The ever-reliable Jacob Tratt has been a defensive force to be reckoned with since his return to Sutherland Sharks for their 2018 NPL NSW Men’s campaign.
The 23-year-old marshalled his backline to a hard-earned fourth clean sheet of the season on Saturday as the Sharks edged their way into the top five with a 2-0 victory over Sydney FC.
Grant Lee’s enthusiastic young squad are a team thriving off a positive internal morale which currently has them well positioned for their best seasonal performance since tabling second in 2013.
“I’m very happy with the morale of the club,” said Tratt.
“All the boys and the coaching staff get along so well.
“Morale is a big thing when it comes to enjoying your football, I feel you get your best performances when you’re happy.
“We’ve had ups and downs in terms of injuries and stuff like that, and I feel that once we get some boys back from injury then in the back half of the season we should be able to string together some back-to-back wins.
“Hopefully we’ll finish in the top five and push on for a good run in the finals.”
The weekend’s clash saw Tratt face off against his former side in Sydney FC, where the defender won the National Youth League back in 2013-14.
Facing a former employer is often a challenging experience, yet Tratt was more than up to the task as he rekindled fond memories with former teammates and coaches.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” smiled Tratt.
“Obviously there’s familiar faces there and guys I used to play alongside.
“Also, with Robbie Stanton I used to play under him during my first time at Sutherland, so I really enjoyed it and it was great to play against some familiar faces.
“But most of all I’m enjoying my football in general at the moment which is the main thing.”
After his time with Sydney FC Tratt would go on to play his part in Sydney United 58’s 2016 NPL NSW Men’s Premiership winning campaign before signing with Wellington Phoenix where he would be a regular starter for the 2016-17 A-League season.
Due to personal reasons the promising young defender then left the New Zealand-based club in April 2017, paving way for an eventual return to the Shire to get himself and his footballing career back on track.
The Dubbo-born defender is certainly on the right path, thriving in his former hunting ground to feature regularly in the Ultra Football Team of the Week whilst setting his sights on a future return to the A-League.
“Returning was an easy decision,” explained Tratt.
“Sutherland did give me that stepping stone (into senior football), and I had a bit of a journey professionally, but things didn’t quite work out.
“I actually went to a bit of a bad place and coming back to Sutherland kind of felt like home.
“They were able to get me back on track and get me back enjoying my football again.
“Along with that the drive has come back as well.
“With this club I’ll be able to get myself back to where I want to be and push to be back in the A-League sometime soon.”
“I would like to go back to the A-League.
“Wellington was not a bad place, it was more self-inflicted.
“In the headspace that I’ve found now and with the things that I’ve learned over the past year have put me in great stead to go back and be successful.”
Next up for the Sharks is a crunch match against eighth-placed Hakoah Sydney City East.
The Eastern Suburbs-based club will undoubtedly be seeking to leapfrog their opponents with an away win on Saturday night, a fact Tratt and co will certainly be aware of as they look to maintain their foothold in the top 5.
“It’s obviously a very important match,” said Tratt.
“As you can see the table is so close, if you win a couple of matches in a row you can be in the top 5 and if you lose a couple of games you could be coming last.
“It’s one of those leagues where everything is so tight, and anything can happen.
“It’s very important for us to turn up this weekend and get the three points to put us in good stead for the finals.”
See if Sutherland Sharks can push on with their charge to finals football when they host Hakoah Sydney City East this Saturday night. Kick off at Seymour Shaw at 6.30pm.
– By Michael Shoolman