No place like home for ‘speechless’ Gauci

It’s 7:30am and Joe Gauci has already arrived at the VALO Training Centre for training less than a fortnight after a dream evening against Ecuador at Marvel Stadium.

It’s 7:30am and Joe Gauci has already arrived at the VALO Training Centre for training less than a fortnight after a dream evening against Ecuador at Marvel Stadium.

In the same 14 days, Adelaide United’s No. 1 also signed on the dotted line and pledged his future to the Club that gave him his maiden role as a first-choice gloveman.

An inner, younger Joe remains speechless, yet he concedes that it will probably truly sink in at the end of United’s domestic season while he tries his utmost to deliver his hometown a second Isuzu UTE A-League Championship.

This epitomises the professional that is Gauci and outlines the kind of pace at which a career can reach widespread acclaim and adulation in such a short amount of time and, in this case over the last month, the competing priority of a national team call-up.

The 22-year-old’s first Australian appearance also occurred at the same stadium he was given his United debut on 13 March 2021 against rivals, Melbourne Victory.

Gauci hasn’t looked back.

“I’m still trying to comprehend that I’m ‘a Socceroo’ and have actually played for Australia,” he admitted.

“It hasn’t quite hit me yet and it doesn’t feel normal to say that I’ve played for the Socceroos, but perhaps it will when I sit back and reflect on it a bit more at the end of the season.

“When I started as a footballer or even as a professional, I don’t think anyone would have expected this to happen, not at this age.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling of pride to achieve this so early in my career and I’m really grateful because it’s definitely given me a new drive and a new purpose to what I’m doing each day.”

For Gauci, those days often begin before the sun rises.

He’ll usually start the day as early as possible in the gym preparing his body with a power or strength session, as well as mobility activation for injury prevention and flexibility.

And after an intense few hours training with the rest of the squad, it’s straight into the sauna or ice bath before finally relaxing with his family and girlfriend.

The process and attention to detail is the making of a durable yet agile frame that fans see hurdled across goal week in, week out at Coopers Stadium.

In terms of what it means for Gauci to commit his future to the Reds, well, the motive was always clear.

“Adelaide is a really special place, and it just so happens that it’s my hometown, my home Club, and the one I grew up supporting,” he said.

“I’ve been very blessed with the opportunity to play consistent football here over the last two seasons and I have full confidence in the coaching staff, and I feel they have it in me.

“I’m still learning here every week and still growing and developing as a player, and the coaching staff have always pushed me in the right direction.

“I truly believe it’s the best place for my football at this stage in my career.”

Just one of these coaches and his closest mentor is Club legend and Goalkeeping Coach, Eugene Galekovic, who recalls a 16-year-old Gauci from United’s Youth Team who would often feature in goal for the Seniors at training.

Gauci Tweeted a photo of the pair together from 2011 when he was a budding goalie following January’s tense 1-1 draw against Victory at home, and now he works with the likes of Mathew Ryan and Socceroos Goalkpeeing Coach, John Crawley.

“Once I got the call and entered camp, I was really just buzzing to be there and learn from guys like Maty, who I’ve looked up to through my career, and Andrew Redmayne,” Gauci said.

“To be training with such high-calibre players for 10 days was such an experience, the camp was fantastic, and I loved every single bit of it and learnt so much.

“My parents had even booked flights to Melbourne before I’d even travelled because they were so excited for me and would have been happy enough to see me warming up and on the bench in the green and gold tracksuit.

“The icing on the cake was the final night being selected against Ecuador and Arnie (Head Coach, Graham Arnold) told me I would be playing.

“He backed me and gave me the confidence to play my own game and encouraged me to perform the way I have been for Adelaide, and fortunately I made a few saves on the night.

“I gave it everything and my full focus for the 90 minutes regardless of the result, and I walked away with my head held high and tried to savour it because you never know the next time you’ll represent your country.”

Gauci further explains that he was sitting in the hotel lobby having a coffee with United captain and fellow Socceroo, Craig Goodwin, when the young ‘keeper found out he would be starting.

For now, locking in Fortress Hindmarsh alongside his leader and a roaring Reds squad for the Finals Series is top of the list for Gauci, who remains pivotal to United’s quest for silverware.

“We’re aiming to finish as high as we can because everyone knows how supportive and passionate our fans are and it will be such a boost to play as many games as possible in front of them at Coopers Stadium.

“They are a large reason why I’ve committed to the Club and a home final is something really special and extremely motivating for us as a playing group.

“It all starts this week against Western United when we’ll hopefully be back to our best football.”

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