15/08/2022

Christina Trajceska (middle), Michelle Morris (left) and Rose Valente (right) from 'The Ladies League'. (Photo: Supplied)

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Western Sydney Wanderers, ‘The Ladies League’s’ Christina Trajceska discussed with The Inner Sanctum her top 10 Wanderers moments.

With 10-years-worth of Red and Black history to ponder, making a definitive ‘Top 10’ list is near impossible. With different perspectives and importance toward events and achievements, it is easier to grasp an understanding by looking at the top 10 moments from the fans’ perspective. 

Trajceska is a member of ‘The Ladies League’, an Australian, all-female, independent media outlet that covers football in Australia.

A freelancer who also does co-commentary for NPL NSW, she is a passionate Wanderers fan who changed allegiance from the Newcastle Jets, because of this team in western Sydney, which represented where she lived. 

Here are her Top 10 Western Sydney Wanderers moments: 

#10 – Marconi flares as Melbourne City lifts Women’s Premier’s Plate

“We were up against Melbourne City… of course, they won, they completely thrashed us,” Trajceska recalled.

The Western Sydney Wanderers hosted Melbourne City at Marconi Stadium in the final match of the 2019/20 A-League Women season. 

Melbourne City won that match 4-0 and lifted the premier’s plate with an undefeated season, including 11 wins and one draw from their 12 matches.

“The RBB (Red and Black Bloc, the Western Sydney Wanderers’ active support group), they came by that day to support the girls,” Trajceska said.

“They’re doing well, they need the support. At the same time, they deserve the support. We have to support the girls equal to the guys.

“I think it was at half-time, somebody pulled out a flare and because of how hot it was that summer, everything was so dry already underneath the stadium.

“One of the flares rolled away… went underneath the stadium. We did not mean it. We tried so hard to make sure that it was a controlled, safe environment on concrete, but it was just so horrible, bad luck.”

However, despite the circumstances and what had happened, there were some positive to take from the situation. 

“It was great for the photography because the flares did a great job,” Trajceska said, 

“It was a great moment because it was loud and proud… it was a great atmosphere as well. Something like 4000-5000 people, with an extra [50-100] in the RBB, it was pretty loud.”

However, Tracjeska also acknowledged the danger of it and why it is not allowed. 

“It was a funny, memorable moment, but at the same time, we can understand just how dangerous it is.” 

#9 – Brendon Santalab, the heart of Western Sydney 

“Brendon Santalab, every opportunity that we have, I feel like that man deserves all the talk about how much heart he gave to the club,” Trajceska explained.

Brendon Santalab played 114 matches for the Wanderers in all competitions, scoring 41 goals, making him the club’s highest-ever goal scorer. 

He is also third on the club’s all-time appearance list, behind Nikolai Topor-Stanley and Mark Bridge.

“And even afterwards, the man still talks about that club like it’s the best thing to him,” Trajceska said.

“He was on the RBBTV a few weeks ago and he acknowledged just how much he misses the club as well. And he thanks the fans. 

“Good, good lad.” 

Trajceska recalled Santalab’s hat-trick against Melbourne City in 2017. 

“I do remember falling off the seats,” she laughed. 

Trajceska said it is players like him who are special and a reminder of what the club is about. 

“This club is like human… it’s a business, yeah, but it’s human.”

#8 – Shinji Ono’s flick-up goal against Melbourne Victory on New Year’s Day, 2013 

“That was amazing. Magnificent,” Trajceska recalled. 

Shinji Ono was the club’s first marquee signing. 

The 56-time Japanese international played 51 matches for the Red and Black, scoring 10 goals. 

He scored this goal for the Western Sydney Wanderers in their New Year’s Day match against Melbourne Victory in 2013, his double ensuring the Red and Black won the match 2-1.

“I used to keep the notifications on on Facebook to make sure that every time the Wanderers would put down their highlights, I would be the first one to see them automatically the next morning,” Trajceska said.

“I just remember the following morning before I went to school, I’d watch the highlights and it’s just a magnificent goal. 

“It’s something that you would only see a European player do. Or within the European leagues. This is something that’s class.”

Ono was part of the Wanderers team who lifted the premier’s plate. 

“This is just an amazing season and an amazing team and an amazing player,” she said.

Not only was its impact felt in the moment itself, but also what it meant outside of the moment. 

“Shinji Ono – that two-touch is historic. And it’s glorious, too, it’s something you just want to re-watch over and over again.

“It’s one of those moments where like, you will go out into the backyard and try and fail a hundred times!” 

#7 – Western Sydney Wanderers 5-4 Brisbane Roar, A-League Men Semi-Final 2016 

“I was at my cousin’s again. I got there late and I’m just like, ‘by the time you open the door, the game better be on the TV!’,” Trajceska said.

