Is this the best Aussie-based striker not playing in the A-League?

Topics

Milos Lujic has scored 26 goals in 31 games for South Melbourne in all competitions this season. He leads the Victorian NPL top scorers chart with 18, making a third Golden Boot almost a given with just two games remaining.

On top of his prolific form in front of goal, the 25-year-old former youth international has an NPL Player of the Year award and two Championships with South Melbourne and Northcote City.

It begs the question: Is Lujic the best Australian-based striker not playing in the A-League?

South Melbourne coach Chris Taylor says it’s hard to fathom why the towering forward is not playing regularly in the Aussie top-flight.

“It’s difficult to say why Milos Lujic has not been picked up by an A League club,” Taylor said.

“When you look at the A-League clubs they tend to bring in foreign imports for those high profile positions – strikers that score goals.

“I don’t think we’ve really had too many prolific Australian strikers in the last four or five years in the A-League, they tend to be strikers from overseas.”

As a youngster, Lujic seemed destined to make it in the A-League and beyond. The pedigree was there - his father Zdravko Lujic represent the Socceroos under Frank Arok in the 1980’s.

Milos Lujic was part of Melbourne Victory youth team and is a former graduate of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). He played youth football for Australia at U17 and U20 level, making his debut for the Young Socceroos at 17.

In 2008 he scored to get the Australians through to the AFC U19 Championship quarter finals in Saudi Arabia. His teammates in that squad included Sebastian Ryall, Mitch Nicholls, and Socceroos, James Holland, Oliver Bozanic and Luke Devere.

Lujic played at Serbian powerhouse club Partizan Belgrade for a short period when he was younger and had unsuccessful trials in France and Belgium.

He spent a month training with Sydney FC and, in January 2014, signed a two-week replacement player contract with Wellington Phoenix. At the time he was 23 and had scored 19 goals in Northcote City's title-winning campaign.

The A-League involvement was, he said, “a good experience, but also disappointing because I was not given a chance to play. I felt I was ready to step up and show what I could do to help the team.”

The FFA Cup was a great chance for Lujic to showcase his talent. He scored with a typical powerful finish with his head to open the scoring against Palm Beach Sharks only for South Melbourne to go down in a penalty shootout.

The disappointment hasn’t stopped Lujic scoring. A hat-trick against Avondale has South Melbourne just three points behind leaders Bentleigh Greens in the VICNPL. With a game to spare, South are in contention for another championship.

Taylor said: “I certainly think he’ll score goals no matter where he plays. There are components to his games that may be enhanced with a full time environment and that goes without saying with all the players.

“The difficulty we have is being part-timers you are struggling to get them in more than three times a week, so with a fulltime environment there are areas that all of the players could improve in.”

Lujic is a school teacher during the week: “It is hard when you work over 40 hours a week and are expecting to train at a high level.

“The reality of it is that you can't support yourself with the money in the second tier leagues of Australia. We definitely play enough games, especially with the cup competitions now, but obviously training three times a week is not anywhere near enough to be a professional player.

“It does get hard sometimes but I am also lucky that I have a chance to make some extra income outside of work. I know it won't last forever so you put in the hours and hard work for that. Training and games are almost always outside of work hours which is good but it just means you have less time than other people to do things. But I'm used to it now.”

As for his A-league aspirations, Lujic is still hopeful that he can make it as a professional footballer.

“I think I need a bit of luck and for someone to take a punt and give me a chance at the next level,” he said.

PHOTOS supplied by SOUTH MELBOURNE

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.