Leigh Tsoumerkas looks back on the 1996 Grand Final

A former Heidelberg United defender that played with his heart and soul for his club, going to extreme lengths when his teammates needed him the most. These are the qualities of Leigh Tsoumerkas, who was an integral part of the Warriors from the mid-90s to the early 2000s.

Tsoumerkas started his journey at Heidelberg as a ball boy who looked up to the players, dreaming one day he would wear the famous black and yellow jersey.

Ahead of the NPL Victoria Round 6 clash against Altona Magic, Tsoumerkas talked about the emotions of playing the VPL final against our upcoming opposition in 1996, playing in front of loyal supporter bases.

“It was amazing, there was an air of excitement knowing that there was going to be a few thousand people watching you at what I would call back then a proper football ground at Bob Jane,” he said.

“Being a Heidelberg boy there was a few nerves – there is not one word to describe it, something I dreamed of doing from a young age.”

With his family and friends at the Grand Final in the stands, it was his biggest inspiration for him to do well and also being adjudged from the media as being one of the best players on the pitch was also an influence on him.

“With my family and friends knowing that from a very young age I was a Heidelberg boy through and through, l walked out with an air of confidence being able to produce on the big day,” he said.

“Going by myself and going by the papers and the media I was adjudged one of the best on the ground so not wanting to let anyone down was my big motivating factor that day.”

Tsoumerkas mentioned the feelings of a rollercoaster ride in extra time that he was involved in.

“The feeling was that we are fit and capable enough to win the game. Unfortunately I gave away a penalty but then I helped get the equaliser,” he said.

“There was the good and the bad. That was exactly 30 minutes of my life just then in that space of extra time.”

Despite Altona defeating Heidelberg in the penalty shootout, Tsoumerkas explained the lessons he took from that final at Bob Jane stadium.

“You learn a lot of lessons, one is you got to pick yourself up because at that stage I was young. I probably had my head down too long after the game,” he said.

“Contributing to their goal from the penalty was very disheartening and emotionally distressing for me at the time.

“I used that hardship of a loss to be the best I can be at Collingwood Warriors – you keep trying and go again.”

Written by Alex Bagdasarian