Stefan Mauk's Journey Part II
I hope you enjoyed the first newsletter about my journey as a young boy in Adelaide and how I got to the AIS. I’m sure you can see similarities in your own story. Remember, you are in control of how the rest of your story will be written.
Let me take you to when I was all packed up and ready to move to Canberra. The only thing left to do was get on the plane. This is the point where it actually hit me! I was leaving and not knowing if I was going to live in Adelaide again. This is the life of a professional athlete.
What I didn’t touch on in the first newsletter was that in February 2010 my Dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. This was the hardest time in my life but it also coincided with when my career began to take off. l’m sure it’s the same for many of you but football is my outlet. Even now, when I am at training or playing a match, everything else that is going on in my life is on pause. For those minutes, I can just focus on football.
My Dad was the reason I joined Adelaide City Football Club and stopped playing AFL. I was about 10 years old. Still, when I go out and play, I try to make him proud. I know he is watching over me and I hope he has loved seeing my journey unfold.
So why have I told you this story? Well, when I moved to the AIS I made myself a promise to give everything I had to become the best I could be for him. That meant using all the resources available to me; physios, nutritionists, recovery center, gym, sports psychologists and doing extra sessions on my own or with teammates. I tried to act like a sponge for those 18 months at the AIS. I knew that if I didn’t make it, I could look at myself in the mirror and say I gave it my best shot. Anything that happened after that I could deal with.
At the AIS, we lived in a new residence which was pretty cool. In each pod there were 6 bedrooms, 1 kitchen, 1 living room and 2 washing machines. Lucky for us we didn’t have to cook, we had the dining hall which was a buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we did have to wash our own clothes…
The first few weeks were so nerve racking! It was a mix of being the new and young players that tried to fit in off the field but also show that you were a good player on it. All the athletes went to the same school and we had study hall two nights a week. The AIS made sure we didn’t just focus on our sport but also our education - something I’ll admit I didn’t do well and actually regret now. I had this mindset of wanting to focus only on one thing - to become a professional player. I had good intentions but it’s actually a bad mindset to have. Now, I really value and focus on having something to focus on outside of football that gives me another identity.
On the field I started off well, I got selected in an under 17’s Aussie camp. This was to pick the side to go to the under 17’s World Cup in Mexico. I wanted to make that team so bad because it was the next step in the right direction. That team was actually one age group above me but I truly believed I was good enough. We then had another camp around May, just before we were heading over to Mexico and I thought I did enough to get selected but wouldn’t find out until we had our meetings. When I got the message saying to come down to chat to the coaches I was so nervous, they told me that I had shown enough and I was on the plane to Mexico!
Another crazy adventure. I had never been overseas. This was not just an unbelievable footballing experience but also a great life experience. We arrived 2 weeks before our first game and did a training camp in Pachuca. The training set up was amazing, they had multiple pitches, pool, dining hall to eat and beds all on the same site. The altitude took a while to get used to and it was completely unexpected. We were about 2,400m above sea level and those first few training sessions really took it out of me!
Our first game eventually came around, we played against Ivory Coast and won 2-1. I didn’t come on but I was so excited just to be there. Second game came and we played Brazil and lost 1-0. The third game was against Denmark and we needed to draw to have any chance of going through. I was on the bench but the craziest thing happened about 20 minutes into the match. The game got abandoned due to the weather! The next morning I found out I was starting, which I was so excited for but I was actually really sick. I didn’t want to tell the coaches but I was vomiting all morning. I managed to play just over a half and we drew the game which was enough to go through. In the round of 16 we played Uzbekistan and lost 4-0 which was a very disappointing end to the campaign.
We then headed back to the AIS to prepare for the Youth League season. A chance to play well against A-League sides and hopefully impress them enough to get a contract with them. I played quite a lot of minutes but didn’t get offered anything. I knew a couple of teams were interested but it wasn’t until around August 2012, when I got asked to go and train with Melbourne Heart.
It was Ben Garuccio, Scott Galloway and I who got invited. We went to Lismore and trained with them. I thought I did quite well, but they didn’t offer me anything straight away. When they did though, they said to go back to the AIS and in a couple of months, move to Melbourne to sign a youth contract. I would train with the first team and the following year would be when my pro contract started! I was so excited, I couldn’t have cared less about the money. All I wanted was the opportunity to be a professional.
From Adelaide to Canberra to now Melbourne! Everything I had ever wanted was in front of me. I will get into that in the next newsletter. But this move was all with my best mate. Ben Garuccio… couldn’t get away from him if I tried!
On a side note, I think it is really disappointing the AIS football program is no longer there. Not just for the footballing side of things but for everything else it helped me with. Understanding what it was like to live away from home, having to get to training, meetings, school all on time otherwise it was all on me. Finding out all the sacrifices you make to be a professional, it isn’t just the 90 minutes you train for but what you do in the other 22 hours of the day that will determine how far you go!
Next week will be my first 5 years as a professional at Melbourne Heart, then Melbourne City.
Until next time,