The Wanderers went down 3-0 early in the first half of their A-League Men semi-final against the Brisbane Roar on April 24, 2016.

The match was the last the Wanderers played at the old Parramatta Stadium before it was demolished and then rebuilt to become the much bigger Bankwest Stadium.

“I was heartbroken, because I thought, we always do this,” Trajceska said. 

The Wanderers replied with three goals by the 53rd minute. 

“I’m like, that’s it. There is hope for us. This is football,” she said.

“There’s something special about this specific team and this specific season.” 

Trajceska was full of praise for the former Wanderers’ boss, as well as their opponents on the day. 

“Tony [Popovic] did amazing to make sure that he covered all bases against Brisbane Roar, because this wasn’t just any Brisbane Roar,” Trajceska said.

“This was peak Brisbane Roar, with Jamie MacLaren and John Aloisi at the helm, you had to be scared of them. 

“That was amazing that we went up against them and won.”

The Wanderers took a 4-3 lead thanks to a goal from Romeo Castelan, that goal being the Dutchman’s hat-trick goal.

However, Jamie McLaren scored nine minutes out from the end of regular time to send the match to extra time.

Dario Vidosic came off the bench for the Wanderers and scored the winner in extra time, in the 102nd minute.

“Dario was amazing. I still have Simon Hill’s voice in my head, just ‘VIDOSIC’!,” Trajceska screamed.

“I collapsed to the ground, in the middle of the TV room, surrounded by Sydney FC supporters,” she said.

“So, when Dario scored and I collapsed to the ground and I cried in my scarf, they all walked and left the room!” 

#6 – Debut season A-League Men Premiership win 

“That was wonderful. It was the year that everybody thought we were outcasts,” Trajceska said. 

The Western Sydney Wanderers won the A-League Men Premiership in their first season in 2012-13. They finished top of the table with 57 points from 27 matches, three points ahead of second-place Central Coast Mariners.

“We’re not outcasts… there was always a spot in Western Sydney where there was like a gaping hole where something deserved to be,” she said.

“We proved so many people wrong… we showed that football deserved to be in the west. 

“We solidified it with [the premier’s plate] and it was so joyful and memorable. On the local papers, we were splashed like 10 pages worth. I loved it.” 

Trajceska explains how her love for football brought her and her family together. 

“I always had to go to my cousin’s house to watch any game because they had Foxtel, and I didn’t. So, it would be a weekly occurrence,” she said.

“That premiership solidifies the history that we will hopefully continue to make at this club. “

The impact on the community was immediate. 

“Usually you would see, in my area, people wearing Canterbury Bulldogs jerseys… but that day [of the premiership win] everyone you passed who was wearing anything to do with sport was wearing red and black.

“They were wearing the Western Sydney Wanderers kit after that premiership win.”

To Trajceska, the moment meant more than just football glory. 

“It makes you proud that you win the premier’s plate in your first season, it makes you proud that you have a great team and a talented squad that are making waves and creating football history,” she said.

“But it also makes you proud that you finally see your suburb full of red and black.

“It’s not sky blue anymore!” she cheered. 

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“I watched that game online. I watched a lot of the women’s side online, I really started to get heavily involved in watching every single game that I could,” Trajceska said. 

“Not only because we were winning, but because it was such entertaining football.” 

American forward Kristen Hamilton scored the Wanderers’ women’s first, and only hat-trick currently, against Brisbane Roar on November 28, 2019. 

The Wander Women won that match 3-1.

“I wish we got [Hamilton] for a few more seasons,” Trajceska said. 

“The amazing, memorable thing about that [2019-20] season and just the girls, in general, is that’s when I first got to properly meet Ella Mastrantonio.”

Ella Mastrantonio was a central midfielder for the Wanderers in that period. 

“She loved ‘The Ladies League’… And I got to meet her in person and so did Rose (Valente, from ‘The Ladies League’) and Michelle (Morris, from ‘The Ladies League’) and that’s how the friendships started to form,” she said.

“Since then, The Ladies League and Ella Mastrantonio have just been such good friends.”

Beyond the playing field, Trajceska explained how a partnership started to form between the Australian midfielder and The Ladies League. 

“We’ve worked with her on a few things,” she explained. 

“We’ve had interviews with her where she’s gone to Bristol and we’ve supported her whole journey through Europe. 

“Not only as ‘The Ladies League’ covering women’s football but as mates, as well, that’s the beauty of it. 

“It’s a good friendship that I’m going to hold onto. So that’s the beauty of the women’s team and that season, specifically.”

