You were more likely to find a young Mirjan Pavlovic with a rugby ball under his arm than kicking a football.
As a young kid growing up in western Sydney you were more likely to find Mirjan Pavlovic running around with a rugby ball tucked under his arm copying the moves of his favourite team, Parramatta Eels, than kicking a football.
But at aged 11 Pavlovic’s sporting future changed. “I kept getting hurt in the league games and Mum wouldn’t let me play anymore so I started playing football,” said the Wellington Phoenix striker who still goes to Eels games when he gets home to Sydney.
“My first game of football my coach told me to play in midfield and I didn’t know where that was so I just stood up front and ever since then I’ve been a striker.”
Like most professional athletes Pavlovic knows he owes his parents, who moved the family from Croatia to Australia when he was five, a lot for helping him reach his dream.
“They came over to Australia to give my sister and I a better life,” said the 23-year-old who was an apprentice chef before becoming a full-time footballer.
“Mum took days off to take me to football and she used to love going to games and talking with the other mums. Dad came when he could but had to work a lot.”
“That’s why I’ve got to do the best I can just to thank them and make them happy for what they’ve done for me. If it wasn’t for Mum I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
It hasn’t always been an easy journey for the former Australian Under-23 player. After signing for the Newcastle Jets youth team he was promoted to the first team by then coach Branko Cullina and experienced his first taste of Hyundai A-League play-offs football in early 2010 where the Jets were eventually beaten 3-1 after extra-time by the Phoenix in Wellington in the minor semi-final.
But Pavlovic was released by the Jets at the end of that campaign and found himself back in the New South Wales Premier League with Sydney United before making the switch to the Phoenix where he is signed until March 2013.
It has not been plain sailing in the New Zealand capital either. His first season at the Phoenix was hampered by injury and he has found himself on the bench behind regular starters Chris Greenacre and Paul Ifill again this campaign after breaking his arm just before the season started.
A red card for a rash challenge on Steve Pantelidis in a game against Perth Glory in December simply added to his woes.
“It’s been frustrating to say the least,” Pavlovic admitted. “I’m definitely not writing this season off but just looking forward to the remainder of this season, then hopefully a good off-season and to come back as hungry as ever.”
“The ball is in my court. If I stay injury-free and work hard I think things will work out for me.”
Right now the focus for the club is solely on the minor semi-final against Perth Glory.
“There is a great buzz around the team. We all want to work for each other and we don’t want to let anyone down.”
And if the Phoenix go all the way and win the Grand Final, Pavlovic will be adding to his tattoo collection. “I’ll definitely get a Phoenix somewhere.”