MOST Australian soccer players would give a leg to enjoy a career half as successful as Nikolai Topor-Stanley’s has been.
The towering Newcastle Jets defender is about to kick off his 13th season at professional level.
His cumulative tally of 265 A-League games for the Jets, Western Sydney, Perth and Sydney FC has been bettered by only two players, Andrew Durante (287) and Danny Vukovic (278).
Along the way, Topor-Stanley has represented the Socceroos in four internationals, spent a season playing for Hatta Sports Club in the United Arab Emirates, and skippered Wanderers to a memorable victory in the final of the 2014 Asian Champions League.
Yet there is one box that remains frustratingly unticked.
Four times he has appeared in A-League grand finals, most recently against Melbourne Victory less than six months ago.
On each occasion, he left the field with a runners-up medal.
Asked if the disappointment of a grand final defeat had provided his teammates with motivation during their long pre-season slog, Topor-Stanley offered a wry smile.
“Unfortunately I’ve been asked that question too many times,” he said.
“I’ve had four losses now. It’s the ultimate prize.
“I guess it’s our sporting culture and doesn’t really reward results over the season, as opposed to one game. But we’ve accepted it for what it is, and we’ve moved on.
“We’ve just got to put ourselves in a position to first make finals, and anything can happen from there.”
On reflection, Topor-Stanley suggested the positives of last season far outweighed the 1-0 loss to Melbourne Victory in the title decider, which will long be remembered for the video referee failure that allowed an offside goal to stand.
“Of course it was disappointing, but if anyone was going to argue that was a poor year, that’d be pretty harsh,” he said. “We had a home grand final.
“Unfortunately it came down to one game, one goal.
“We’ve moved past it, and we have to.”
How many more opportunities Topor-Stanley has to make amends is anyone’s guess.
He will be 34 by the time this season ends, but has shown amazing powers of endurance over the years. Last season, he was on the field for every minute of Newcastle’s 29 games.
“I’ll keep going as long as I’m wanted, and as long as I feel like I’m physically able,” he said.
“At the moment I feel good. I’ve had a full pre-season and I haven’t missed a day through injury, so knock on wood, that keeps on going.”
Off contract at the end of this season, he is trying to look no further ahead than Sunday’s season-opener in Wellington.
“I could sit there and say I wanted to play until I’m 50, but you have to be wanted,” he said.
“I try to live in the present as much as I can … I feel that’s worked for me so far.”
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