House of Gauci: Joe’s rise to the big time

Joe Gauci is thriving at Adelaide United’s, following a wealth of life and football experience at just 22.

Joe Gauci is thriving at Adelaide United’s, following a wealth of life and football experience at just 22.

Standing at an imposing 6’5” and with 40 games under his belt, you would not assume the young goalkeeper could possess such mettle at his age, particularly whilst barking orders at his defensive unit, or saving penalties with apparent ease.

The hardworking gloveman has represented more teams than he can count; he even played football on the remote Island of Waiheke in New Zealand where he spent a chunk of his childhood.

Gauci and his brother would travel via ferry to Auckland on the mainland every second week to play football, where he actually started out in the game as a striker.

It was at a school holiday clinic in New Zealand one day with some mates and all sorts of age groups and he went in goals just for a bit of fun.

“One of the older boys who was probably about 12 at the time took a shot and I made a half decent save,” Gauci said.

“Everyone was shouting out, ‘you should be a goalkeeper!’,

“So, I became one.”

Gauci hasn’t looked back.

Originally born in Adelaide, Gauci’s parents decided the best move for the family was to return to South Australia after a period of time across the ditch with their son rapidly growing in stature both on and off the pitch.

He was 11 when he moved back to his hometown and trialled with Cumberland United U12s as some of his Sacred Heart schoolmates were looking to play there.

Gauci got into the team probably not just because he was the only one who put his hand up to be ‘keeper, but that’s precisely what had happened.

He received more and more specialised training as he continued through the ranks at Cumberland but faced, what he felt at the time, a major setback in his career when he failed to make SA’s State Identification team.

“I thought my career was over not making that team, even though I was at such a young age at the time,” Gauci can now fondly recall.

“I was pretty devastated but it’s one of those setbacks that just drove me forward and I put my head down and kept going with the specialised training and with the goal to try out for the State team again the following year.”

He then went through the State process again and made the U14 team which saw him represent in the Nationals at Coffs Harbour and earned him further selection in the NTC team with none other than current Adelaide United Head Coach, Carl Veart, at the helm.

That is a definite trend with United’s squad since Veart took the reins, in that he has personally coached several of the current team and is not afraid to promote youth.

“Personally, it’s humbling that Carl and the Club have given me this opportunity and I’m very grateful, but the chances they continually provide to younger players like Steven Hall who also plays in my position, James (Delianov) as well and so many others is fantastic.

“There aren’t too many clubs that are willing to trust in young ‘keepers, and give them the platform to go and perform, as well as sometimes make mistakes.

“Of course, we’re in a results-based industry and it’s a high-pressure environment and having younger goalkeepers can be perceived as a bit of a risk.

Joe Gauci going through his paces at the VALO Training Centre with fellow ‘keeper, James Delianov, following behind.

“But to have that backing from everyone at Adelaide United is unique and we’re very thankful for it.”

What is also a trend is Adelaide’s perpetual goalkeeping riches, and former King of Coopers and current Goalkeeper Coach, Eugene Galekovic, is content on handing over the keys to his kingdom.

“Joe is coming along really well as we can see in his performances and he’s very particular about everything he does, and he’s always asking questions to get better,” Galekovic said.

“While he’s serious in that regard, he does bring a lot of energy to the group and gets them up and about which is important and contributes to morale.

“But at the same time when he steps onto the pitch he is fully focussed, calm and ready to do everything possible for his team-mates and to get the three points.”

Gauci admits that Galekovic was one of his idols growing up, mostly due to the accessibility of Coopers Stadium as his hometown team.

A very young Joe Gauci with Eugene Galekovic after a match at Coopers Stadium.

“I particularly looked up to Eugene through my juniors as he was playing in my own backyard.

“I was able to come and watch him play when I was younger and I would even come early and watch him warm-up and try to get more of an insight into how he worked and how he moved as a goalkeeper at that level.

“Goalkeeping is such a unique position, and everyone does it a little differently, so I have always taken little snippets from players around the world but of course I paid and do pay particular attention to one of my heroes, Eugene, as my ‘keeper coach now.”

Gauci’s first professional contract arrived after he was plucked out of the NPL after being scouted for his performances as captain of Birkalla’s U18 side at just 16.

Gauci had led that Birkalla team to the title, beating former Red, Carlo Armiento’s, Adelaide City in the Final.

When asked if it was painful warming the bench during his time at the Central Coast Mariners, the humble Gauci says himself that he knew he wasn’t good enough at the time and was happy to bide his time and improve.

He also had the chance to hone his craft in the professional environment and under Goalkeeping Coach and former player, Matthew Nash.

A similar situation occurred the following year at Melbourne City, but Gauci took it all in the stride that led to where he is today.

“It was a real eye-opener to see the facilities that City had and some of the big players they’ve got and rub shoulders with them.

“To be honest, it was pretty daunting as a 19-year-old, but I was lucky enough to spend some time there which was another big step in my development.

“Coming back to Adelaide after all of that was a dream come true and I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few games under my belt so far.”

It’s the life you often live as a goalkeeper when there’s only one spot available, with patience and swings and roundabouts, but Gauci is now reaping the rewards between the sticks.

The most recent justification of this point was his professional performance away to Western United at the weekend, highlighted by a super sharp penalty save low to the left off Lachie Wales.

It was another quality performance for the youngster with a total of eight saves for the match including a double-save in the second-half, imploring many to cite Gauci as an unlucky omission from Graham Arnold’s recently announced squad for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

Of course, Socceroos selection is an ambition of Gauci’s, following a stint in the National Team Camp earlier this year and an U23 berth in Uzbekistan, but just as he always has, he will be taking things one save at a time.

Joe Gauci claiming a cross against Macarthur in Round 2.

And as for the number ‘46’ emblazoned on the back of his shirt: “I wish there was more significance to the number but honestly I was 23 at Cumberland when I started and it sort of stuck,” Gauci admits.

“I tried to claim 23 later on at Adelaide City after my stint at the Mariners and it was already taken, so I thought ‘ah well, I’ll double it’, and luckily 46 was available.

“It’s been my number ever since and I do feel some sort of connection to it as it has been on my back through my entire professional career.”

Gauci is now firmly eyeing a win in his first-ever home Original Rivalry against Melbourne Victory on Friday night and is eager to make his house that is Coopers Stadium an impenetrable castle.

Only at Coopers – Adelaide United memberships on-sale now.