New Western United full-back Ben Garuccio is loving his football at his new home, eager to rediscover the form that saw him head to Europe in 2018 ahead of a showdown with former club Melbourne City.
The 26-year-old played the entirety of Western United’s first two league fixtures – a loss to Melbourne Victory and a win over Perth Glory – holding down a starting spot which has been hard to come by in recent seasons.
Joining from Melbourne City during the off-season, Garuccio made 65 appearances for the A-League Men’s champions over two separate spells at the club. Despite starting the season as one of the first names on the team sheet, he saw his minutes reduced as competition for spots grew tougher.
“I had a tough gig last season competing with Jama (Scott Jamieson) every week for the starting spot,” he tells Kick360. “[He’s] obviously the captain of the club and he’s done fantastically well there at Melbourne City, so that was really tough for me last season.”
“You need to be playing well no matter where you are. If you’re not playing well, then I’m sure the coach will look to replace you.”
Regardless, Garuccio was fortunate enough to leave City with many fond memories, including the “unbelievable” experience of being crowned an A-League winner.
“It’s one of those things that at the end of your career you look back [on],” he says. “That’s why we all play the game – to win silverware.”
And it’s that very same desire for success that allured Garuccio to his new employers out west. Western United struggled to make progress on their debut league season, crashing out of the top six after losing all of their final eight games of last season.
Garuccio words echo the club’s mentality for the new season: “they’re not here to muck around, they want to be successful and they want to win things.”
“The people up top here are very, very ambitious, and that runs throughout the whole club,” he explains. “[The players] can see the club is doing absolutely everything to give us the chance to be successful on the pitch.”
In an effort to facilitate that success, the club have brought in a number of other new faces to present different problems for their opponents.
“We’ve got really good depth as well,” he says. “As you saw last week, we bring (Dylan) Wenzel-Halls off the bench who had a great season last season at Brisbane Roar and he comes on and scores the winner for us against Perth.”
Another strong performer in last week’s win was Swiss defender Léo Lacroix, someone who Garuccio feels more than comfortable playing alongside.
“As a full-back, you want a centre-back next to you that can cover for you, especially when you go forward,” he explains.
“Léo’s a big boy and he deals with basically anything that comes his way.”
Like Lacroix, Garuccio stands out as one of several Western United players with international pedigree, having made 21 Scottish Premiership appearances for Heart of Midlothian from 2018 to 2020.
Looking back on his venture into European football, he’s proud to have represented “a club that is very traditional, has a big history and a massive support base in Edinburgh as well.”
“If you do well at a club like that, you never know what you’re next step could be.”
Unfortunately, Garuccio would not be able to find out what that next step was during his first crack at Europe, suffering an ACL rupture towards the back-end of 2018/19, a “major setback” that would side-line him for most of next season too.
When asked about those difficult times, Garuccio’s response seems to indicate that he doesn’t see the point in crying over what might have been, instead noting that point in time as one of substantial personal growth and resilience.
“That’s where you learn the most about yourself, in those deep, dark places,” he recalls. “You either go down in the dumps or you see the bright side and work hard to come back even better. I think even though I didn’t play as much as I would have liked over there, I think that I developed a lot as a player and as a person and a professional.”
Dealing with an ACL injury is a mountain to climb for anyone, regardless of where you are on the globe. Even if only after a brief stint, Garuccio continues his career Down Under with newfound confidence and strength.
“If I can deal with doing my ACL, on the other side of the world, living by myself, then I can cope when I’m here in Australia easily.”
Looking to the future, he sees this weeks clash against fellow Victorian rivals and his former club, Melbourne City, as a chance for Western United to make a statement to the rest of the league.
“[Melbourne City are] ‘the team to beat’ so to speak this season,” he notes. “We played against them a couple of times in pre-season this year so we’re very familiar with them, and I’m sure they’re familiar with us as well.”
“I’m sure it will be a really good game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Western United take on Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Saturday the 4th of December at 7:45pm AEST.