Q and A with Shane Stefanutto

As the oldest member of the Brisbane Roar squad, it’s not surprising that Shane Stefanutto’s journey to the Hyundai A-League has been longer than most of his teammates.

As the oldest member of the Brisbane Roar squad, it-s not surprising that Shane Stefanutto-s journey to the Hyundai A-League has been longer than most of his teammates.

After graduating from the Queensland Academy of Sport as a teenager, Stefanutto began his career with Brisbane Strikers in the old National Soccer League before a long stint in Norway with clubs Lillestrom and Lyn when the Australian competition collapsed - a six year period where he made over 120 appearances in European football.

Stefanutto returned to Australia in 2009 to join North Queensland Fury, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury mid-season that threatened to derail his career.

But, the Cairns-born defender refused to give up and while he was still in the midst of rehabilitation, signed for Brisbane Roar - since becoming a regular starter under Ange Postecoglou and a key member of the squad as vice-captain.

Here, Stefanutto talks about the influences of each of his coaches, his experiences in Norwegian football and his favourite things to do with his two kids, Stella and Max.

Brisbaneroar.com.au caught up with Stefanutto after training on Thursday to ask your chosen questions from Facebook and Twitter.

1. Who has been the most influential person on your football career?

It-s a tough one but I think every coach that I-ve had has been important in my football development so I can-t really say one person. There-s been a lot of people that have contributed and all my coaches since I was 16 and onwards have helped shape who I am as a footballer and I thank them all for that. My QAS coach Gary Philips, he was fantastic actually and he-s probably up there with Ange as one of the best coaches I-ve ever had. He gave me a lot of belief and was a really good coach, great youth coach, and was really positive and great for my development. I played under John Kosmina at the Strikers and while Kossie might not be the best tactically, he toughened me up like no coach has ever done. My apprenticeship was probably the best thing I could have done, he toughened me up as a player because he told you how it was. I sometimes joke with the young players how good they have it now because back in the day, if you were a young player you said ‘yes- and ‘no- and ‘no problem sir- and you just did what you had to. If it wasn-t good enough, they-d tell you and everyone would tell you. I think it made me a stronger person and that helped me as a footballer. I had coaches in Norway where tactically, I learnt a lot off and the boss now who is just unbelievable in terms of playing style. It is the best playing style I-ve ever played in and as a left-back, it-s great to be a part of it.

2. You spent six years playing football in Norway. What are your best memories from your time over there?

I won a Cup final over there, it was great - there was about 30,000 people there and it is a big deal in Norway because we didn-t have finals. They only had first past the post and then a Cup competition. It was so important to the fans and we made a final while I was there and we lost and then we made another and we won. It was unbelievable, such a great celebration afterwards - almost like when we won the championship here last year. We won it 1-0 so it wasn-t convincing but you always play in November over there and that-s when it-s getting cold and the field is all muddy. So it-s just a long ball game and it-s never really a really spectacular game but it was your typical Cup final. I also played a UEFA Cup qualifier while I was over there against Newcastle United in the Premier League so I got to play at St James- Park. There was about 35,000 people there that day and that-s a small crowd for them I think. It was good fun. The other thing I haven-t mentioned is that I made my debut for the Socceroos while playing in Norway so I really have to thank Norwegian football for that I guess. European football may have helped me otherwise I might not have played for the Socceroos. I do feel like I have a strong connection to Norway, [daughter] Stella was actually born over there as well so my family has a connection. It was a real stepping stone for me in terms of my development and it was at the time when the old NSL had broken down so if I was in Australia, I wouldn-t have been able to be playing football. It really helped me development-wise and made me stronger as a person living away from home. It-s never easy, crap weather - all those little things, there are positives and negatives like with anything.

3. Did you ever doubt you-d return to football after your injury setback when you were playing for North Queensland Fury?

On a whole, no. I was very confident I-d return but of course there were dark days. I have to say, there were a few demons when I played in Perth for the first time last season because that was when the injury happened. That was the biggest thing, just overcoming that personal demon. I was very confident in my ability to come back but with a major injury, you never know. Maybe there was some doubt but in my mind, I was always confident.

4. What was it about Brisbane Roar and Ange Postecoglou that enticed you come back to play your football in Brisbane?

I remember the conversation well. I only had one conversation with Ange before I signed my contract and we both said very similar things. It wasn-t a long conversation, actually it was a very short conversation because he was in Germany at the time to sign Thomas Broich I believe. It was an international call so we kept it quite short! His vision and how successful he wanted the club to be was where we had exactly the same opinions. I was coming back from a long-term injury and I didn-t want to be part of a process of developing for the future in terms of that I knew I wanted to be successful straight away. I couldn-t have another year of just ‘we can be wherever we need to be- and as soon as Ange said he wanted to be successful, how successful he wanted to be and that he wanted to be successful for many years to come - it was just music to my ears. That-s exactly what I had envisioned my next club to be. After talking to Ange, I had a lot of faith. I knew that if he was brave enough to do the cleanout then I had to be brave enough to come along and help that success. It was just as perfect a match as you could get. I knew straight away I wanted to sign for the club. Being from Brisbane, it was always going to be my first choice and it was the place my wife wanted to come back to, we all wanted to come back to Brisbane. It had to be a right fit as well for the club and thankfully, Ange saw me as a part of the puzzle and I-m very happy to be here.

