It took Jacob Tratt five years to finally make his Sydney FC debut in the A-League.
But now that he has, he is desperate to make the most of his opportunity.
The Sky Blues return to Kogarah for their fourth home match of the season at Jubilee Stadium on Friday night when they host struggling Central Coast.
Sydney FC have endured a rough start to their Kogarah tenure, losing their ‘Big Blue’ to defending champions Melbourne Victory 2-1 before suffering a humbling 3-1 defeat to Wellington.
The Sky Blues welcomed Brisbane to Jubilee on Saturday night and now have the chance to start the new year at their new home on the right track against the Mariners on Friday night.
It has been a whirlwind few months for Tratt after the Sutherland Sharks captain saw a trial period with his former club Wellington Phoenix fail to materialise into a full-time deal.
He returned to Sydney where he was called out of the blue by Sydney FC general manager of football operations Terry McFlynn to offer him a trial.
Tratt jumped at the chance. By the end of his second day, he had been offered an injury replacement contract to cover for Ben Warland.
The 24-year-old found himself among the substitutes for Sydney FC’s derby match against Western Sydney in mid December. When both Jop van der Linden and Aaron Calver went down with injury, Tratt finally had his chance.
Not only did he take it with an assured performance, Tratt scored the match-winning goal to make it a Sky Blues debut to remember.
“Obviously the way it all unfolded was pretty incredible,” Tratt told the Leader.
“I feel like I’ve worked hard not only physically but mentally. I know I have to accept opportunities when they come and I was lucky enough to get one and I made the most of it.
“I felt pretty lucky and so grateful for the opportunity.
“I was buzzing [when I scored]. You could definitely see in my face how happy I was. It was just a bit of a reward for all the hard work I’ve been putting in on and off the pitch.
“I was very grateful that everything played out as it did and I got to help win us the derby in front of all my family and friends.”
Tratt joined Sydney FC’s youth team for the 2013-14 season. He eventually captained the club to the youth league title – under then youth team coach Steve Corica.
Now, with Corica having graduated to the top job, Tratt said he was delighted to be reunited with his former youth team boss and was desperate to turn his short stay into something more permanent.
“It all happened very quickly. I feel like I’m back home,” Tratt said.
“I’ve only got [until the middle of January] on my contract at the moment. Hopefully I can earn a spot for the rest of the year, especially with the Asian Champions League coming up.
“If I do get an opportunity for more game time to show what I can do hopefully I can extend [my contract].
“I played under Steve a few years ago obviously and when I was here previously I built good relationships with a lot of these boys. Coming back the second time around I felt like I was coming back home. I couldn’t be happier to be back.
“The journey I’ve been on the last couple of years I honestly couldn’t feel more ready. I’ve got so much clarity with what I’m doing on and off the pitch. Every training session and game I feel I’m ready to give my all and perform to the best of my ability.”
Originally from Dubbo, Tratt has plenty of roots in the shire thanks to his time at NPL 1 club Sutherland.
He has recently moved into a place at Caringbah South with his girlfriend and regularly carpools to training with another Sutherland Sharks product Cameron Devlin.
Tratt also has plenty of experience playing at Kogarah. And the defender hopes to play a part in helping the Sky Blues see off the Mariners at Jubilee.
“We want to win every game and to do it in front of your home fans is a bonus. Hopefully we can get the result against Central Coast,” he said.
“I actually versed Sydney FC in a trial at Kogarah a couple of months ago when I was at Sutherland. It’s one of the great stadiums in the A-League, to be honest. The atmosphere makes for a very good game and a good afternoon or night out for the family.
“[Sydney FC] ended up beating us 3-0 that night. But it was good for me personally to get back versing A-League players. It gave me a bit of confidence at this level and spurred me on to get back here.”