Having worked his way up through its youth system, South Melbourne striker Leigh Minopoulos is now poised to begin his fourth season as part of the club’s senior team.
Minopoulos is now a key cog in South’s attacking unit due to his vision, explosive pace and lethal finishing. However, back in 2011 when he was first looking to break into the starting XI, he found first-team opportunities very difficult to come by. “I was still quite young at the time and South had a good squad,” Minopoulos tells smfc.com.au. “I was probably just a fringe player back then but I managed to become a senior player down at Werribee City.”
Minopoulos had a two-year stint away from SMFC as he searched for regular first team football. He joined Werribee in 2012 ahead of the State League 1 season, immediately finding himself as part of the Bees’ starting line-up. His experience as part of Werribee’s senior team played an important role in his on-field growth. “Once you’re playing every week and you’re one of the senior guys, you develop a lot quicker and you develop alot of confidence and strength. That definitely pushed me forward and helped me to become a better player.”
In his two seasons at Werribee, Minopoulos scored an impressive 31 goals and was awarded the club’s Best and Fairest award in 2013. His consistent goal scoring also played a key part in Werribee’s promotion to the NPL Victoria for the 2014 season. Whilst at Werribee, Minopoulos was elevated to the leadership group and believes that this also assisted with his development. “It was important because at one stage our captain missed a few games due to injury. As vice-captain, I actually ended up stepping in (as captain) for a few league games. You tend to look at things from a team point of view and stop worrying about yourself so much.”
When presented with the opportunity to move back to South Melbourne at the beginning of 2014, it was a relatively straightforward decision for Minopoulos to make. “South Melbourne is the best club in Victoria, and apart from one or two A-League teams, possibly Australia. We have as good facilities as anyone else so it was a no-brainer really. If you want to play soccer you want to play for this club,” he says.
Since re-joining SMFC, Minopoulos has played a total of 48 league matches and scored eight goals. His total statistics during both of his stints at the club show 52 league appearances for eight goals, with 64 appearances and 13 goals across all competitions. Along with his 13 goals, the 26 year old has spent the last two seasons assisting star striker Milos Lujic in winning the last two Golden Boot awards. “We usually play with one up front so I tend to float in one of the three roles behind the striker. Obviously we’re looking to help Milos continue his goal scoring form because when he plays well we generally win.”
Pre-season standards have been as high as ever and it is the club’s 2016 signings that are helping to keep everyone on their toes. “In my four years here, every pre-season has been to a high level the whole way through but this one is probably as good as I’ve seen it. We’ve got a few new faces that will add to the depth and overall class of the squad, which is really helping to push everyone along.” New arrivals for the 2016 season so far include Jason Hicks, Matthew Foschini, Luke Eyles, Zaim Zeneli and Marcus Schroen.
Performing to a high standard week-in week-out is a clear focus for Minopoulos heading into the 2016 season. “Personally I want to have the best season I’ve had so far. I’m aiming for some consistency; in past seasons I’ve had some good patches and some poor patches so I’m just wanting this season to be my best and most consistent so far.”
Personal aims have been set high by Minopoulos but he is also hungry for team consistency, with his club looking to achieve the ultimate success in 2016. “I think a club like South Melbourne should always aim to win the league; anything less is a failure.”