Perched on the hill overlooking the main pitch at Sydney FC’s training complex, you can immediately gain a sense of the type of person you are dealing with when you meet Pedj Bojic for the first time.
He is kicked back and relaxed, as if there isn’t a worry in the world. The first sentence that comes out of his mouth when he is introduced to me is a reflection of the very personality you will soon discover.
“Why are you here mate? It is so hot, you should be at the beach!”
To Pedj’s credit he was right. On a Sydney day with the sun beaming down on the grounds of Macquarie University and the temperature hovering in the mid 30′s, I probably should have been at the beach. It wouldn’t have surprised me if he had headed there shortly after the interview had concluded.
Bojic was born in Sydney, however immediately moved down to the south coast town of Shellharbour, not far from Wollongong.
Shellharbour, being a beach-side town, has certainly rubbed off onto the relaxed and chilled vibe that exudes from Bojic when you are in his company.
Born to a Serbian father, who migrated from Serbia 36 years ago, and an Australian mother, Bojic was a single child raised on the south coast of New South Wales.
With a Serbian father, Bojic was bound to develop some interest in the world game. Yet this interest Bojic soon transpired into an undoubted passion for the game.
He would begin his junior football at local club the Warilla Wanderers as an eight-year old. With many of his coaches realising what natural talent he possessed, he was advised to trial with a local Illawarra representative side.
Bojic would be successful with the trial and in turn spent a couple of seasons playing his football through the midfield and defence at the Illawarra representative side as an 11 and 12 year old.
After spending a couple of seasons representing the Illawarra region, he chose to move up to the next level and play for the Wollongong Wolves, a side that had connections filtering through to the then and now defunct National Soccer League.
Bojic was realising what potential he did have at the highest levels of football in Australia as he was a stand out for the Wolves’ sides throughout his early to mid teens.
Soon talent scouts were coming from all over the state, from institutes of sport to clubs in the National Soccer League, with the advice to check out this booming product from the Shellharbour region.
With the region renowned for producing rugby league talent, Bojic was taking some of the onus upon himself to put football on the map in the region after the likes of Socceroo Scott Chipperfield had done before him.
With a couple of impressive seasons with the Wolves, Bojic went on to sign with the New South Wales Institute of Sport.
A decision Bojic says was one that would ultimately take him to the next level in his development as not only a footballer, but as a person.
“When I was signing with the NSWIS (New South Wales Institute of Sport) I knew that was the best decision for me as a footballer and as a person at that point in time as a 16-year old boy. I was still studying at school, but being at the Institute allowed me to discover more of my talent as a footballer and taught me more about how to be a better person and a better professional.”
After a several years at the NSWIS, Bojic would be rewarded for the substantial level of hard work that he put in through his youth and time at the Institute by being handed his first professional contract with NSL club Parramatta Power.
Bojic had finally realised his dream of becoming a professional footballer and it had all happened at the ripe old age of 17.
He was kicking himself. On top of the world. On cloud nine.
Yet the youthful and innocent Bojic would soon learn that this was only the beginning of all the hard work that was to follow.
Bojic would only play a handful of games in his first two seasons in the NSL with the Parramatta Power as he struggled to cement a regular first XI spot in the midfield or defence of the western Sydney club.
After those two seasons with the Power, Bojic was handed a lifeline with rivals Sydney Olympic in the final season of the now defunct NSL.
Despite Sydney Olympic having a disappointing last season in the NSL, following their championship success the year before, Bojic would impress in the 13 appearances he did make with the Belmore-based club as he operated on the right hand flank of the Olympic side.
With the NSL dissembling in the middle of 2004, Bojic at the age of 20 had some big decisions to make.
“With Sydney Olympic looking to go back to the New South Wales Premier League after the NSL folding, I had to have a real hard think about where I wanted to head in the next stage of my career, especially as I was only 20 years old and I still felt I had plenty left to prove. I wasn’t going to give up that easily on my dream!”
Only months after the NSL collapsing into a heap, the free agent opted to take up the offer of a trial with English club and then League Two outfit Northampton Football Club.
Impressing in the ensuing weeks, the Cobblers did not hesitate in signing the promising 20-year old from the small south coast town of Shellharbour.
The change of lifestyle would soon be a wake up call for the boy who had woken up to the sounds of the surf crashing into the shore, day in and day out.
“The weather was certainly a lot different to what I was used to. It was much colder that’s for sure, and my girlfriend and I took a little while to acclimatise to the conditions considering I had pretty much grown up next to a beach every day of my life.”
Despite the transition to a differing climate, Bojic found little difficulty in establishing himself as a first team player at the Midlands based club.
Bojic helped the Cobblers to reach the play-off semi finals in his first season, where they were unfortunately beaten by Southend United.
Nevertheless, the following season would prove to be more fruitful for the young Australian defender. Making 30 appearance, Bojic would play an integral part in Northampton finishing second in League Two, gaining automatic promotion to League One or effectively the English Third Division.