Since leaving the Western Sydney Wanderers, Mastrantonio has played for Bristol City in England, as well as Lazio and Pomigliano in Italy. 

However, she returned to Australia and currently plays for Perth Glory in the A-League Women. 

“To have [Mastrantonio] back in the A-League Women [at Perth Glory], it’s just like having a mate back home,” Trajceska said.

“That’s the beauty, especially of the women’s game is like those friendships that you can form.”

However, it wasn’t just the women’s side she was able to form a connection with. 

“Same with the men, too. I’m really good friends with Danny [former Wanderer, Daniel Georgievski]… Same with [former Wanderer] Matthew Jurman.

“Because I’ve worked with him with Boots for Balkans (a charity organisation that collects new and used sporting boots and distributes them to underprivileged areas of the Balkans). 

“Football in Australia is good, because you do get to make great friendships and with the women’s side, it’s even easier. 

“That’s the beauty. I love it,” Trajceska smiled. 

#4 – Wander Women 5-0 victory over Sydney FC, December 2019 

“Oh, Michelle will still not look at me for that game!” Trajceska exclaimed. 

The Wanderers’ women’s side recorded their biggest ever victory, which happened to be against cross-town rivals, Sydney FC, with their 5-0 victory on December 20, 2019.

“It was a magnificent game, and the beauty of that game is, we had the US imports that were great for the club, and they really pushed the rest of the players in that squad,” she explained.

“They brought their flavour, and they taught it to the rest of the club, and it was just beautiful to see how they all meshed well together. They had a great friendship on the pitch and off the pitch and that’s something you want.”

Trajceska showed her support for both the women’s and men’s sides. 

“I attended both the men’s and women’s games that day,” she said.

“It was me and Pia, the drummer of the RBB. The bay was, of course, empty, because that was at the time where we still weren’t able to get people to come to the women’s games.

“We kept giving it to (former Sydney FC defender) Alanna Kennedy! I swear, to this day, she’ll recognise those voices from afar! 

“I love Alanna with all my heart when it comes to green and gold, but when you’re in Sky Blue, I’m really sorry! 

“She’s an amazing defender and when it comes to the World Cup, I’d take a bullet for her!”

Trajceska recalled the fondness of the Wanderers’ women’s team that season. 

“That team, they were such great mates with each other, and it was beautiful to see a team work together so well on and off the pitch together.”

#3 – Western Sydney Wanderers, 2014 AFC Champions League winners 

“That was amazing. That was amazing. Due to car issues and traffic I [had to listen to it on the car radio],” Trajceska explained. 

The Western Sydney Wanderers won the AFC Champions League in 2014, following a two-legged affair against Saudi Arabian club, Al Hilal.

The Wanderers won the first match at home 1-0, before a 0-0 draw in the second leg away meant the Wanderers claimed a historic piece of silverware on aggregate. It was a feat that no other Australian club had done before, and haven’t done since. 

Trajceska recalled her memories of that second leg. 

“We couldn’t make it to Parramatta in time to join everyone in front of Town Hall,” Trajceska said. 

“By the time we got back, we had won the game. 

“You could still hear people who were driving around the streets [of Canterbury-Bankstown], smashing the car horn, doing burnouts, screaming, going nuts!”

The impact on the community went beyond the 90 minutes. 

“We had Western Sydney Wanderers fans who lived in our street, and they had their banners and the flags up around the house,” she said.

“When I got to school the next day, that’s all everybody was talking about. 

“We were showing each other YouTube videos at school of people who had uploaded where they were at Town Hall, and you could see the flares and the people and everyone going absolutely mental! 

“We were in the computer labs. There was a science lesson or something, but I wasn’t paying attention to that!”

She did get to see the match, eventually. 

“I went over that day to my cousin’s house to watch and re-watch some of the game. They all migrated to the kitchen because they refused to be in the same room,” she said.

“That was history. I replay those videos still to this day and it amazes me how packed Parramatta was.”

#2 – The return to Wanderland: first match at the new Parramatta Stadium vs Leeds United 

“Parramatta got full four-five hours before the game even kicked off,” Trajceska remembered. 

The Western Sydney Wanderers played their first match at the new Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on 20 July, 2019, 1182 days after their last match at the old Parramatta Stadium.

“All of Church Street, from the Westfield all the way down to the bottom of the river. Everybody was full of red and black,” Trajceska said.

“You could hardly see anybody in white for Leeds. 

“And finally, when the march started, it was probably one of the most beautiful moments. Because I felt like this is what old Parramatta feels like, and it feels like we’re back. 

