Former Croatian international & Melbourne Knights defender Josip Simunic has slammed the state of youth development in Australia, lamenting the severe divide between youth and senior football, as well as the closure of The FFA Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport. 

Speaking on FNR’s The Knight Train, the 41 year-old spoke of how the professional environment of the CoE, where he spent 2 year as a junior, was essential in his development and transition into full-time senior football. 

“The facility was twenty years ahead of its time, and the knowledge of the coaches there – someone like Ron Smith… you can’t pay for that. 

“It’s so unfortunate that the program’s been scrapped – after turning so many talented players into European footballers playing at the highest levels. 

“You train every single day, like professionals. It made it a lot easier to adapt to professional European football.”

“The biggest problem today in Australian football is the gap between the youth system and the A-League,” Simunic continued. 

“There’s nowhere for younger players to develop.

“I don’t know why the system has been changed, but I think it was a big mistake.” 

In a wide-reaching interview, Canberra-born Simunic also discussed his decision to play internationally for the country of his heritage, Croatia, rather than Australia. 

“I never really thought of it as pressure,” said Simunic. 

“It was an honour to have the chance to pick Australia or Croatia. 

“I chose to play for Croatia because that was always my dream… a dream to my parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents… 

“Every single time I put that jersey on, it was an honour. You have to follow your heart.” 

The Knight Train is the official Melbourne Knights club show, broadcast live on FNR every Monday from 8pm AEST. 

Listen live on or watch on the Melbourne Knights Facebook Live stream. 


Josh Parish