Greek Australian Teresa Polias has been playing in the W-League since the competition’s inception 10 years ago. After starting out at the Central Coast Mariners, Polias made the move to Sydney FC and during the past eight seasons has won a grand final and become club captain.
While this week’s semifinal against Newcastle will see Polias reach 100 games for Sydney FC, a win over the Jets would mean the Sky Blues would book a spot in the following week’s W-League grand final. And the classy midfielder says she would love nothing more than to secure a place in the decider during her milestone game.
“It would mean everything to me,” Polias told Neos Kosmos.
“I can’t even begin to imagine it. I am trying not to think that far ahead. I just want to be able to go into the game and do my job. And if we all do that then I know we can get there.”
If you had told Polias 10 years ago that she would play 100 games for Sydney she says she would have laughed at you.
“I’m so honoured and privileged to play 100 games for the team I love. It’s hard to put into words really. In saying that though, Saturday is very much about the team and the journey we have taken this season rather than to reflect on the 100 games. The main thing is that we win the game.”
Sydney FC have made the finals of every W-League campaign, but it didn’t look like that was going to be the case early in the season. After three successive losses Sydney FC were staring down a fourth defeat after conceding a goal against last season’s reigning champions Melbourne City.
Despite never scoring a goal in ten W-League seasons, Polias fired in a long-range equaliser that helped inspire the Sky Blues to a 3-2 win. Sydney FC’s captain courageously helped kickstart an unbeaten run that included eight wins and one draw and saw the Sky Blues finish second in the league.
Looking back, Polias says the round four fixture against City was the seminal moment in their campaign.
“I take no credit!” she laughs.
“That game was definitely a turning point. We went into that game with a lot of pressure because we had lost three games and another loss, and our season could have been over. But we took the challenge head-on against a quality side. We were missing a couple of key players as well and we still got the result we really needed. When that happened, it gave us a lot [of] confidence and that is why for me that game was the turning point.”
While Sydney’s journey to the semifinal has been impressive it hasn’t come without its challenges. Polias says the team has rallied around defender Caitlin Cooper, star striker Lisa De Vanna and midfielder Amy Harrison. Cooper, and De Vanna have endured personal hardships off the field, while Harrison suffered a season-ending injury. While Polias lauded her teammates for sticking together, the 27-year-old revealed she has been going through a tough time off the field herself.
“We have some incredible individuals in our team. I don’t really know how to put into words because it is a special feeling,” she says.
“I’m just happy to be playing alongside all of them. They’re really a great bunch of people. I don’t really want to go into the personal side of things, but I’ve played football for close to 22 years now, and the last four months have probably been the most important time for me to be playing. I’m just grateful for every moment of training and playing. It just brings that much joy and peace.”
One of the joyous moments Polias looks back on during her 100 games with the club is the 3-1 win over Melbourne Victory in the 2013 decider. And it’s an occasion she hopes to repeat by the end of the season.
“Obviously the 2012-13 season when we won the grand final is the highlight of my Sydney career,” says the 27-year-old.
“It stands out because we scraped into finals that year. After that game we went away to the World Club championship which was also a great experience over in Japan. We played Chelsea, Chilean club Colo Colo, and a Japanese team NTV Beleza and we did really well. We probably should have made the final but nevertheless it was still a great trip. I have so many memories, the players I’ve been privileged enough to play alongside, I’m very lucky. It would be really nice in the 10th season of the W-League to win it again and we’re only a couple of steps away from that.”
During her eight seasons at Sydney FC, Polias has garnered huge affection from teammates and fans and Head Coach Ante Juric says he can see why she is well loved around the club.
“She is so important for the team,” he says.
“She is small in stature, but she plays like a lion. When things are good she is the one working hard, when things are bad she is working even harder. She does all the simple things right. She leads by example, gets stuck into tackles and challenges when others won’t. When you watch her week in and week out you realise why Sydney FC love her because they know what she is about. She’ll always keep going and hopefully she will be at the club for 10 more years.”
Polias’ teammate and Matildas star Lisa De Vanna is also a huge fan and says the Sky Blues captain is the soul of the team.
“She is the heart of Sydney,” she says.
“This has been her club since the beginning, she is a true champion and a good person. I have all the time in the world for her because she is a genuine person, she loves what she does, she gives time back to everyone.
“It just sums it all up with her 100th game for the club. On the field she is a worker. She is aggressive, she is hungry, and she is a champion at heart.”
But when you mention to Polias that Sydney FC players and fans have a deep affection for her, the humble player is caught unaware.
“There’s an affection is there?” she asks laughing.
“I didn’t know that! I honestly cannot answer that. I didn’t realise that.
“I am a very loyal person and I guess that’s what a lot of people value,” she added.
“I don’t see myself ever playing at another club. Honestly, I love Sydney and that’s why I probably get emotional talking about my 100 games. Because I am very loyal to the club and the club has been so great to me. I’ve had the best eight years at the club and I always wanted to be part of Sydney. I am grateful to any coach and any player that I have been able to work with here. When it comes to the affection, maybe it is a loyalty thing. I don’t know, you’ll have to ask them.”