Along with Petratos and Antonis, Johnny Koutroumbis (Newcastle Jets) and Melbourne Victory’s Christian Theoharous, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses are the other players with Greek heritage that will feature in Saturday’s decider.
Petratos told Neos Kosmos he was proud of the number of players with Greek background that will be playing in the biggest club game of the Australian football calendar.
“It’s great to be in a Grand Final with so many Greeks,” he says. “We’ve all worked so hard to get to this stage. It’s amazing to get to a Grand Final and have six players, it’s crazy actually. I didn’t even notice there were that many.”
It’s been an eventful 12 months for Petratos whose superb form for the Newcastle Jets saw him rewarded with his first Socceroos cap. At this week’s Dolan Warren awards Petratos finished second behind Sydney FC’s Adrian Mierzejewski in the voting for the Johnny Warren Medal given to the best player of the season.
Petratos’ 11 goals and ten assists are the best attacking statistics of his career but the Jets’ attacker says he has even more to give.
“I’m happy with how the season has gone,” he says. “I always want to improve and become better and better. So far it has been the best season that I have had.
“I’ve come into Newcastle with a clear mind, sort of like a little bit of a restart. From day one the boys have been amazing. The whole town has had a good buzz about it, like a fresh start with a new coach and some new players.”
As well as success on the field, Petratos had a major milestone off it when earlier in the season he became a father for the first time. So, what would be more significant, winning Saturday’s A-League Grand Final, making the Australian squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia or seeing his first-born child come into the world?
Petratos was in no doubt which is the bigger achievement.
“Of course, my son is massive for me, it’s a blessing,” he says. “Family is first, I love football so it’s a hard question. If everything could be all together at once, then that would be great. Win the Grand Final, then make the Aussie team, it’s a dream come true. We’ll see how things pan out.”
Last weekend’s semi-final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory produced a match with pulsating drama with Terry Antonis featuring heavily. With 20 seconds remaining in normal time, Antonis scored an own goal which brought the game level to 2-2. But Antonis showed how sport is the only stage that can offer immediate redemption when late into extra time he scored the winning goal for Victory that put them into the Grand Final.
Melbourne Victory goal keeper Lawrence Thomas told Neos Kosmos that what Antonis did after the own goal was almost unthinkable.
“To run 60 metres including going past three players and to finish off, takes not only a lot of mental strength but physically a lot of effort as well,” he says. “To not only mentally come back that strong, but physically as a central midfielder do that much running, that late in the game, and to score a goal in that manner – I couldn’t be happier for Terry.”
Ahead of the Grand Final Thomas believes Antonis will again be a key figure against Newcastle.
“He will be massive for us,” he says. “But no more than any other player on the field. Similar to the effort in Sydney, it took everyone, and the Grand Final will be exactly the same.”
While Petratos and Antonis will be on opposing sides in Saturday’s A-League decider, the Jets playmaker revealed they have a close bond off the field.
“I’ve been family friends with him for years,” Petratos says. “We’ve known each other from very young, our parents were family friends. I think we were both about five or six when we used to go in the backyard and play all the time.
“We played at Sydney FC together as well and at the New South Wales Institute of Sport, although he was a little bit younger than me at the time.”
Petratos came to Newcastle at the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign looking to invigorate his career after a disappointing period in South Korea saw him frozen out of his K-League club’s squad.
Dimi joined his brothers Kosta and Makis and sister Pana who had also signed for the Jets and he says being close to his siblings has made this season even more special.
“We’re a very close family,” Dimi says. “We do a lot of things together. We all live together in Newcastle. Having the new baby is just a blessing. Also, my brother Kosta had a little baby boy as well. They’re 10 weeks apart. So, having the little cousins together, is very exciting.”
Jets coach Ernie Merrick told Neos Kosmos he is keeping an eye out for the next member of the Petratos family that is in next in line to play for Newcastle next.
“If his mum has another child we’ll probably sign that child while she’s pregnant!” he says
“We’re a real family club. We care about the players that we have. We engage with the community and I think that is all a part of what this club stands for. We’re very good on the field but we’re very good off the field as well. And Dimi has just epitomised that with his family.”
During last weekend’s 2-1 semi-final win against Melbourne City Petratos’ Jets teammate and fellow Greek Australian Johnny Koutroumbis shut out A-League young player of the year Daniel Arzani.
The full back’s work in defence saw him receive high praise from Petratos for his performance.
“It’s a lot of credit to him,” he says. “He hasn’t played all the games but that’s the mind-set that we have at Newcastle where at any time anyone can come in and do the job. He’s mentally strong and he’s done very well.”
Newcastle’s appearance in this season’s Grand Final is even more impressive as last term they finished on the bottom of the A-league ladder. Ahead of the Championship decider Petratos believes the Jets must maintain their mental edge if they are to secure victory against Melbourne.
“I think for us it’s just being able to stay switched on,” he said. “We must not try and overcomplicate things and do anything different just because it’s a Grand Final. We just need to play like we have been playing all season. With our attacking and exciting football that Ernie Merrick our coach has had us playing. We all need to stay on the same page.”
While Petratos’ attention is on Saturday’s Grand Final, looming over the horizon is June’s World Cup and the 25-year-old admitted that he’d love to part of the Socceroos squad that competes in Russia.
“It’s crossed my mind a couple of times,” he says. “But I’m just trying to stay focused on where I am at the moment. When that comes around, if it comes around, I’ll take my opportunity and just make the most of it.”