Champions come home

At the conclusion of the 1994/95 season, Melbourne Knights met Adelaide City for the third time in a Grand Final, but this time in Adelaide at Hindmarsh Stadium. The Knights were dominant, winning 2-0 with goals from captain Andrew Marth and striker Joe Spiteri. A long-awaited breakthrough was made; the Knights won their first NSL Championship after years of disappointment. Hysteria ensured at Tullamarine Airport when thousands of thrilled fans welcomed their boys home with the cup.
Against all odds, the Knights defended their NSL title the following year, despite having a number key of players moving overseas in the off-season, as well as the loss of super coach Mirko Bazi? who was replaced by former Knights player Ian Dobson. In the Grand Final the Knights met Marconi, a match they went into missing a further three players due to international duty with the Olyroos; Joe Spiteri, Frank Juri? and Danny Tiatto. The Knights convincingly defeated Marconi 2-1 at Olympic Park, their first Grand Final win at home. Melbourne Knights captain Marth, scored the opener and was awarded the Marston Medal for man of the match. The win was sealed when striker Adrian Cervinski scored the second for the Knights. The final whistle was followed by jubilant celebrations as thousands of supporters invaded the pitch and mobbed the players. This back-to-back championship winning side is regarded by many as the greatest club side Australia has seen. “It was a very special team, those 18-20 boys, we were all good friends on and off the park. You don’t find that too often,” says championship goalkeeper Frank Juri?. This year marks the 15th anniversary of these milestone achievements and a weekend of reunion festivities has been planned.
The idea originated last year amongst a few of the players as Juri? explains, “A few of us got to talking at Andrew Marth’s 52nd birthday (laughing **Editors note – it was actually his 40th Birthday) about how good it would be for all of us to get together for a reunion. Somehow we figured out that this year was the 15th Anniversary and we pulled Ange Cimera into the conversation and things snowballed from there.”
The reunion weekend kicks off on Saturday 15th May with a Gala night at the Australian Croatian Association. Entry to the Gala includes a three-course dinner and beverages as well the entertainment by new Croatian band ‘Generacija’. Long time supporter of the game and media identity Andy Paschalidis will act as MC for the evening, hosting both of the Championship sides. “This will be a gathering of the greatest team to have played in any Australian league,” explains two-time Championship defender Vinko Buljubasi?.
Creative midfielder, Danny Tiatto is excited about the event, “I’m most looking forward to catching up with all of the boys and doing what we used to do best back in the day and that is drinking and having fun. We’re a rowdy bunch and it’s just great that we’ve got this chance.” “It’ll be great to see them all again,” agrees Juri?, “I can’t wait to catch up and see how much weight they’ve all put on” he added jokingly. “Sila, AK, Stabba, everyone is looking forward to the reunion. I spoke to Simo last week and he’s really disappointed that he’s missing out on the event (Josip Šimuni? is playing for the Croatia in a friendly against Austria).” Knights President, Ange Cimera, agrees that there is a definite buzz amongst the players, “all of the players we’ve spoken to didn’t hesitate to get involved and they’ve donated some great memorabilia for our silent auction at the Gala. I’ve spoken to and met up with Mark (Viduka) on a number of occasions and he’ll definitely be there. He’s really looking forward to it.”
The Sunday will not only see the current Melbourne Knights take on local rivals Green Gully, it will also become a stage for the Melbourne Knights Championship showdown, with the 1994/95 team facing off against the 1995/96 team, which is sure to be an entertaining affair, with Buljubasi? believing that “the 95/96 team will have the edge with their younger players.”
Following the Championship match, celebrations will continue with an after-party held in the ‘Batcave’.
Standard VPL entry cost covers all of the day’s entertainment.
Cimera has high hopes for the reunion, “It would be great to see all of the Knights fans who crowded Tullamarine Airport and invaded the pitch at Olympic Park turn up to show their support not only for the Champions but also for the current revitalised Knights team”.

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