Having spent the bulk of his career thus far in youth set ups with Sydney FC and most recently Dinamo Zagreb, young defender Anton Mlinaric is hopeful a loan spell with the Brisbane Roar can help kickstart his career.
Impressing for the Roar in the opening rounds of the season, this season has been Mlinaric’s first taste of senior football.
Having been part of Sydney FC’s youth set up since 2017, the 19-year-old had not registered a single senior appearance for the Sky Blues and looked to get experience overseas in Europe to help develop his career earlier this year.
After a trial with Ukrainian outfit Dynamo Kiev failed to materialise earlier in the year, Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb came calling, with Mlinaric spending six months on loan with the club.
Reflecting on his time in Europe, Mlinaric believes competition for spots in the sides at Zagreb was, with football playing a large role in society in Croatia.
Like in many European countries, players are determined to make it in football, but the young defender says the quality and competition of football in Australia is not that far.
“The biggest difference is that it’s do or die overseas, they’re [players] there to take a spot,” Milnaric said.
“It’s a lifestyle there, European football is another beast in itself, but Australian football is not that far off.”
Upon returning to Australia, Mlinaric believes that his biggest takeaway from his time at Zagreb was the importance of having a strong mindset. His time away from Australia helping him grow as a player.
“The biggest thing I took from [my time] overseas is [having] a stronger mentality,” he said.
“I was there by myself, an outsider, so I had to work everyday, take everyday day as a new day and try and improve.”
Though a worthwhile experience, Mlinaric is in no rush to make a return back to European football, saying that his priority is making his mark on his loan spell with the Brisbane Roar.
“No [I’m not focused on going back], the main focus is [playing well] at Brisbane now, to help the team and that’s it,” he said.
In his first senior A-League Men’s appearance for the Roar against Melbourne City, Mlinaric was tasked with shutting down a front three consisting of Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren and Matthew Leckie.
Playing against full internationals in his starting debut, Mlinaric says he relished the opportunity to play against quality opposition feeling he and his teammates stood up despite the loss.
“It was definitely something different, very exciting to verse a front three from the Socceroos,” he said.
“It was good, we defended very well, we structured very well against them, we didn’t give them too many opportunities.
“That’s what you want to do, play them week in week out those sort of calibre of players and improve, especially as a young player and a team as well, gives us confidence going forward.”
Also making their debut for the Roar last week was young striker Luke Ivanovic, who has shared a similar career path, with Ivanovic moving permanently from Sydney FC to Brisbane during the offseason.
Milnaric says the duo worked hard to come up through the ranks at Sydney FC, and that they’ve come to Brisbane in search of regular first team football.
“It’s very good being with Luke, at Sydney we both worked hard and we looked for better opportunities to play football and both of us are doing that right now,” he said.
“Luke scored a good goal on the weekend and helped the team.”
Drawing on what he’d like to get out of this season, Milnaric says his biggest goal is just to improve his game while also wanting play as much as senior football as possible.
“Personally [I’d like] just to improve everyday, just want to help the team because we’ve got a very good team,” he said.
“And [to] just improve as a young player and get as much exposure as possible, like on the weekend [playing] against a top front three.”
The Brisbane Roar take on Adelaide United at home on Saturday the 4th of December at 5:05pm AEST.