‘I am extremely proud’ – Inaugural NPL coach Ante Moric on life at Western United

Ante Moric will forever be the inaugural coach of the Western United NPL Seniors, guiding the team into its first competitive campaign this year, and it’s something he will always keep with him.

“I am extremely proud, it’s a privilege to have been given this opportunity as the inaugural NPL coach in the club’s short history,” Moric said.

Just nine games into the club’s existence in NPL 3 Victoria, Western United is unbeaten in the league and sits in third place on the table, though equal on points with Melbourne City in second.

Moric takes to the touchline with years of footballing pedigree under his belt, including one particular journey he describes as a “once in a lifetime experience”.

Heavily involved within the Olyroos set up, Moric boarded a plane destined for Atlanta in 1996 where he represented his country at the Olympic Games.

“This is one of those moments when it became surreal. It is a moment in your life that you think, ‘wow it’s happening to me’.

“Nothing can take away from the moment you have been selected to represent your country in an Olympic Games.

“The moment we stepped out for our first game against France is the moment I will always cherish. Quite an amazing moment in my life, singing the national anthem in front of a global audience.”

Moric played in all three group stage matches at the tournament, losing to France and Spain either side of a victory against Saudi Arabia.

That came after what Moric describes as one of his biggest regrets in football, a brief stint with Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb.

“I played in a tournament with an Australian/Croatian select team, from players chosen all around Australia in a prestigious youth tournament in Croatia in 1992.”

Coming up against the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich in this tournament, Moric impressed and was rewarded with a two-year contract at Dinamo, though he returned home relatively quickly.

“I spent a few months with them, and then regrettably got homesick and returned to Australia.”

Moric completed his hugely successful career in the NSL, becoming a legend at Sydney United over three different spells, despite lining up for rivals Sydney Olympic for a season.

Transitioning into coaching, Moric shares his philosophy of football being fast-paced, focused on possession and control with and without the ball.

“Play should be structured and the focus primarily on retaining effective ball possession. Players should look to be proactive and positive, both in ‘ball possession’ and ‘ball possession opposition’.

“Imperative to success is a structured build-up with good attacking combination play.”

And that rings true in the way the NPL side has been playing so far this season, with 23 goals scored in nine games the third-best in the league.

Moric relishes the opportunity to build the club’s new youth system around these young stars, hailing it as an opportunity for the “next generation” of talented players to emerge from the club’s heartland in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

As well as identifying and nurturing the talent, one of Moric’s biggest driving points is developing a culture and a pathway for young players to learn and enjoy their football, pushing themselves to reach the A-League side.

“We are creating a challenging environment for all players so that they are taken out of their comfort zones.

“Our identity is a reflection of our club values that we live by day in, day out at the football club. This is evident with our senior team and is cascaded down throughout our Academy.”

Moric and the club stand by three pillars: Togetherness (shoulder to shoulder), Effort (we go harder) and Growth (when challenged, we rise). These form the philosophy and vision of the club through all levels.

And it’s this that is the source of pride and privilege that Moric has to be in the position he is. While he admits he aspires to be an A-League head coach one day, his current goal and motivation is to cultivate a winning brand of football at Western United – both inside and outside of the white lines.

“For now, I need to put my energy into the opportunity I have been given, and that is developing our young footballers at our club.

“I believe this is a perfect springboard to continue my personal growth and progression as a football coach.”