only gets to do it once.”
Vujica was sold on the vision of Western United.
The left back met with United coach Mark Rudan before making the decision to move south from his hometown of Sydney.
“What lured me here was the project and the vision the club had from the get go,” Vujica said.
“That was something that straight away stuck with me when Mark spoke to me and I spoke with members of the board.”
Vujica is excited to be a foundation player for Western United.
He believes he and his United teammates can set the culture of the club from day one and that will hold the club in good stead forever more.
“We’re the setting stone,” Vujica said.
“We’re building the blocks of the club that will be set for the next 100 years or more.
“It is special that we are the ones creating this and the next generations after this will take it on after us.
“As coaches and players we’re all creating a culture and shaping the club how we want it to look for the future.”
Before moving into a newly constructed football-specific stadium in Tarneit, Western United will play at least its first two seasons of home games in Geelong and Ballarat.
Vujica is urging the western suburbs football supporters to go along for the ride and build a strong supporter base before the team eventually arrives in Tarneit. He is eager to see the terraces at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong packed with supporters decked out in green and black for the home opener against Perth Glory on Saturday from 5pm.
“We can’t wait to play in front of our own fans,” Vujica said. “We’ve met a lot of our fans at the pre-season matches and we hope more of them come out and be that 12th man for us and help us during our campaign.
“This can only happen once in a lifetime, so this is something you’ll want to see.
“It will be an unbelievable experience for the players, for the fans, for everyone.”
Vujica had to bide his time on the Western United bench for the season opener against Wellington. He has enjoyed every minute of the build-up to the season and is keen to get some playing time as soon as possible.
“This is the next step in my career, which I thought was the right choice and I stand by that,” he said.
“I’m learning every day through Mark Rudan and players like [Andrew] Durante and Ersan Gulum.
“It’s great to be around players like this and [Alessandro] Diamanti and [Panagiotis] Kone.
“They’re so experienced and for someone like myself, I can learn from them and I’m grateful to be a part of that.”