By Liam Reddy

When I signed my first deal in the National Soccer League with Parramatta Power, I never would have imagined playing over 400 games as a professional footballer.

I was very fortunate to come straight out of the AIS and sign my first professional contract at just 17 years old. That would not have been possible without the sacrifices and ongoing support of my parents, whom I will be forever grateful for. Another person I cannot thank enough for their role in my career is my lifelong mentor, friend, coach and confidant – Jim Fraser. His advice, support and at times – tough love – is a major reason I have been able to enjoy the career I have had. 

And now retiring at 41 from professional football, I can look back and say I have enjoyed a pretty eventful 24-year career.

For me, the number one highlight of my career was my longevity. I’ve had some incredible moments, won an A-League Premiership, set the record for the most appearances for a goalkeeper in the A-League, and made many life long friendships in and out of football along the journey.

However, it’s also a bitter sweet moment. During my pro career, a bit like football in Australia over the last 25 years, I experienced so many ups and downs.

My first few years in the NSL were full of optimism. After joining Parramatta Power in 1999, my aim was to just play and establish myself in the NSL. Four years later I moved on to Sydney United which was a special time for me. They were my junior club, so it meant a lot playing there in the seniors and in what would be the last ever season of the NSL.

In 2004, just a few years into my career, the NSL had collapsed. Players had no idea what lay ahead for us. We had to return to the State League and anxiously awaited for a new league and clubs to be established.

When the A-League started in 2005, it provided a much needed and improved platform for development of football in Australia. In the NSL we only had one or two teams that you could say were really professional. To now have eight professional teams was fantastic for young players to develop and learn in a full time  environment. 

Like the NSL, (and my career!), the A-League has also had its fair share of ups and downs: most recently the pandemic delivered so much uncertainty about the future for players, staff and clubs, not to mention the game itself. During this time, like many other times, we leaned on the PFA for support and guidance. Looking back and thinking about that time, you realize how strong we were as a group and everyone was really just supporting each other.

I have been fortunate in my career to play for a number of clubs in the A-League. Newcastle, Brisbane, Wellington, Sydney, Central Coast, the Wanderers, and finally Perth Glory. They will all, for their own reasons, hold a special place in my heart, and I’ll look back with fond memories of my time at all of them. 

In my final season this year at Perth Glory, I would have probably liked to have played more – that’s just football. But there’s something exciting about all the new names and faces coming through, especially here in Perth and for those young kids elsewhere who have developed in academies within their clubs. I think if that continues, the League is heading in the right direction. It’s a bit of a ‘changing of the guard’, with the older players like me who started as a teenager retiring and new young talent coming through to take our place.

Could I have played another year as a pro? I definitely feel like I still had more to give. I’ve never lost my competitive drive and I’ve always enjoyed going to training every day. I love the game. Especially the game day buzz. It’s a feeling that in my opinion – can never be replaced. But leaving Perth would have been challenging. And I’m no stranger to change, I have played all over the place. 

Having now lived in Perth the last seven years, I had plenty to consider outside of football. My family first, and a number of job opportunities – some to continue playing, some coaching, and a new career opportunity. Which made me question – do I really want to move again? Maybe, from a selfish point of view, I would have loved to have continued to play professionally, or stay involved in the A-League, but at the end of the day, what is the most important to me is spending time with my family.

They have sacrificed the most. Moving around so much during my career, my family, and especially my wife Christie, have made so many sacrifices. Christie has put her own life on hold, picked up the pieces, packed up the house, (numerous times) and our three boys, Marley, Hendrix and Ziggy have probably not had their dad around as much as we all would have liked. 

Now with the decision I have made to retire from professional football, to embark on a new career, outside of football, we can really enjoy the next phase of our life and the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends. I am particularly looking forward to more than one day off over the Christmas period with my family! This decision along with being able to continue to play football part time in the WA NPL will be a great way to finish off my career over the next decade(!).

Alongside Christie, another constant in my career has definitely been the PFA. When I signed with Parramatta Power as a teenager,  Alex Tobin was the PFA representative at the club. He was an ex-Socceroos captain and he was really influential in helping players make important decisions around their careers. Through the guidance of Alex, I saw the benefits of being in the PFA and how they looked after players and always had our best interests at heart.

Later on Brad Maloney and Ante Milicic encouraged me to attend PFA meetings to understand where the NSL was heading at the time and then when the A-League had started, because it obviously was a very important time. As players we all wanted to know what was happening and where the competition could head, but also what the FFA, other players and the clubs were all thinking.

At the heart of our discussions was to always ensure that we could have stability in our lives and careers. Having been a part of the PFA for so long, I want to acknowledge and thank them for the role they have played in the longevity of my personal career and their continued support of me and my family. I hope I have also played my part in contributing to the game and the future of the young players through the PFA to have more certainty in their careers and futures too.

Finally, a big thank you to all the supporters, players, administrators, coaching staff, volunteers, media, sponsors and friends that have played a big part in my 24 year career. I have received countless messages and phone calls, regarding my career, job prospects and retirement which I am extremely grateful for.

I look forward to catching up with everyone and life after football. 

Cheers, Rocket