After a long acclimatisation, in which niggling injuries didn’t help, Antonis is adapting to one of Europe’s more combative leagues and he turned an off-the-bench cameo against Panathinaikos last weekend into a maiden Super League start in Sunday’s (AEDT) 2-0 win over Asteras Tripolis.
The 22 year-old Olyroo and fringe Socceroo has been digging deep, with the aid of PAOK’s conditioning staff, to future proof himself against injury setbacks and conjure the durability to compliment his undoubted talent.
PAOK’s Croatian coach Igor Tudor is rewarding his perseverance as Antonis, who made 65 appearances for the Sky Blues before joining PAOK in August, emerges from the periphery at a club sitting fourth on the ladder and hunting a UEFA Champions League spot.
“It’s good to be getting picked and getting out there and representing the club I’ve been training hard for and when I got on off the bench in the derby against Panathinaikos (in the 84th minute) it was an amazing feeling,” Antonis said.
“I am at a massive side in Greece, and also in Europe, and I am learning every day, and benefiting from a fitness regime and the way we train."
After overcoming a career-threatening quad injury during his time with Sydney, Antonis knows how fickle football's fates can be.
“Fingers crossed, that’s all behind me now. I am feeling in good condition and a lot of that is down to an Italian conditioning coach we have here who has worked a lot with me and helped me in so many ways," he said.
“But, as we all know, anything can happen in football at any minute - you need a lot of luck and I am just enjoying my football right now.”
Fitness concerns aside, Antonis, dubbed the greatest home-produced player in his age group by former Socceroos midfield linchpin turned player agent Vince Grella, has always boasted vision, balance, passing and poise under fire, allied to the ability to score from distance.
He has been deployed by Tudor in a central midfield role, and just wants to kick on now and not let this opportunity slip by.
In a league where adventure is often suffocated by stifling defence, PAOK are one of the more cavalier sides.
"There are some that do go out and really attack like ourselves, Olympiacos (the league leaders), and AEK," Antonis said.
“We like to go out and play - we have been at bit unlucky at times but we’re still in with a shout of a European champions league spot.
“I came here to learn and to play and it was always going to take time - it’s on ongoing process. There’s a lot of quality in this league and just to be part of it here is a big thing for me.”
The Greece national team is coming to Australia to face the Socceroos in Sydney and Melbourne in June - Antonis said they will be stiff opposition.
“They didn’t qualify for the Euros, but they will bring a top team over and they hate to lose any match. It should be a great experience for both teams," he said.
“They have a new coach (German Michael Skibbe) and I am sure he will be looking at some new players while also relying on some of the experienced ones.
“From what I have seen so far, I think the nations are pretty closely matched. The players are technically and physically good here, and also Greece has some good players based in other leagues.”