Local Western Strikers midfielder Michele LaStella’s memorable weekend with the Reds in Toowoomba is proof that there is a genuine and open avenue into South Australia’s Hyundai A-League team for local players to aspire to.
Local Western Strikers midfielder Michele LaStella-s memorable weekend with the Reds in Toowoomba is proof that there is a genuine and open avenue into South Australia-s Hyundai A-League team for local players to aspire to.
In Adelaide United-s 3-0 win over Brisbane Roar last Saturday night, LaStella achieved something that few footballers get to experience as he came off the bench and scored within a minute of coming on. But for the 26 year old midfielder from local Super League club Western Strikers, the goal was only a fragment of what it meant to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Reds- travelling party. It was almost a case of the stars aligning for LaStella in how it all eventuated that he found himself in the Reds- squad for the trial against the Roar.
Having enjoyed a consistent season as the captain of Western Strikers, LaStella led the club to its first silverware with victory in the Cup Final. Selection for the SA State Team followed as LaStella was named captain of the side that held the Qantas Under 23-s to a nil-all draw last week. Then before he knew it, he was on a plane to Brisbane after being invited into the Reds- squad by Head Coach Rini Coolen due to the unavailability of a number of United-s regulars due to injury.
Coming on with 30 minutes to go, LaStella made his opportunity count, finding the back of the net almost instantly against last season-s Hyundai A-League champions.
“I got specific instructions to do a job on a certain player and I was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of that player and one of the weaknesses was that he doesn-t track his runners,” LaStella recalled of the lead up to his goal.
“Cassio ended up with the ball in a wide area and there was no one really in the box other than Brisbane defenders, so I just made my run and I knew Cassio was going to play it to the front post, so I made my run in front of the first defender and was able to get a nice touch on it to score.”
Grateful to be given the opportunity, particularly considering he had not trained at all with the Reds leading up to the match, LaStella believes his experience opens doors for local players and gives them a clear indication that Coolen and Adelaide United is willing to identify talent from the local leagues and give them a taste of a Hyundai A-League team environment.
“The players made me feel welcome and they were first class as well as the coaching staff so that always helps, and going away with a professional team is something players dream about so it was good to have that opportunity,” LaStella said.
“The coaching staff were extremely well prepared and the organisation levels were second to none so for the boys coming in it made it easier because we knew our role and then it was up to us, and I think the players that played did their jobs quite well.”
Pirates duo Michael Markham and John Mavromatis were two others from Adelaide-s local leagues that were given playing time against the Roar, this accomplishment something that is sure to give others in the same boat something to strive towards.
“We-ve seen a lot of local players go on trial with Adelaide United and be given a shot, and even just to train at the best level in this state is what a lot of local guys are looking for, and I think Adelaide United have done that,” LaStella stated.
After spending two years with semi pro clubs in Italy between the ages of 18 and 20, LaStella returned to Adelaide and juggled football with a Psychology degree, something he has managed to do to great affect as he is currently in the process of completing his PHD at the University of South Australia.
This awareness that there is life after football, LaStella has a smart and well grounded head on his shoulders to go with his football talent. But while his study will set himself up post football, he has not given up on his dream of one day playing professionally.
“There-s always life after football and I-ve got to think about that, but I-ll always play football because it-s the sport I love and it provides an outlet from study,” LaStella said.
“It has always been a dream of mine to be a professional footballer and I think that dream never really goes away even at 26, so I just try to take my opportunity and I-ll see what happens from here.”