For the first time in nearly a decade, Joseph Franjic will be playing his trade away from the top tier of Victorian football after he announced move to State League One side Altona Magic.
The all-action midfielder was an ever-present for Hume City over the last three years, being one of the first players to be written on the team sheet each week.
However, despite helping Hume to previously unseen success, Franjic’s game-time was cut down cruelly due to injury.
First he suffered a broken foot playing against Oakleigh Cannons in the Dockerty Cup in 2015, a nasty break which left the midfielder on crutches for nearly two months.
Most recently Franjic suffered a broken arm whilst playing against Pascoe Vale in the NPL earlier this year; an injury which wouldn’t have been so serious if it had been treated correctly initially.
Franjic was rushed to hospital at half-time of that match when the break was discovered immediately by Hume physio Dr Johnie Markov.
When initially plastered, Franjic’s bone wasn’t set properly, meaning the midfielder had to go back under the knife to, in effect, have the bone broken all over again to ensure it healed properly.
Franjic said despite the initial setback his recovery was going well and would be looking forward to resuming full contact training early in the new year.
“It’s going good,” Franjic said of his latest recovery. “It’s been six weeks since the operation, I still probably won’t be able to start the pre-season until early January but that’s just to take the right precautions and we will get going from there.”
“It’s healing well and it’s all positive up to now.”
The always smiling Franjic, whose off the pitch persona almost completely contrasts his on-field aggressive nature, has now set his sights on one thing and one thing only: a place in the NPL for his new team Altona Magic.
“The goal is 100% promotion.” Franjic stated.
“There are no ifs, buts or maybes. It’s win the league, get promoted and get into the NPL next year.”
“They have very big ambitions at the club and I sat down with Igor (the club president) and he explained to me what the club’s ambitions are and what they are trying to do in the next few years and it was very appealing and something I wanted to be a part of.”
Franjic was utilised as a defensive midfielder at Hume City where he was tasked with the principal role of shutting down opposition attacks, winning the ball back and laying it off to his forwards.
Under new Altona coach Goran Lozanovski, Franjic explained he’ll be more than happy to resume his defensive role, however he’d also look at trying his hand at an attacking role and using his offensive talents.
“I just adapt to whatever ‘Loza’ wants me to do,” Franjic explained.
“I’ll get the instructions off him like I always do and however Loza wants me to play, that’s how I’ll play.”
“If he wants me to play in my defensive midfield role where I’m winning the ball and feeding it off like I have in the past at Hume, I’ll do that. If he wants me playing as a number eight, going box-to-box and getting forward a bit more and linking up play, I’ll do that.
“I feel I’m pretty comfortable at doing both so it’s just whatever role he wants to put me in.
Franjic’s move to Altona came with further good news when he found out he’d be joined by Markov at Magic Park in 2017.
Markov, the long serving club doctor at Hume City, helped take Franjic through the treatment and rehabilitation phases of two broken bones.
Franjic stated he believes having a familiar doctor at his new club will help in eliminating further recurrences of his recent injuries.
“Johnie gave me a call and he’s down at the club now which is amazing,” Franjic said with a smile.
“It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for me because obviously Johnie knows the background of not only my body, but my injuries, so I can just continue my rehab from there.”
The former Melbourne Knights man said he’d already received welcoming messages from his new teammates as he prepares for life away from the top flight of Victorian football for the the first time in the better part of a decade.
“For a 25-year-old it feels like I have been around for a long time, playing six, seven or eight full years of top flight football in the state,” Franjic explained.
“It’s the first time I am dropping down in my senior career to State League One, so I think I can bring a bit of experience.”
“I got a message as soon as my signing got announced online from one of the younger Altona Magic players and he basically just said to me ‘Welcome to Altona, it will be a pleasure to play along side you,’ so it’s really great to get that type of respect.”
In a somewhat ironic turn of events, Franjic will come up against his former teammate and great friend, Shane Rexhepi, who linked up with his former junior side North Sunshine Eagles to aid in its ambitions of promotion to the NPL.
With promotion and relegation once again returning between NPL2 and State League One, Franjic believes the time is nigh for some of the bigger clubs who missed out on the initial years of the National Premier League structure to return to their former glory.
“To me there would be no real point of having State League One if you can’t get into the NPL,” Franjic said.
“What’s the point of paying players or rocking up on the weekend if there is a higher level of football in the state and there’s no way they can reach it?”
“I think now with the FFV introducing (promotion) it’s a good opportunity for player’s to get themselves in the NPL because you can see clubs are recruiting.
“I’m sure the whole community knows that Shane Rexhepi has signed at North Sunshine Eagles, I’m sure they want to get promoted as well. Then you have also got Preston Lions as well so there are big clubs here.”
Reflecting on his time at Hume City, which saw the club qualify for an unprecedented FFA Cup semi-final in 2015, Franjic was effusive in his praise for his former club and the man who brought him there, Lou Acevski.
“(My time at Hume City) was massive,” Franjic said of his tenure at ABD Stadium.
“I’ve had a good last three years playing at Hume. I played under Lou and I learnt a lot from him, I’ve got nothing but a lot of respect for Lou Acevski.”
“He brought me up from Sunshine George Cross and he showed a lot of faith in me whenever I was available to play.”
“I’d come back from long injuries and I would be straight back into the senior team for next week and I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity and I can’t thank the club enough for looking after me and showing me great hospitality over the last three years.”
For now, Franjic has set his sights on a 2017 season with Altona Magic, and whilst promotion and results on the pitch will be key measures of his success at Magic Park, that will be underpinned by an injury free season which lets the number six get back to enjoying his football.
“My goal is to 100% help the boys get promoted, hopefully have a nice cup run in the FFA Cup, but most importantly just enjoy myself and have an injury free year,” said Franjic.
“If I enjoy myself and have an injury free year, I’m sure the rest of it will come.”