“When the march had begun and Capo [RBB leader] up front got the megaphone… him saying ‘welcome home’ and everyone erupted, and the flares went, and we were the loudest we had ever been in years! 

“The active bays were full from end to end.  

“And that moment of 90 minutes, not shutting up once and making sure that Leeds United knew we were there. It was a beautiful moment.”

Mateusz Bogusz scored for Leeds United in the ninth minute to put the visitors into the lead early.

However, just after the break, Kwame Yeboah scored for the Wanderers to bring the match back level.

The match was close to finishing with that 1-1 score line, until Leeds United scored in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to win the match 2-1. 

“It was a heartbreaking moment, but at the same time… we just kept going for 90 minutes,” Trajceska recalled.

“[After that final goal went in] nobody left, nobody moved. We stayed there even after the game for like a good 30-45 minutes. Everybody stayed and kept chanting, kept going.  

“Security actually had to say, ‘get up and leave’. Nobody wanted to leave because we thought, ‘this place is beautiful, let’s take it in’. 

“But security actually told us, ‘you gotta go now’.”

Trajceska recalled what that moment meant to her and to Wanderers fans, in general. 

“The welcome back home, the atmosphere, it was like the old days, it was like bringing back the family,” she said.

“I saw so many old faces I hadn’t seen since I was 14 or 15; I said to them, ‘oh guys, we’re 20-something now!’

“You would’ve had top literally pull someone with you and say, ‘sit there, experience it and you’ll understand’, you could not explain it!” 

#1 – Brendan Santalab breaks Sydney FC hearts, ending their 19-match unbeaten run in the 2016-17 A-League Men season 

“I just remember prancing around to all my mates, who were Sydney FC supporters,” Trajceska recalled. 

“They kept saying ‘we’re still top of the table’, and I just kept saying ‘you didn’t win the derby, though, did ya!’”

Sydney FC headed into the derby in the 2016-17 A-League Men’s season against the Western Sydney Wanderers on a 19-match unbeaten streak.

That season, Sydney FC finished top of the A-League Men and broke multiple records in the process, including most wins and most points in a season in the league’s history, for any team.

However, the Wanderers ensured their 19-match unbeaten streak ended there.

“That was a beautiful game because that was one of my first derbies where I was on the sideline, and I was doing sideline reporting with the community radio,” Trajceska recalled.

“It was me and Adrian Martinez… and it was the hardest game that I ever had to sideline report on because I could not pay attention for the life of me! 

“Any time we were close to scoring a goal, I would almost run away and cheer, but then would realise, ‘oh no, hold on, I’m wired up!’ 

“But when Santalab scored, I put the headphones down and ran down the pitch. 

“Then I came back, and I was speaking to Adrian on the microphone, saying ‘Yes Adrian! It’s a wonderful time for the Wanderers!’,” Trajceska laughed. 

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

The players loved winning the derby as much as the fans did.

“I went down to the RBB at the end of the 90 minutes and [Wanderers goalkeeper] Vedran Janjetović had the flag, and he was going nuts and we were chanting ‘who do we sing for?’,” Trajceska smiled.

“That was just one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever been a part of.”

And as for the reason why this moment deserves to be number one on this list?

“That is definitely number one because it ended Sydney’s unbeaten streak,” Trajceska said.

Bragging rights, simple as that.

Where to next for the Western Sydney Wanderers? 

The question of how to get the Wanderers back to their glory days is one many fans have been asking over the past few years.

“We’ve got the training facilities and we’ve got the stadium. I think we should just go back to our roots, to be honest,” Trajceska said.

“The old Parramatta stadium kept us humble.

“But once we got all the fancy training facilities and the great stadium, we sort of went backwards and forgot who we were in order for us to go forward. 

“We should remember what it was like.”

Trajceska believes the club has to reconnect with the community.

“The reason the Western Sydney Wanderers came to fruition is because we were neglected… but we were still proud of where we came from,” she said.

“And I feel like a lot of people have forgotten that. You’ve gotta find that balance. Football is a business, but at the same time, it’s an escape and it’s family. 

“Find that balance and respect the fans, because without them, you would have absolutely nothing. You saw what COVID-19 did. The stadium was empty, and you barely held on. 

“Respect the fans and they will give you that respect back.”

Trajceska hopes there will be a plan to reconcile and progress as a club with its fans and members because it will lead to success for years to come.

“I would like to see us win trophies and I would like to see Bankwest [Stadium] completely full again, but that’s only going to happen if [the club] says sorry to the fans they’ve hurt,” Trajceska said.

“[The club] has to make [the fans] feel welcome again. It’s going to take some time, but every single time there’s a committee meeting or so on with the member’s forums, you have to show it. 

“You have to show it and act on it.”

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