Ante Milicic has been around Australian football for more than two decades, with the new Westfield Matildas Head Coach forging a prolific playing career and building a burgeoning managerial CV.
The 44-year-old has played with some of this country’s most renowned footballers and coached alongside remarkable football brains.
We take a look at Milicic’s journey to becoming Head Coach of the Westfield Matildas – the man tasked with Cup of Nations success and steering Australia to FIFA Women's World Cup glory in June.
Lacing up the boots
Born in Sydney in 1974, Milicic played more than 10 years in the National Soccer League, as well as spending more than five years overseas in Netherlands, Croatia and Malaysia.
During his second stint with Sydney United, Milicic developed a reputation as a diminutive forward whose guile was complemented by football intelligence.
A four-season spell at United, where he scored more than 30 goals and won the 1996-97 Championship earned Milicic a move to NAC Breda in Netherlands – the club Tony Vidmar had played for before departing for Rangers in Scotland.
Following his two seasons in Breda, Milicic returned to his parents’ homeland when he signed for HNK Rijeka in Croatia’s top division – there he spent two seasons and finished Runners Up in the 1998-99 campaign.
Return to Australia
Milicic returned to his boyhood club Sydney United in 2001. During that season he scored eight goals in 14 games but was unable to win silverware once more at Edensor Park.
His move to Sydney Olympic yielded silverware, where he won the Joe Marston Medal in Olympic’s 2002 Grand Final win over Perth Glory.
The year after, where Sydney FC’s Westfield W-League coach Ante Juric was captain, Milicic played in that side’s 2-0 loss to Perth Glory.
Hyundai A-League roots
Following his time in the NSL, Milicic stayed in Australia and played for the Newcastle Jets in their inaugural Hyundai A-League season.
He scored seven goals in 20 games before moving north to sign with Queensland Roar.
After two seasons with the Roar, Milicic left foMalaysia's’s Shahzan Muda before finishing his career in the NPL with Sydney United and Dandenong City.
During Milicic’s career he also played six times for Australia and scored five goals along the way.
Hanging up the boots, taking hold of the clipboard
While Milicic may have been player-coach at Sydney United in their 2009 campaign, he began his full-time life as a coach when he joined John van’t Schip’s technical staff at Melbourne Heart.
Milicic spent two seasons at the Heart as an assistant before returning to his home town by joining the technical staff at Western Sydney Wanderers.
There, he reunited with his former Caltex Socceroos teammate Tony Popovic, and went on to win a Hyundai A-League Premiership and finished with two Grand Final runners up medals.
National team beckons
Milicic secured his first national team role in March 2014 when Football Federation Australia announced he would join Ange Postecoglou’s technical staff for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
By this time, Milicic have made himself one of the nation’s most revered second-in-commands.
Working under the likes of Postecoglou and Bert van Marwijk, Milicic was part of two World Cup campaigns in Brazil and Russia.
He also won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup on home soil after Australia defeated Korea Republic 2-1 after extra-time.
Milicic served as Australia's U23 coach in 2017 and 2018 and is now their assistant under head coach Graham Arnold.
He was appointed as the Young Socceroos Head Coach in 2018, where he steered the side to the quarter-finals of the AFC U19 Championship.