Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Kalafatis makes heartfelt plea

Nick Kalafatis has made an impassioned plea to his Goulburn Valley Suns teammates to give their all for the shirt and make the Suns a successful National Premier League club.

DAMEN FRANCIS April 22, 2014 3:10am

Goulburn Valley Suns leader Nick Kalafatis issued an impassioned plea for his teammates to play for the shirt in the wake of the team’s fifth straight National Premier Leagues loss on Saturday night.

Nick Kalafatis drags his tired body off the treatment table in the McEwen Reserve dressing room.

It’s half-an-hour after the final whistle blew signalling the end of Goulburn Valley Suns’ fifth National Premier Leagues game — a fifth straight home defeat to start a maiden campaign that promised so much.

Suns players file forlornly back into the room after a clearly unpopular cool down routine.

The room is quiet, almost sombre.

Everyone just wants to go home.

It’s Easter Saturday after all, family time.

Not Kalafatis, he has something to get off his chest.

‘‘I’m too old for this,’’ he says, pointing to his bruised, battle-weary torso.

‘‘But I’m here because I want to be part of something special and this is special.’’

Fifteen minutes earlier, Kalafatis’ father and Suns powerbroker Jimmy Kalafatis had his say.

‘‘Relegation is real,’’ Jimmy told them.

‘‘We’re here for the long haul, and this team will succeed with, I hope, or without you.’’

Jimmy’s words hit hard, but Nick’s cut deeper.

It’s like the difference between getting scolded by your uncle and being told off by your friend.

Nick was out there with them, putting his ageing body on the line more than most.

He speaks of family and the need for honesty among the playing group.

You don’t keep secrets from those you respect, he says, or from your family.

Nick is not the most eloquently-spoken man, but if his words didn’t convey his message, the slight quiver in his voice does.

He looks every player in the eye throughout his address.

‘‘I’ve played for a long time and I have never lost five games in a row,’’ he says.

‘‘It hurts.’’

It’s a rare moment — possibly the first — of someone bleeding for the Suns shirt.

For the handful of young Melbourne-raised players, it was a stark reminder that this club means more than just a pay packet.

More than an empty promise of deluded grandeur for a sports-mad region, long starved of elite-level representation.

If English coach Melvyn Wilkes or hand-picked A-League veterans Naum Sekulovski and Kristian Sarkies were under any illusion of the importance of this project, they aren’t anymore.

If only everyone in the Shepparton soccer community could have witnessed it.

Hopefully when the Suns next play at home, against Bentleigh Greens in four weeks’ time, the fans turn out to support their team and see it for themselves where it counts — on the pitch.

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