‘I made one save and that was it’: Gauci’s remarkable journey to the A-League

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Adelaide United goalkeeper Joe Gauci’s path to professional football began with a single save at a school holiday clinic in New Zealand. 

Although the young keeper was born in Adelaide, he was introduced to football when his parents moved across the ditch to New Zealand.

“I lived in New Zealand from the age of four to 11,” Gauci said.

“I started as a striker like most young footballers do and, then I got chucked in goals. 

“It was during a school holiday clinic when I went in goals. I made one save and that was it, I was stuck in goals from that point on.”

Initially, Gauci said he did not enjoy playing the position but began finding a passion for goalkeeping the older he grew.

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“When I first got thrown in goals, I didn’t enjoy it that much. I didn’t think I was any good and I used to cry every time I conceded a goal,” he chuckled.

“I think when I came back to Australia and got some specialised training, that’s when I saw the improvement and fell in love with it.”

Despite relishing his time playing between the sticks, Gauci’s first football set back helped him develop a stronger desire to perform well. 

“I didn’t make the cut for the state [South Australian] team when I was 12 and that’s when I decided to put in more work,” Gauci said. 

“I started seeing the improvement in the following year and I made it into the state team. From then on, I was really focused on it [goalkeeping].”

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After gradually rising through the ranks, Gauci linked up with South Australian State League side West Torrens Birkalla in 2015.

He played 31 games at the club before being offered a scholarship deal with the Central Coast Mariners when he turned 17. 

“That was a really big year for me [at the Mariners]. The jump in ability and intensity from the players [compared to the NPL] was something that took six months to get used to,” Gauci revealed. 

“I was working under Matthew Nash that year, who’s worked under John Crawley, the national team’s current goalkeeping coach. 

“It was a really big year in terms of developing myself as a goalkeeper and learning all the things you need to do on and off the field to become a professional.”

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While Gauci experienced lots of growth at the professional level, the Mariners decided not to renew his one-year contract and the promising youngster was in the NPL once again. 

“When I didn’t re-sign at the Mariners, I was disappointed of course, but I backed myself to come back to the NPL,” he said. 

“After the year with the Mariners, I was hungrier to get back into a professional environment and keep developing myself.

“I was more determined when I came back to Adelaide City [in the NPL] and, I was fortunate to go to Melbourne City afterwards.”

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Following his brief tenure at City, Gauci signed another scholarship deal, this time with Adelaide United. 

Representing the city he was born in, the talented keeper received his first opportunity to play a professional match when James Delianov suffered an injury before Adelaide’s original rivalry game against Melbourne Victory this year. 

“I found out the night before [that I would be playing] and for about half an hour or so, I was a bit nervous,” Gauci said.

“It had been a long time coming for me but when I spoke to my Mum and Dad, I calmed down and became keen for the opportunity.

“For me, it was about enjoying it. When you are enjoying it, that’s when your best football comes out.”

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Surprisingly, playing in front of a hostile crowd of Victory supporters did not rattle the debutant and Gauci helped his side to a 3-1 win. 

“Walking out in your first A-League game is something all players will never forget,” he said.

“I was surprised though, you don’t really feel the fans as much. I was more focused on the game itself.”

Since his debut, Gauci has been outstanding for the Reds, making 23 saves in seven appearances. 

According to the young gloveman, composure has been the key to his success on the field. 

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“I’ve had a lot of experience playing games for the NPL and Youth League and, I’ve always tried to keep a cool head in goals,” Gauci said. 

“In football, you can’t really ride the emotions of the game. After you concede a goal, you have to keep a level head and focus on the next moment.”

Regardless of the setbacks he had to overcome to achieve his professional dream, Gauci rose to the occasion each time and has evolved into one of Australia’s best goalkeeping talents. 

Feature image credit: Jordan Trombetta

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Amir Daou
Bachelor of Sport, Health and Physical Activity and Bachelor of Media and Communications student at Flinders University. Writing intern covering the latest in Adelaide United news and matches. Sport is my passion and I'm excited to learn more about the industry during my time with The Football Sack.

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