Franjic is persistence personified

Ivan Franjic gives hope to every footballer who thinks his opportunity has passed him by.

Ivan Franjic gives hope to every footballer who thinks his opportunity has passed him by.

Just five years ago, the 26 year-old Socceroo was playing semi-professionally for Oakleigh Cannons in the Victorian Premier League, and hammering away as a carpenter during the day. While he surely had dreams of becoming a fulltime professional, at 21 the reality of his situation must have been very much in the back of his mind.

In late 2009, an injury to Brisbane Roar fullback Andrew Packer gave Franjic his big chance as a short-term injury replacement. Brisbane at the time were heading for a crisis – Frank Farina was sacked within two months of Franjic’s arrival – and the club which had played in a preliminary final the year before eventually finished second last on the ladder.

To his enormous credit, despite being thrust into such a difficult situation, he established himself as a player who could excel at A-League level and was rewarded with a fulltime contract. The Ange Postecoglou revolution began, and Franjic hasn-t looked back. As the Roar swept all before them, he became the standout right sided defender in the competition.

Brisbane-s possession-based style suited his game to a tee, and with his constant forays forward he quickly emerged as one of the competition’s most dangerous and creative players. What was also apparent was the high level of technique and athleticism he possessed. Over the next two seasons the Roar would dominate the league, and in that time Franjic became as important to how the team played as anyone else. In just two short years, he had gone from part-time footballer to exactly what the modern footballer is expected to be.

Franjic’s form was rewarded with a call up to the national squad in December 2012, but under the previous regime he was overlooked for the ill-fated internationals against Brazil and France. Maybe a blessing in disguise as things turned out, but to those who had watched Franjic it seemed absurd that people were being played out of position yet here we had a player ready made for the job. Thankfully under the new regime, it seems Franjic will get his chance, especially after an excellent performance against Costa Rica where he seemed to grow in confidence the longer the game went on. What he also adds to any squad is versatility as he seems equally at home on the right side of midfield.

As I write, Brisbane are sitting alone on top of the A-League ladder, and Franjic’s form has contributed greatly to the early season success. Mike Mulvey has chosen to play him as part of a midfield three, and he has excelled in the role adding real penetration. He almost always looks to go forward and pose problems for opposing defences. The next time you watch the Roar play take notice of his acceleration into space whenever he gets the ball, something I believe is really lacking in the A-League at the moment.

Against Western Sydney Wanderers, after a playing a full game midweek for Australia, he backed up within 72 hours to produce another 90 minutes as the Roar won a game of real intensity. What I noticed, apart from his stunning goal, was his ability to not only complete the full game but make a major contribution in the later stages as the Wanderers pushed for an equaliser.

It would seem it’s only a matter of time before his talents take him overseas and it’s probably the right time is right to take this leap and see just how far he can go. I believe he has the ability to become a Socceroos regular, and every footballers’ dream of playing in a World Cup is now within his grasp. At this stage of the season the Roar are many pundits- favourites to win a third title in four years, and the form of Franjic will undoubtedly be a pivotal part of any success.

One thing is for sure he will give everything he has for both club and country because he has had to do what very few professional players do these days – get out into the real world and earn a normal living “on the tools”. Every footballer out there who still dreams of life as a professional player should give an extra cheer for Franjic, who’s turning his dreams into reality every day.