City Stories: 'The Koren Effect' by Matt Hayward
Sebastian Terry’s book, ‘100 Things: What’s on Your List?’, is about framing life by asking yourself a fairly straight forward question – what are the 100 things you would like to achieve in your lifetime?
For me, this question serves as a reflection on where you are at any point in life.
In December 2014, I ticked an item off that list; having followed the club since day one (and a member since season two), one of the things on my list was to see Melbourne Heart/City play against every A-League team away from home.
I had just completed my Graduate Diploma in Teaching and had secured a teaching job in far North-West Victoria. I was set to move shortly thereafter, so had planned one last getaway before my big move.
Conveniently, City were set to play Newcastle away on December 30th, 2014, before travelling to Gosford five days later to play the Mariners, hence a great opportunity to strike another thing on the list.
Let me be clear about one thing leading into the trip; in the history of our club, our away record has never been great. Actually, that’s being too nice – our away form is terrible.
At the time of writing (February 2020), our club has played 137 away games and won only 35 (25%), losing a staggering 71 (50%).
Back in December 2014, that record felt even worse.
In other words, that trip – to me, at least – was all about enjoying the time away. A positive result at either game would just feel like a bonus, little did I know that the trip to Newcastle would exceed my expectations in every way.
I remember rocking up at Tullamarine Airport on December 29th (the day before the game) and who do I see at the check-in gates but a handful of City players!?
As it turns out, they were taking the exact same flight (awesome!!) as myself, discovering this after engaging in small chit-chat with the lads, wishing them well, etc. Understandably, I was pretty stoked by this stage.
Arriving in Newcastle, I made it to my accommodation and bumped into a fellow City fan shortly after, ultimately sharing some great yarns over a few beverages.
By gameday I was pumped; the weather’s nice, there’s a winning feeling in the air and some bloke by the name of Robert Koren was about to make his club starting debut.
Word on the street is that he’s a quality player, ex-Premier League, so surely a handy pickup, right?
24 minutes in and we’re three goals up, ultimately running away with the game in the second half to crush the Jets 5-2, with Koren bagging a hattrick.
The elation! The fulfilment! We’re gonna win the league! (Editor’s note: Oh no…)
It took less than a week for the bubble to burst, with City losing 2-0 to Central Coast the following round.
There were two notable moments in that match: Tando Velaphi earned himself a red card for poleaxing Mitch Duke whilst Koren was subbed off shortly afterwards, having produced an indifferent performance, which we’d eventually discover was about the most we could expect from the rest of his time in Melbourne.
As a side note, this was the moment that I came to love Tando – for showing that he actually cared.
With his side 2-0 down and his teammates showing a lack of heart, Tando at least had the tenacity to run through an opponent.
It may have cost him a week, but you could never say Tando lacked the courage to ‘take one for the team’.
The consecutive performances at Newcastle and Central Coast have come to be an honest reflection of our club; sublime one minute, bewildering the next.
I recall vividly my sentiments both during and at the end of each game.
After Newcastle it felt like the season was going from strength to strength and that our newly-fit marquee was ready to take the league by storm.
20 minutes into the Mariners, I was slumped in my seat and expecting another 70 minutes of disappointment.
Strangely, it’s become one (but not the only) reason that I love this club.
For all the frustration that comes with following a club like City in a sport where so many teams fail to reach the summit every year, there are still moments of pure bliss.
The Partaalu Derby winner, the FFA Cup win, the Pasty Pirlo’s ability on the ball that led to 20 assists in a season; every single one of them comes with its own pure moment of elation.
The Koren hattrick will always remain etched in my memory, however fleeting his time with City was.