The defining moments of Melbourne City's 2021
2021 should, without doubt, go down as the greatest year in Melbourne City's short history thus far.
For all fans' suffering in the early years and frustration at our wasted potential in the then-A-League in the second half of the '10s, 2021 felt like the year that City's slow burn finally reached its peak; the fruits of several years of preparatory work to identify the right players, hire the right people and instill the right culture.
2021 was a defining year for Melbourne City and thus, by nature, it too was full of defining moments. Youngsters making a name for themselves, veterans entering club folklore and countless more unforgettable nights in the AAMI Park stands.
As a result, listing each moment in isolation - though each deserves that level of dedication - would take an eternity, so you'll notice that many moments are paired together under a subheading that summarises the theme of those moments.
Here, we remember the defining moments of 2021 for Melbourne City:
An unforgettable final chapter for a fan favourite
Let's skip over this detail while we can; the 2020/21 season wasn't a pretty one for Rado Vidosic's then-W-League side. It's being mentioned, however, because for all that the season was a net-low, the final three rounds were certainly the bright point of City's campaign.
After being in very real danger of claiming an unwanted Wooden Spoon, Vidosic's side went on a three-game winning run to finish seventh out of nine. Young centre-back Naomi Chinnama started all three of those games, with her performances in a demanding position at such a young age proving to be a highlight of the season.
However, it was that final round 2-1 win over Perth Glory that really made headlines - literally. In the final game of her professional career, Rhali Dobson netted the opener from a Tori Tumeth backheel assist. After the final whistle, Dobson's partner Matt proposed on the pitch as the team were celebrating, making for an unforgettable, if unexpected, night for all.
Aside from the obvious material success that 2021 entailed for City, the year was also an important one for identity-building.
Last season, Scott Jamieson became the first player since David Williams in the 2015/16 campaign to reach 100 appearances for the club and would go on to break the former Heart and City forward's club appearances record of 103. He currently sits on 111.
Just as special was the cracking of the tonne by Curtis Good, who achieved the feat earlier this season. Good's rise to prominence with Melbourne Heart, subsequent move abroad and eventual return to the club as Melbourne City marks a unique footballing journey unlikely to be replicated again and the big central defender will undoubtedly hold a special place in fans' own hearts as he continues to step out in the City blue.
As of May 13th, City also had a new all-time leading goalscorer, with Jamie Maclaren netting twice against Adelaide to equal and then overtake Bruno Fornaroli's 57 goals in City blue.
Now into our second decade as a club, these types of records will continue to be set and then broken again in a natural cycle of identity-building as certain players become emblematic of the Melbourne City philosophy.
A new chapter lead by a returning legend
Can a Round 1 win be defining? After City's 1-0 victory over Canberra United in their opening game of the newly renamed Liberty A-League, why can't it be?
The performance was indicative of a vastly transformed Melbourne City side, whose recent 5-1 win in the Melbourne Derby has fans confident of a return to Finals football in 2021/22.
Whilst the nature of the late winner was an exciting moment in itself - in addition to Holly McNamara announcing herself to the Australian football public with an absolute banger - the fixture also marked fan-favourite Rebekah Stott's return to professional football following her battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
That inspiring story was enough to steal headlines across the league, but the occasion was only made even more special by the fact that, in taking to the pitch for the 63rd time in City colours, Stott had overtaken Steph Catley as our all-time leading appearance-maker in the A-League Women's competition.
Whilst there remain plenty of games between now and the end of the regular season, City fans should be optimistic about this new group under Rado Vidosic, lead in midfield by a club legend in Stott and skippered perhaps by a future one in Emma Checker.
Alright, whilst there was no order to this list of five defining moments, the final two are definitely the ones you've been waiting for.
6-0, 7-0, 5-1: City have really done some damage in Melbourne Derbies this season.
It started in March, when City fans turned up to a hostile Marvel Stadium - and likely left laughing. Maclaren's initial penalty miss may have had fans on edge early on, but he would soon make up for it with the first goal of the game. With just the one-goal lead at half-time, the Derby appeared set for a fiercely-contested second half. Then Florin Berenguer scored. And then Rostyn Griffiths. And then Connor Metcalfe - twice. And just when we thought it couldn't get any better, it would be none other than Stefan Colakovski who would score the sixth and final goal - and his first for the club - in what was probably the most perfect moment a City fan could hope for.
The jokes were rolling in ahead of the next meeting between the teams in April; the "6,7,8-0" scoreline predictions were everywhere in group chats and comments sections. And yet, one Andrew Nabbout wondergoal, a Maclaren quintuple and an Adrian Luna knockout blow later, and the records were tumbling again as City humiliated Victory to the tune of a casual seven goals to nil.
Five goals from a player in a single game has proven to be a literal once-a-decade occurrence in Australian football, so City fans would have been relishing that JMac haul knowing they may never see one scored for their club again.
Enter, Hannah Wilkinson.
City's star Kiwi recruit for our Liberty A-League side had shown promising signs in her first three appearances for the club, netting a brace in Round 3 against Adelaide, but nobody could have predicted the 5-1 scoreline in last weekend's Melbourne Derby.
Against the reigning Champions of Australian Women's football, whom they'd fell short against in Round 2, the City girls came out firing, with McNamara and Wilkinson combining to lethal effect as the youngster teed up her veteran strike partner for three of her five goals.
Given we're unlikely to see team or individual performances as incredible as these anytime soon, City fans would be best served by relishing the memories made across these three unforgettable nights.
City's league double in 2020/21 was a pair of achievements comprised of countless defining moments - that's the nature of a title win.
From those demolition Derbies to that early-season win against Sydney FC to turn our fortunes around; from that late Marco Tilio winner against Wellington away to his combination with Colakovski in a quickfire double to seal our progress to the Grand Final; dozens of moments could be listed.
Alas, the ones that will be remembered best are the decisive goals; Craig Noone's header to seal the three points against Central Coast at home that would win us the Premiership and (probably) Nathaniel Atkinson's banger from inside the area to pick us up off the deck and draw us back level in the Grand Final.
These were the blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments that sealed our fate as the greatest team in Australia in 2021 and they're the moments that will continue to shape our year ahead in 2022.