The Melbourne City fanbase is coming to terms with the departure of two-time Premiership winner and 2021 Championship hero Stefan Colakovski departing the club earlier this afternoon.
As City's first known instance of a player debuting with their boyhood club, Colakovski has come to represent a much-loved, relatable figure for fans, especially to those who now sing in the same terrace where he once stood himself as a Melbourne Heart supporter.
For that reason, the Essendon Royals and Pascoe Vale junior will hold a special place in the heart of City supporters, many of whom will undoubtedly be a fan of his for life.
Colakovski arrived at City in 2016 as a 15-year-old and established himself in the club's youth setup, spending several seasons developing at NPL level.
As a 19-year-old, he made his senior debut for City on the 3rd of November, 2019, in a dramatic 3-2 win that saw Craig Noone score his first league goal for the club.
I'm only able to recite that piece of trivia because I happened to cover the game for Talking City, and it was an unexpected trip down memory lane to re-read my own description of Colakovski's first-ever appearance in City blue at A-League level.
His dedicated talking point, entitled 'Colakovski goes alright', reads as follows:
"19-year-old Stefan Colakovski made his debut for City last night when he was subbed on in the 78th minute for Connor Metcalfe and in the 15 or so minutes that he was on the pitch, he looked like our most dangerous player.
His highlights included an on-target shot which was blocked inside the box, a header which narrowly floated over the bar and a scintillating run towards goal which only came to an end after his on-target shot was well-saved by Wellington’s Marinovic.
The young striker’s progression towards getting first team minutes under his belt has been accelerated by the injury to Jamie Maclaren and after performances like that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come off the bench in late-game situations more often."
Colakovski was consistently impressive throughout that debut season with City, even appearing as an extra-time substitute in the Grand Final, but it wasn't until the 2020/21 season that he really made his mark.
'Cola' netted his first league goal on what will endure as one of the most unforgettable nights in the club's history, the first of City's two Demolition Derbies that campaign, as he put the icing on the cake to score the fixture's sixth and final goal.
The forward then reinforced his cult hero status with a match-winning performance in that season's Semi-Final against Macarthur FC, scoring and assisting in the space of two minutes to guarantee City's passage to the Grand Final, which he also played a big part in as the team secured its maiden A-League Championship.
Colakovski made further history earlier this season when he scored the first goal in our inaugural Asian Champions League victory against United City FC.
(Goal at 1:23 below)
In the reverse fixture 12 days later, Colakovski brought up his 50th appearance for City in all competitions, which would turn out to be three short of his final tally, recording four goals and four assists in his time at the club overall.
The now 22-year-old departs the club as one of its favourite sons.
Off the pitch, those who have had the pleasure of meeting Cola will remember him for his approachability, authenticity and humour.
On the pitch, he will be remembered for his selflessness, ability to stand up in big occasions and, above all, the heart he showed every time he pulled on the shirt.
Stef Colakovski; truly one of our own.