5. Besides the Grand Final, which was your favourite game of last Hyundai A-League season?

Seriously, this is a tough question! It-s really tough because I missed ten games due to injury which in that period, I think the boys did really, really well. I tried to come up with a game before or after that but I came up with the second leg of the major semi final at Suncorp Stadium, when we came back from 2-0 down against the Mariners to draw 2-2. That is probably one of my fondest memories, having a final at Suncorp with a big crowd. To come back like that? Just amazing. A lot hinged on that game because if we hadn-t drawn, the grand final would have been held down in Gosford. We-ve forgotten about that game a little bit too easily because it was part of our grand final victory - that game was a turning point. We keep forgetting about the unbeaten streak too and that game kept that going. It could have stopped there realistically, we could have lost 2-1 and still make the grand final but the streak would have ended.

6. The attacking players of your AFC Champions League opponents are likely to be strong but a bit of an unknown. How will you and the other defenders prepare for this mentally?

They-re going to be very strong and it-s a good question about our mental preparation. I think in the back of our minds, we-re already preparing. During the week, we-re doing a tough conditioning session in the middle of it to help us with this hectic schedule and I know Rado [Vidosic, assistant coach] will have us prepared in terms of which players we-ll come up against. Then, it-ll just be up to the individual to do our own preparation so it-s going to be a little bit of everything. But I know personally and as a team, we-re all already in the zone. We-re starting to prepare for these things, we-ve got schedules and we-re taking even better care of our bodies. As a club and as a team, we-re going to be very well prepared for the physical and the mental challenges of the Champions League. I definitely do think the experiences I-ve had overseas will help me. I-ve already said how difficult it is going into Asia with the Socceroos, it-s not easy. Conditions are different, grounds are different and meals can be Western, but still different. Travel is going to difficult, going through security and passport checks - different to our A-League travel. All these little things will make it challenging but enjoyable in my mind.

7. With two young kids, what are your favourite family/dad things to do with them?

I love dropping my daughter Stella at prep whenever I can. Because we start training early most mornings I don-t get to do it often, just on our days off or when we have afternoon sessions. I like getting her ready - I-ve actually learnt to plait hair and sometimes come up with my own little styles sometimes! I enjoy it and she loves it, she has her own ideas but I say ‘come on, I-m only a dad here!- so she eventually listens to me. I like walking her down to school and dropping her off and having a play in the room until 9am when they usher us out! It-s a really nice part of my day actually so every day off or every chance I get, I take her to school which is nice. With Max, he-s a classic - just loves to have a kick with papa. The problem is the time he wants to have a kick? 6.30 every morning. I-ll get up and he-ll be on the couch with his football ready. He puts it on the ground and with Max, you have to take your shoes off. You-re not allowed to have a kick with shoes on, that-s a Maxy rule. I love having a kick with him, he-s got that footballer instinct in him already. No pressure on him at the moment but he just loves it so every morning we have a kick in the living room. Normally it-s okay because [wife] Tammy has got Stella so Max and I are by ourselves!

8. You-re yet to score an A-League goal… when you finally do, do you have a special celebration planned?

Lots of people have told me I haven-t scored an A-League goal so I-m very aware of it! I do have a little celebration ready but God only knows when I-m going to score. [At this point, Brisbane Roar assistant coach Ken Stead interrupts and says, “Stef - even he doesn-t know!”] Yeah, Kenny-s right, he probably doesn-t even know so I can-t make any promises! I have a lot of friends and family who say ‘I-ll just keep coming to games until you score- and I say, ‘that-s my gift to the Roar marketing team, that I-m not going to score, I won-t conform to this and make you guys come to every game!- I-d like to do it sooner rather than later though. My only goal in Norway I scored straight from a free-kick, not too far out and not as impressive as Mohamed [Adnan] or Thomas [Broich] but good area and it just curled into the back post. I celebrated doing the thumbs to the back, showing everyone ‘Stefanutto- down the line. It was my first goal so I wanted to make sure they saw the ‘3- and my name! ‘3- has always been my number. I actually tried to get it off Luke DeVere when I came to the club but it was a significant number for him too. As soon as he left, I was told it was available and I said ‘yep, I want it-. It-s my number and it-s the left-back number around the world. Number 3 should always be the left-back in my opinion.