It was a journey that the boy of proud Serbian heritage would begin to relish.
“It was exciting times for me over there initially. I was playing regularly with Northampton, playing in the FA Cup and even had the opportunity to play against the likes of Southampton, Birmingham and Crystal Palace who were in the Premier League over those two years.
“At times I had to look at myself in the mirror and kick myself.”
With Bojic enjoying his football in the English Midlands, there would have surely been a thought of Bojic representing the Young Socceroos with the performances he was putting in week in and week out.
Unfortunately for Bojic though, tragedy would strike in what would end up being his final year at Northampton.
Bojic suffered a hernia injury that would keep him out of action after the Christmas period right through to the end of the season.
It was an injury that ultimately left Bojic shattered as it ended his time at Northampton.
Bojic was 23 years old and was suddenly at a crossroads.
Bojic wasn’t sure what his next move would be, especially with the long rehabilitation that generally follows an injury like the formation of a hernia.
Bojic credits his then girlfriend and now wife Laila for getting him out of the rut that he had suddenly found himself in, considering the promising start he had established in the “Old Dart”.
“I had suffered a major injury and my girlfriend said to me, “If you couldn’t play football again, what would you do?”
“I began to think that maybe my time as a footballer was up, so my girlfriend and I chose to come back to Australia, where I did a course in personal training.
“I always had a passion for the gym since my teenage years, so I chose to do a course in personal training as a fall back (option) should I not pursue the football side of my professional career anymore.”
“I really do have to thank my wife now though as she was the one who encouraged me to do a course and get the life after football aspect sorted, yet she was still pushing me to try my luck as a footballer. For that I am grateful.”
With Bojic back in Australia and seeing the A-League prospering, Bojic signed on to play with Sutherland Sharks in the NSW Premier League.
It wouldn’t be too long before we would see Pedj Bojic back in the top flight of Australian football once again, as he linked up with the Central Coast Mariners.
The then Mariners manager Lawrie McKinna already had fairly strong connections with Bojic from some years before.
McKinna had been the assistant manager at Bojic’s first professional club, the Parramatta Power.
With McKinna at the helm and Bojic still having a burning desire to prove himself as a footballer, the decision was easy to move to the Central Coast to continue his professional football career.
It is here that Bojic essentially put himself on the map with the Australian football public.
McKinna, along with current Mariners manager Graham Arnold, deployed Bojic in his preferred right back position where he flourished with some consistent performances.
His individual performances coincided with the Mariners building their renowned winning culture. Bojic was part of the Mariners’ sides that won Premier Plates on a number of occasions, and rounded off his time in Gosford last season with championship success after the Grand Final victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers.
This season, Bojic opted for a change of scenery with regards to his football career and moved to Sydney FC.
Bojic says that there were a number of reasons for the move, even though he was fully aware of the successful culture, as well as the relaxing lifestyle, he was leaving behind.
“I loved my time on the Coast. I have many great memories and made a lot of great friends in my time with the Mariners.
“I still keep in contact with a couple of the boys which is great and have made many friends with the fans through my personal training business which I still operate up there too.
“I felt though it was time to move on. I enjoyed a lot of success there, and the place was great to me. But I made the choice to leave based on improving my personal life. It was getting hard to commute every day from Sydney to the Coast to train and play, whilst still trying to live my personal life with my wife and operate my business which is primarily based in Sydney.”
“I don’t feel there are any hard feelings between myself and the boys on the Coast and I’m loving my time at Sydney FC already, even though it is so early into the season.”
With banter between himself and Sydney FC goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic present during my chat with Bojic, it was clear that the above statement was a true reflection of his happiness as a footballer at present.
Away from the football pitch, which has essentially become his second home since his junior years, and Bojic is trying his hand at a couple different lines of work to ensure he has a career path to take when his time in the game does come to an end.
Bojic, as mentioned, operates his own personal training which is growing all the time. It is a field that Bojic has developed a passion for since his teenage years and one that he believes will have a fruitful outcome just like the success he has achieved within the A-League.
“When I got the injury in the UK, it made me realise that football wasn’t going to be around forever even though sometimes you do think it will. That’s why I do the course when I got back to Australia. I have been the gym ever since I was like 15 when I was with the NSWIS and have loved it so it was a pretty easy decision to get into that line of work.
“Again I have my wife to thank for that as she was the one who encouraged me to do something else after football that I loved.”
With the personal training business moving in leaps and bounds, especially now that he is solely based in Sydney with his football commitments, he has also dipped his hand into the fashion industry.
Bojic has set up his own clothing line called A-List. Still in its early days, Bojic hopes and has every confidence that it can be as successful as his personal training business and constantly doing work to ensure that takes place.
With Bojic now settled in the harbour city and looking to finish his football career in Sydney, the 29-year old has also ensured that when his time on the football pitch does come to an end that the next path of his life has a prosperous outcome too.
A feature of Bojic’s character that can be used as an example for the next generation of footballers coming through.