It’s been three seasons since Milos Lujic’s name has featured in the race for the NPL Golden Boot award, received by the league’s top scorer. In recent seasons, other names such as Ken Athiu, Brandon Barnes and Liam Boland have eclipsed his name.
Yet Milos Lujic is still a name that carries a weight of expectation within NPL circles and that expectation is all about goal-scoring which is what his new club Port Melbourne Sharks, is hoping he can bring with him in the coming season.
Lujic’s reputation as a goal scorer rests on an unsurpassed record of four consecutive Golden Boot awards between 2013 and 2016, beginning at Northcote City and at five seasons with South Melbourne. During that period, he was part of three championship winning teams.
Last season, Lujic decided to reunite with his former coach at Lakeside, Chris Taylor, who was appointed Oakleigh Cannons coach the previous season. Lujic’s move to Jack Edwards, however proved unsuccessful for both clubs. It left South without a recognised striker, and it didn’t bring the success that was hoped for by the Cannons. By Lujic’s own admission, “It was a bad year for me” on the football field, yielding just three goals and ending with him warming the bench for most of the second half of the season, with coach Taylor preferring English striker Harry White to lead the line.
One can only imagine, that going from automatic first choice striker to essentially a second choice striker, wasn’t an easy transition for Lujic, leading to speculation as to his future at Oakleigh. It was no surprise then that when Port Melbourne announced his signing in the pre-season, that he had chosen to make a fresh start with another club despite having another year left on his contract with the Cannons.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos earlier this week, Lujic explains the move, “Oakleigh actually wanted me to stay even though I wasn’t getting much game time. But I’ve got a good relationship with Chris Taylor, so I had a chat with him and told him that, at this stage of my career (Lujic turns 30 next month), that I wanted to play as many games as I can. And he understood that. So he accepted that I was going to move on…Basically Port Melbourne came in with an offer, and pretty much what got me over the line at Port Melbourne was the coach Adam Piddick. I had a really good conversation with him. He’s a young coach, very hard working, who really wants to make it in the game.”
Although he doesn’t go into details of how the two clubs came to an agreement regarding his transfer, Lujic credits coach Taylor with helping him get the move across the line. “I’m actually really good friends with Chris on and off the park. He helped me get the move across, to help with my football career, so it was good.”
Lujic appears philosophical about the disappointing year he had on the park at Oakleigh last season. According to him, the team’s failure to score goals and win matches in the first ten matches of the season, prompted the coach to change key personnel and the team system, and when that worked, he was reluctant to change a winning team, forcing Lujic to settle for a bench spot.
Still, rather than try and force his way back into the Oakleigh line-up, Lujic has opted for a fresh start under a new coach and a new club. Having been under Taylor for the last six or seven season, he acknowledges, “that a change is good sometimes. Maybe he and I got a bit too comfortable with each other. So it’s good to be under a new young coach, who doesn’t know much about me and I need to prove myself again. So I’m hoping it’s going to help my game this year, that I need to prove myself.”
Not that Lujic lacks self belief or the confidence to be successful again at this level. “I’m still very very confident in my abilities. I know if I’m fit and firing, I can score goals better than anybody in the league. You don’t lose how to score goals. Like I said, I’m full of confidence in myself. I know what I’m doing in front of the goals. Physically I feel good, so there’s no reason why I couldn’t play at the highest (state) level, and not just play at the highest level, but like I said, go for the Golden Boot. That’s my aim for this year.”
And whilst he remains determined and has the self-belief that he can reproduce his goal scoring feats of previous seasons, he also acknowledges he has a changed perspective on football that comes with his maturation as a footballer and changed life priorities.
He says, “To be honest, physically I feel pretty good still. No real injury concern or anything like that. I’m a new dad, I’ve got a little baby seven months old, so life’s changed for me. My priorities are obviously my family and home. That changes things a little bit. I can’t be selfish anymore. My football career can’t be first. That changes my mentality a little bit. But I think, as I get older now, I try to enjoy it as much as I can. I’m starting to realise I might have only another 3-4 years left at the top level. I need to start enjoying it as much as I can. So that’s my main goal this year. To stay fit and healthy which I think I will. But just to enjoy it again, and hopefully score goals again and hopefully be up there amongst the top goal scorers.”
Finally, Lujic expresses confidence that Port can compete for finals this year. “Adam Piddick is a very ambitious coach. He doesn’t just want to stay in the NPL. He wants to actually make it further. So he’s got something to prove as well, and there’s a lot of players at Port Melbourne that have a lot to prove. So hopefully we make the finals. That’s the first priority. And after that, anything can happen really.”