Over the past 6 months there has been an outpouring of love from the football community for the former Melbourne Knights defender David Cervinski during his ongoing battle with cancer.
His struggle has galvanised support behind him, with the football community earlier this year raising more than $30,000 in support of his treatment.
David, affectionately nicknamed ‘shovel’, is one the greats of domestic Australian football. During the NSL era he was a stand out player with his trademark ponytail and tough defending which saw him become a fan favourite everywhere he played.
Being a Geelong native the football journey of David Cervinski began with his junior days at the North Geelong Warriors. By the late 1980s David as a teen was promoted to the North Geelong senior team and he was part of the clubs golden era that saw the incredible rise of North Geelong through the ranks of the Victorian football system.
Starting from 1989, in the space of 4 years the club worked its way from Division 2 all the way up to the Victorian Premier League, winning the VPL championship in the clubs debut season in 1992. David was an integral part of the side, winning the man of the match award in the Grand Final where they defeated Brunswick Juventus 4-1 in extra time.
David’s impressive performances for North Geelong led him to eventually make the step up to the NSL, signing with the Melbourne Knights for the 1993/94 season under the tenure of legendary coach Mirko Bazic.
In the opening three rounds of the 1993/94 season David made one appearance as a sub. However it was in round 4 when Bazic gave him a career defining opportunity, with his first inclusion in the starting eleven. And David did not disappoint. With his defensive duties he helped the side keep a clean sheet and scored goal in the 4-0 win away to Heidelberg United. From that point onwards David was a key player for the Knights as the club would dominate the NSL.
David would be there at Olympic Park for the heartbreak of the 94 Grand Final defeat at the hands of Adelaide City via a devastating long range pile-driver from Damian Mori.
He would be there in 95 as the Knights broke the curse of its previous three Grand Final defeats, getting revenge against Adelaide on their opponents home turf. A victory that led to wild scenes on their return home, being swamped at Tullamarine Airport by over a thousand waiting Knights fans.
And he would be there for the title defence in 96 when the Knights finally lifted the trophy in its home city, defeating Marconi at Olympic Park as the fans celebrated by invading the pitch at the final whistle. A moment never to be forgotten by those who were there to witness it.
Adding to the back-to-back NSL championships, David would also win with the Knights the NSL Minor Premiership in 1994/95 and 1995/96, the 1994/95 NSL Cup and the 1996 Dockerty Cup. In total David played 106 matches for the Knights, scoring 8 goals.
For the 1997/98 season David was part of a large exodus of players that left the Knights for the newly created club Carlton. With Carlton he would play in yet another NSL Grand Final, losing the decider to South Melbourne in controversial circumstances in 98.
After his two seasons at Carlton David had a short stint overseas, playing for Gombak United in the Singapore S-League. He helped the un-fancied club finish in 5th spot in 1999 in what was up to that point in the clubs history its highest league placing.
He returned to Australia soon after, signing with the Wollongong Wolves. It would prove to be yet another successful era for the defender, as he would clinch another pair of NSL titles in 1999/00 and 2000/01.
This included one of the great NSL Grand Finals, the victory over Perth Glory in front of 40,000 people at Subiaco Oval in 2000. The Wolves would come back from 3-0 down to take the match to penalties where the NSW side prevailed in a nail biting shoot-out.
After the conclusion of the 2002/03 season David’s time in the NSL came to end as he dropped back down to state league football, seeing him return to where it all started at North Geelong in 2004. He would stay with North Geelong until his retirement from football in 2007.
When looking back there are many ways to sum up a career of a football player, with the most obvious being the statistics. For David the stats paint an amazing picture of 6 NSL Grand Finals of which he won 4 NSL titles and in total played 253 NSL matches, scoring 15 goals. These stats alone unquestionably rank him up there as one of the elites of the NSL.
But the stats do not tell the entire story. Of greater importance is the sheer amount of support David is now receiving, it is a testament to the character of the man, the respect he earned and the friendships he created during that long football career. Everyone here at the Knights, from the committee to the supporters wishes David all the best and we thank him for his service to our club.