Greek Australians Dimi Petratos and Alex Gersbach were both selected in Graham Arnold’s Socceroos squad for the upcoming friendly series against South Korea and Lebanon.
While Petratos won’t feature against Korea at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, he is expected to get an opportunity for Tim Cahill’s farewell match against Lebanon at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium next Tuesday.
The Jets playmaker’s 2017-18 campaign will go down as the season the talented Greek Australian footballer became a star of the A-League as well as a Socceroo.
Petratos’ phenomenal season for Newcastle saw the 26-year-old score 10 goals and provide 11 assists as he helped take the Jets to their first Grand Final appearance since 2008.
This year also saw the attacker make two appearances for the Socceroos with his debut coming against Norway as a substitute which was followed by his first starting appearance against Colombia.
Petratos’ performances earnt him numerous accolades including winning the Jets Player of the Year as well as finishing runner-up in the Johnny Warren Medal, handed out to the A-League player of the season.
Looking back on his memorable campaign, Petratos told Neos Kosmos that the narrow defeat in last season’s decider against Melbourne Victory will spur him on this season.
“Of course that was a heart-breaking to lose in the Grand Final,” he says.
“We worked so hard to get there, but we have got to take the positives that we did get there in the end and we just have to go for it again this year. We know that to top last year, we have to try and win as many games as we can. Win the Premiership and obviously win the Grand Final. That’s what’s on the table, so we will do our best to achieve those goals.”
Petratos’ A-League form was rewarded when Bert van Marwijk included him in the Socceroos’ 2018 Russia World Cup squad. While the attacker didn’t play in the finals, he believes his recent national involvement gives him a good chance of making the Socceroos squad for January’s Asian Cup.
“Of course, everything counts,” he says. “I’m a pretty confident person. That was a bonus to go to the World Cup and experience a finals tournament for the first time. I just have to focus on where I am at the moment, which is at Newcastle, perform there and hopefully I am in the coach’s plans to be selected for that squad.”
During the tail end of the 2017-18 A-League campaign, rumours were swirling that European clubs were interested in Petratos. But after the birth of his first child, the 26-year-old revealed that he decided to stay in the Hunter region because it’s where he has set down roots.
“We’ve made Newcastle our home now and we are very comfortable here,” he says. “From day one the Jets have been amazing to us. The fans have been amazing, so it was a no brainer to continue for the Jets. The way the club has supported me and my family since we arrived has been special, my brothers and sister are also at the Jets and we’ve loved our time here.”
Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick says keeping Petratos at the club for a further three years was crucial if the club was to reach their goals this term.
“Dimi was one of our best last season, and he was duly rewarded with a spot in the World Cup squad,” Merrick said.
“He’s made his international debut while playing his football here in Newcastle and is a big part of the club going forward, both on and off the park. The fans would have seen how good he’s looking during the pre-season and that comes down to his tenacious work ethic and desire to continue improving – I’m excited about what the future holds for Dimi here in Newcastle.”
Dimi’s younger brothers Kosta and Makis and sister Pana also featured for the Jets various teams last season. Makis is in the youth team and progressing well, while Pana has re-signed for Newcastle’s W-League team this campaign .
But it was Kosta who made the biggest mark last season as he and his older brother shared the field as professional footballers for the first time. Dimi looks back on that moment as one of more special memories of the season.
“It was a dream of ours to play in the same team together,” he says. “We got an opportunity last season and hopefully we got more opportunities to play together this year. I’ve also got a younger brother Makis who has been playing with us, he’s in the U-20s team. When we were younger we used to say it would be so cool if we could play on the same team and try and get our little combinations going, how we used to practise in the backyard. So it is a dream for all of us and would be pretty cool to get all three of us at one stage in the season playing together.”
While the A-League 2018-19 season is only four rounds old, Newcastle has made a slow start with only two draws and two losses. A draw last week against title contenders Sydney FC may be a sign that the club has turned the corner and Petratos is positive that the Jets can duplicate the form of last season.
“We will do our best to replicate it,” he said. “We were one of the most entertaining teams last season and it came from scoring goals. Our big thing is to score goals and do our best and take it a game at a time and go for it. We have the confidence with what we have set out to achieve and that is to obviously go for it and we want to be on top of the ladder at the end of the season.”