Socceroos Greats - Where are they now: Damian Mori

The World Game pays its monthly tribute to Australia's heroes of yesteryear who left their mark on the sport Down Under. Striker Damian Mori talks about his long National Soccer League career, the crucial Socceroos goal he forgot all about and his admiration for A-League goalscoring hero Besart Berisha.


Damian Mori in action for Australia in 2006 Source: Getty Images AsiaPac

Socceroos striker Damian Mori fears that many promising young players who have nowhere to play could be lost to the game if Football Federation Australia fail to enlarge the A-League as soon as possible.

Mori, who has played almost 600 matches in the National Soccer League and A-League, said expansion was the most important challenge facing the game in Australia.

"The A-League needs more than 10 teams, I've been saying this for a long time," Mori, who is now 46, said.

"The game is growing but we do not have enough clubs to cater for the emerging players.

"A bigger league will facilitate the pathway for the young players coming through.

"It is getting smaller due to the the limited number of young players the A-League clubs can have.

"If we do not act fast we are going to lose many fine players. So we must hurry up.

"Expansion no doubt is a priority and when we achieve that and hopefully get to 16 teams we should look at a second division and then promotion and relegation, but only after the two divisions are running properly.

"There are several clubs out there that are ready to go."

Mori, who was top scorer in the NSL five times, stopped playing professionally in 2011 and is currently head coach of his old club Adelaide City in the National Premier League.

He spoke to The World Game about his long career that was spent almost entirely in Australia.

"You have played for many clubs. Do you have a favourite or one that provides you with the fondest memories?

"I've enjoyed playing with every club I played for, to be fair. Every club played a part in my football development so from that aspect I do not have a favourite.

"I've got to be careful about this but I do have a soft spot for Adelaide City. I spent many years there even as a coach so the feeling I have for them is very strong in my heart."

Perth were seen as an avant-garde organisation when you played there from 2000 to 2004. Do you reckon that the National Soccer League would have survived if more clubs were as professional as Glory?

"Good question. The game was still developing then and the thing that the A-League has over the NSL is the injection of money from Fox. We never had that in the old NSL.

"Without knowing what television money would have done to the old league you can never say what could have happened.

"Perth took the game to another level and I suppose in doing that they showed what potential the game had. In a way they were the catalyst and the marketing example for the private owners of the current A-League clubs."

You started off as a defender. How did you become such a prolific striker?

"I was always a striker, I've been striker all my life. What happened is when I went to Brunswick on loan in 1990 I was struggling up front so coach Terry Hennessy put me at fullback for a short time.

"But when I went to George Cross coach Ernie Merrick put me back up front and that's where I stayed for the rest of my career.

"That's a wrong perception, a myth, and I hope this story makes it right."

You have scored hundreds of goals for club and country. What was the typical Damian Mori goal?

"I was a box goal scorer more than anything else. That's where I scored most of my goals because I used to try to get into the best position to finish. I always tried to be in the right place at the right time, if you like.

"I loved to play off the shoulders of defenders and play in those little pockets behind them."

Did you have a 'bunny' club, one you scored many goals against?

"I couldn't tell you that. I never thought about it. I just loved scoring in every game I played."

Who was the toughest defender you faced?

"It's got to be South Melbourne's Mehmet Durakovic. We were both small players so he did not have the speed and strength to use that as an advantage, I guess. But he was feisty, tenacious and went in hard for the ball."

Would you have loved him to be a team-mate rather than an opponent?

"I had central defender Milan Ivanovic as a team-mate for several years so I was lucky."

What do you think of Melbourne Victory's import Besart Berisha who has become the all-time leading scorer in the A-League?

"He is a hard player to contain and he works very hard for the team. That's his big strength.

"He is positive and has a never-say-die attitude. He is always in the box or thereabouts and he seems to get on the end of a lot of stuff.

"He does not have the finesse of Melbourne City's Bruno Fornaroli but when the ball is in the box he is simply devastating. I don't know how best to describe him but he is one of those strikers you'd love to have in your team."

You played 45 times for Australia from 1992 to 2002, scoring 29 goals. Do you consider yourself unlucky that your career crossed paths with those of Socceroos legends Mark Viduka and John Aloisi?

"That was a good quality squad that we had back then. My career overlapped with those of strikers Viduka and Aloisi but we actually came from different generations.

"Viduka and Aloisi were both playing overseas but I do not consider myself unfortunate that I did not get more caps. I played 45 times for the Socceroos. Many people have not played one game."

The 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup in Saudi Arabia must have been the highlight of your Socceroos career. You came on as a substitute and scored against Mexico in a 3-1 win and played against Brazil in a goalless draw in two group games.

"To be honest, I can't even recall playing against Mexico let alone scoring against them but I do remember playing against Ronaldo and Romario.

"We drew 0-0 with Brazil. It was nice to play against some of the best players in the world and against the then world champions but when we faced them again in the final and they gave us a 6-0 shellacking."

You are now a coach with an A-licence. Are you ready to get a gig with an A-League club if the opportunity arises?

"I have been coaching for 14 years now so I'm obviously keen to get to the next level.

"You just have to keep trying and wait for the right opportunity ... same as when I was playing. It is my dream and I will never give up."

Finally a couple of standard questions: Who are the Australian and foreign players you admire most?

"At the moment I will go for Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, simply for his longevity in the game.

"For him to stay at the highest level for as long as he has is quite remarkable. He is the ultimate professional.

"From an Australian perspective I like what Tom Rogic is doing at Celtic. He is a very capable No 10 who glides past players and wants the ball all the time. He just keeps improving and I think that's nice to see."

Who are the best players you have played with and against?

"When I was with Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga I had the fortune to play alongside Germany star Stefan Effenberg.

"He was technically a playmaker but he was everything, really. He could play anywhere ... in defence, midfield and as a striker.

"The most formidable player I have played against would have to be Brazil striker Ronaldo."


Club career:
1989–1990: South Melbourne, Brunswick Juventus
1990–1991: Sunshine George Cross
1991: Bulleen
1991–1992: Melbourne Knights
1992–1997: Adelaide City
1997: Borussia Mönchengladbach
1997–2000: Adelaide City
2000–2004: Perth Glory
2004–2005: Adelaide City
2005–2006: Perth Glory
2006: Adelaide City, Central Coast Mariners
2006–2007: Queensland Roar
2007: Adelaide City, Central Coast Mariners
2008–2010: Adelaide City
2010: South Adelaide Panthers
2011: Adelaide City

International career:
Australia: 45 matches

Adelaide City: National Soccer League 1993-94. Perth Glory: NSL 2002-2003, 2003-2004. South Melbourne: NSL Cup 1989-1990. Australia: OFC Nations Cup 1996.

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8 min read
Published 18 January 2017 at 12:28pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS