By LIAM DURKIN
WHEN Joe Auciello was serving as a ball boy for Falcons Soccer Club during their halcyon days in the national league, little was anyone to know it would be the start of a lifelong journey with the club.
Since then, Auciello has become the most capped player in Falcons’ storied history, and he has continued to add to the tally, reaching the 250 game milestone a fortnight ago.
His teammates made it an occasion to remember, as Falcons crushed Monash 8-0 in Round 9 of Latrobe Valley Soccer League action.
For Auciello, Falcons and family has gone hand-in-hand.
His father Serge was instrumental in reforming the club in 2000 following their disbandment from the National Soccer League, the same year Joe made his senior debut as a 15-year-old.
Reflecting on his career, Auciello said he was proud to call Falcons home.
“Right through from juniors, I was a six-year-old coming here with my father, because of my father mentoring me and coaching me the biggest trait I was taught was loyalty,” he said.
“You look back to 30 years ago when I first played as a junior and I’ve been at one local club (Auciello played metro league in Melbourne for five years), I’m more so proud of the loyalty rather than anything else.”
Speaking of the milestone, Auciello said it was a fairly low-key celebration.
“I’m old these days so no big nights out, there was a number of us that stayed back which was good,” he said.
“It was more different generations that were here, some former teammates came which was fantastic, really thankful they made the effort to come down and to give their congratulations.
“As much as you don’t like to admit it you come to the game knowing it’s your 250th and everyone is making a big deal out of it.
“You don’t want to make a big deal out of it because at the end of the day there is a result to be had and we are fighting for the league title, so three points is the most important thing.
“In terms of the win itself, the way we played was fantastic and it is hopefully something we can continue on for the foreseeable future.”
Playing mainly in defence these days, Auciello pointed to the overall rebuild of Falcons the club as the main highlight, which has culminated in a number of league titles in recent seasons.
“You need to have the down times to appreciate the ups, I know that is very corny but it’s true,” he said.
“When we first came back to the LVSL in 2000 there were a number of years where it was tough.
“I was a 15, 16, 17-year-old in that environment experiencing it first hand, you roll forward to now and we’ve won league titles in 2015, 2017, 2018, and a number of Battle of Britain cups.
“If I had to pick one I think winning that first league title in 2015 was a cathartic moment, it provided the club all the reward for many years of hard work … and we’ve kicked on.”
Auciello paid credit to the likes of Nick D’Alessandro, Adrian Salvatore and current president Tony Salvatore for their work in making Falcons a great club on and off the pitch.
Auciello himself has put his skills as an accountant to good use, serving as club treasurer for 10 years.
“Trophies are important but they aren’t the only thing,” he said.
“Win, lose or draw we should always feel welcome to come to the club.
“Irrespective of what is happening on the field from a results viewpoint we should all feel that we are welcome.”
When asked to name some prominent names he has been associated with, Auciello said a couple of stood out.
“We were lucky enough to have Jeff Hopkins, who was the NSL coach of the Eastern Pride/Falcons before they were no more,” he said.
“He was just class, he was a Welsh international.
“There are a lot of local players like Nick D’Alessandro who is a close friend of mine, he’s ability to not only coach but to perform on the park even to this day, very proud to play with him.”
In terms of opposition, Auciello rated Ben Cassar and Cameron Dunne highly.
Given no other local sporting club in country Victoria let alone Gippsland has achieved what Falcons has, Auciello said the sense of history had never been lost in any of his 250 games.
“When you put that shirt on and when you play for Falcons you know that you are playing for someone special,” he said.
“The longevity I’ve been able to have and the loyalty is a very proud moment.
“In the mid-90s, there was 3000/4000/5000 people (at NSL games), you get that sense every time you walk into the venue.
“My father and uncle Peter Cefala would commentate all the games, and my cousin Anthony and I would come to every home game.
“We are privileged, it is a unique venue.
“Sometimes we forget that, even reflecting you think ‘wow how special is it to play 250 games for a club that has done so much in 61 years’.”
It would be remiss to write about Falcons and not mention the name Don Di Fabrizio.
“My grandfather and dad were very close with Don, and so was I to a lesser extent,” Auciello said of the Falcons patron.
“He was still coming to games even up to his passing. He just loved being here. For the amount of money he invested, it wasn’t even about that, he just had a love and passion for any side that went out there with the Falcons colours on.”
With the passion to play still burning, the 37-year-old looks set to add a few more games to the tally yet, well and truly adhering to the phrase ‘you are a long time retired’.
“I’ve always said, and I really want to stress this point to anyone out there – don’t stop doing something you love,” he said.
“Whether it is your vocation, a sport, a hobby, if you enjoy it, keep doing it.”