Tatura export and Wellington Phoenix legend Vince Lia was recognised recently with a 10-year testimonial match and dinner in New Zealand.
Lia became just the fourth player in A-League history to represent one club for more than a decade following his two-year stint at Melbourne Victory in 2007.
On October 14, 2007, with the fledgling club just seven games old, Lia pulled on the yellow and black of Phoenix for the first time.
Now 10 seasons on, 192 matches and four goals later, many have come and gone, but the robust midfielder has been an ever-present figure at the club.
To celebrate the achievement, Lia Legends XI took to the field against the Mayor’s XI before a This is Your Life-style dinner.
With more than 200 players, club officials, friends and family attending, Lia was absolutely thrilled with how everything transpired.
‘‘It was unbelievable, to have an event like that for me was a little surreal,’’ Lia said.
‘‘I am not one for the spotlight, I was nervous going into the night and then to see my headshot across all the tables was a strange feeling.’’
With the average professional soccer career lasting only two-and-a-half years, Lia should be well past his use-by date, but credited his longevity to his parents.
‘‘They have been with me from day one,’’ Lia said.
‘‘From the two to three times we would travel down to Melbourne a week, to supporting me back in Wellington, if it was not for their continued support I would have fallen through the cracks a long time ago.’’
The whole Lia clan made the trip across the ditch for the testimonial and Mimmo, Vince’s father, was as proud as punch when reflecting on his son’s testimonial.
‘‘It was magnificent, an absolutely brilliant day for our family,’’ Mimmo said.
‘‘It was unbelievable, our family was over the moon and we are full of pride for what Vince has achieved.’’
Lia signed a one-year contract at Wellington following his move from Victory in 2007 — so it’s fair to say the midfielder has made the most of that contract.
‘‘Soccer is a fickle game, you do not know what can happen,’’ Lia said.
‘‘I am proud to achieve what I have at this great club and I hope I can continue on doing so for years to come.’’
Only four players in A-League history have played for more than a decade at one club and Lia believed in years to come he would look back at his achievement with great pride.
‘‘It has not really struck me just yet, but I think when I look back at it when I retire I will then soon realise what I have done,’’ Lia said.
‘‘To have only four players do it — and I am tipping not many others will because of how the game is going — is pretty awesome.’’
Having played 216 A-League games in total, Lia will need Wellington to make the grand final and for him to feature in every game if he is to reach the 200 club for Phoenix this season.
‘‘It is possible, anything is possible,’’ Lia said.
‘‘It would be a fairytale if it were to happen, but first we need to focus on what is ahead and we have a big game this weekend.’’
Lia, 32, was in the final year of his contract at Phoenix and did not know what his future held.
‘‘I have spoken to the club and had preliminary discussions, but I have no idea where I could be playing next year,’’ Lia said.
‘‘We do not have a coach in place for next season, so it’s hard for the club to make a decision on my future.’’
If Lia’s incredible tenure does come to an end at Wellington, the midfielder was eager to play on.
‘‘If it is not at Wellington, I will be looking to play elsewhere,’’ Lia said.
‘‘I am definitely not ready to retire, I feel the best I have in a very long time.’’