Veteran APIA Leichhardt Tigers star Franco Parisi has revealed losing the Premiership on the final day of the season was like a “massive slap to the face” but believes the pain of defeat will bring his side closer together ahead of the finals series.
Despite going into the final round in top spot and heavy favourite to take out the National Premier Leagues NSW Premiership for the second straight year, APIA suffered a shock 3-1 loss to Hakoah Sydney City which opened the door for Sydney Olympic to take out the title.
It was a heartbreaking result for the Lambert Park based side after what had been a historic season for the club.
However, Parisi is determined to shift the team’s focus from the disappointment of defeat and hopes to help motivate his side to Grand Final glory.
“Last week’s defeat was understandably very tough on the squad. Everyone was hurting after the loss as it was not the way we wanted the close out what had been such a great season,” he said.
“These things happen in Football and you can’t let it stay with you. I’ve tried my best this week to encourage the boys to look towards the finals series and use the disappointment as a motivator.
“There is no way anyone in the team wants to experience anything like that again and we now have a great opportunity where we can make up for it during the finals.”
If APIA are to make a splash in the finals Parisi will be one of the main reasons behind that success as he takes on a feature role for Billy McColl’s side for the playoffs.
A legend of the club, 35-year-old Parisi has played 12 seasons for APIA since signing for the club after departing A-League team New Zealand Knights in 2007.
Parisi has been limited to a super-sub role in recent seasons but a reshuffle in the forward line, after the departure of record goal scorer Jordan Murray, has meant the experienced midfield maestro will once again be his side’s primary creative outlet.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity and one that I was delighted to take on,” Parisi said.
“I had played some key FFA Cup games which gave the team confidence that my return to the starting line-up wouldn’t ruin their chemistry.
“While I have been playing less minutes the past few seasons I feel like my role in the team is much larger than just my time on the pitch.
“I feel like I’ve played a big part in all our recent successes so the only difference now is I will be able to contribute more physically.”
While he admits he is not the same player he was when he first joined APIA, Parisi does not think his age will stop him from being a game changer throughout the finals series.
“While I may not have the same physicality as I used to, my strengths have always been my vision and touch,” he said.
“This team is blessed with great football players who have great speed and can get into dangerous positions. It makes my job much easier and really allows me to get the most out of my skills.”
APIA will take on Sydney United 58 in the first week of the finals but are not expecting a repeat of their round 20 result against The Reds where the Tigers cruised to a 6-2 victory.
“Sydney United have come a long way this season and we aren’t looking too much at the last time we faced-off,” he said.
“Semi-final football is a completely different beast to regular season games so anything less than our best will put us at risk of defeat.”
“Matches against United 58 are always tough encounters but I’m confident we have what it takes to win.”