Multiple attractions drew George Slefendorfas to Werribee City as a mid-season signing – but the team’s results were not one of them.
The pre-Slefendorfas Bees were going nowhere in a hurry, with a dismal 12 points from the opening 16 rounds.
Since his arrival, the Bees have more than doubled their points tally, picking up 13 in the past seven games.
The Bees are level on 25 points with Whittlesea Ranges and Melbourne Victory and a big chance to climb out of the bottom two.
They can even aim for a top-half finish, as they are just five points away from those mid-tier clubs.
Slefendorfas has undoubtedly had a big part to play in Werribee City’s change in fortunes.
The 29-year-old is an important cog in the system, sitting behind the front two, holding up the ball to link with teammates, providing a physical edge and threatening to score.
But were the Bees lucky that such a quality acquisition agreed to join them when they were travelling so poorly?
Slefendorfas was not fazed that his new club was a long way off the pace.
“I knew they weren’t doing too well, but it was kind of a challenge,” he said. “I love new challenges.”
Where one player might have put Werribee City’s situation at the time of signing in the too hard basket, Slefendorfas was looking only at the positives.
He wanted to play close to his Werribee home, so having an NPL club on his doorstep was a big tick.
There was the big lure of getting to play under Sergio Sabbadini, a coach recommended to Slefendorfas by his former mentor, Fab Soncin, who he played under at his former club, Geelong.
“When Fab left the club, I decided to come back to the area where I’m living, so it wasn’t too hard of a problem for me to move clubs,” Slefendorfas said. “I had only heard of good things about Serge.”
Slefendorfas has been thrilled with his decision to sign ever since, getting what he expected and more from his short time at Werribee City.
“It’s a very family sort of a feel down there,” he said. “It’s such an enjoyable group to get along with – everyone is fun, everyone is happy.
“In any kind of environment, whether it be sport or business, the more enjoyable it is, the better you’ll perform.”
The attacking midfielder is hoping his form on the pitch with the Bees translates into more international caps with his country of birth, Papua New Guinea.
Slefendorfas was set to play for PNG after a three-week training camp recently, but a hold-up with his passport cost him the chance.
“The opportunity is still there – all the paperwork is in, but I’m waiting on a passport at the moment,” he said. “I should be with the team for the Pacific Mini-Games they’re holding in Vanuatu later this year.”
Slefendorfas was born in Port Moresby and moved to Cairns aged seven.
His dad represented PNG in rugby league and Australian rules as a member of touring parties that came to Australia.
As a kid, he followed the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL and Essendon in the AFL, but soccer was not really on the radar until later on.
“There was nothing to do with soccer at all,” he said.
Good thing for Slefendorfas that he eventually discovered the world game – it’s become his ticket to see the world.
He has already represented PNG and played club soccer in Sweden and New Zealand – and there is still plenty of time left in his career for more PNG national team appearances.
“I’ve been travelling for the last eight or nine years,” Slefendorfas said. “I guess I’ve been real lucky and blessed on that front.
“I always try to challenge myself in different cultures and different lifestyles.”
The good news for Werribee City is that he is in no hurry to leave Galvin Park.
He is settled in Melbourne and already feels comfortable with the Bees’ “family”.
“It’s definitely the bunch of people I really want to be around longer,” he said.
“They’ve been really good to me and I feel like I’m doing the right thing by helping them win some of these battles we have gone through and we have a few more coming up.”
Werribee City will travel to Epsom on Saturday evening to face bottom side Bendigo City.
The Bees will be looking to bounce back quickly after a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Dandenong City on Saturday night.
It was the Bees’ first loss since May 28.