Grdić following in Father’s footsteps

Football has always been part of Doni Grdić’s life, after all his father Anthony was a professional footballer who played in Australia, Croatia and China.

So it was little surprise that the younger Grdić followed his father into the sport, and even played in the same position.

Now playing in Australia for the first time after signing for the Western Sydney Wanderers, Grdić credits his father for how he guided him through the early days of his career.

“My father was a footballer, he played in Croatia, and then he moved and he played in China, so I learned a lot from him. He was the same position as me, which is centre back, so he helped me a lot. He advises me in my career as well.”

Grdić grew up in the small Croatian city of Sîbenik, which is where he also began his professional career in 2019 when he signed for the local first division side HNK Sîbenik. He made 15 appearances for the club, and also spent time on loan at second division side BSK Bijelo Brdo last season, where he made 13 appearances.

Grdić has also represented Australia at youth level, where he is eligible through his father.

However, Sîbenik were relegated at the end of last season, meaning Grdić had to reconsider his options, which is when the Wanderers made their approach.

“We got relegated in Croatia, so I didn’t know if I wanted to say or if I wanted to leave, it was just a mess in my head,” said Grdić.

“The club approached me and the coach approached me, they presented me with the idea of everything. I enjoyed it, and it just felt like that happened so quickly, it happened in like 10 days.”

After the long flight to Australia, Grdić was thrust into the famously long and gruelling pre-season of Australian football, but the 21-year-old says the squad welcomed him quickly and helped him settle in quickly in Western Sydney.

“It’s like it’s a great group of players… all the players and the boys they’re supporting everyone, no one is putting themselves above anyone, so we’re all one. Especially when I came in, everyone treated me like they knew me for ages, so they helped me a lot.

“It’s a young team as well… It’s a hard working team, but everyone treats everyone perfectly, everyone supports everyone if someone makes a mistake.”

Grdić is one of many youngsters in the side looking to make their mark this season, including fellow centre back Alex Bonetig, exciting attacker Marcus Younis and new midfield signing Oscar Priestman; Grdić feels having a high amount of young talent at the club is exciting for fans and that they are supported by the coaches and older players in the squad.

“Everyone loves young players because they can bring a future (to the club),” said Grdić.

“All the players they’re there to support young players. Sometimes the coaches are a bit hard (on young players), but they want us to be better everyday, they know the standards and how high we can go.”

With the season set to kick off with a home match against Wellington Phoenix, Grdić is eager to play in front of the passionate Wanderers fanbase, having experienced playing in fervent atmospheres whilst in Croatia.

“I heard they’re the best fans in all of Australia, they’re crazy fans, which I love! Having them behind you helps you a lot in the game. I played games where the opposition fans are crazy and mental, so you get some tension in you, you don’t feel comfortable, it gives them wings.

“I like that here is going to be like that with us, I hope they’re there every game as much as they can, and we’re gonna give everything for them, and I’m looking forward to it.”