MINNIECON | Making It Count

From injury to home-sickness Tahj Minniecon has defeated many personal demons and is now ready to make every second count.

Australia has long been linked with sport, hosting a number of major international sporting events, as such, it only makes sense that most Australians spend Australia Day participating in or watching sport with families and friends.

With the Hyundai A-League's progression and growth, football is quickly becoming a large part of Australian culture and with it, is celebrated on Australia Day.

New South Wales will celebrate the beautiful game when the NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers and Perth Glory meet today at Pirtek Stadium. However, instead of enjoying the company of those closest to him, the Wanderers' Tahj Minniecon will continue a football journey that has seen him deal with the struggles of being away from home.

Born in Cairns and growing up in Brisbane, Minniecon spent the first 22 years of his life living and playing football in Queensland surrounded by the support of family, a very important aspect of his life.

"When I grew up, my family was very close together - that's going from my grandparents to my uncles, aunties and cousins," Minniecon said.

"I've always had my mum to keep me grounded - she's been excellent.

"She raised me as a single parent, took me to trainings, games; she sacrificed a lot of her time for myself and my career.

"She's definitely my inspiration."

Although his mother played a large role in his development Minniecon has also had the support of a number of other family members.

"I have two younger sisters. One is 20; she's hard at times but I'm thankful for her.

"She sacrificed a lot of her time when we were growing up to come along to training and games. I'm thankful for her - she's a blessing.

"I also have a baby sister. She's beautiful."

Minniecon's grandfather played a major role in another source of inspiration in his career and life: religion.

"My grandfather is a preacher; he ran his own church in Brisbane for a bit and when I was younger I was always at church," Minniecon said.

"He was always preaching and I was always singing songs. It's a major influence in my career and I have a big belief in God and Jesus."

"I go to church a lot, or as much as I can. I'm very religious. Most of my tattoos are of my religious beliefs."

A tribute to Minniecon's religion, family and roots are on display in the form of tattoos with the winger sporting an array of ink ranging from his favourite Bible scriptures, shared tattoos with family and friends and a tribute to his tribe, the Kabikabi tribe, north of Brisbane.

With such strong family ties in Queensland, the transition from playing with Brisbane Roar and moving from the now defunct Gold Coast United to Western Sydney has not been without its problems.

"The first five or six months down here was probably the hardest time of my life. I had no family and no friends.

"I got used to Sydney. It was difficult at first but I guess every footballer has to do the same thing.

"I lost a lot of ties back home. I obviously couldn't visit my mum whenever I wanted so those kind of things are difficult but every footballer has to make the same sacrifices if they want to pursue their dreams."

The transition has been difficult at times and having fully experienced the hardships that come with moving away from home Minniecon acknowledged that the often-required distance between young indigenous players and families is enough to keep some from chasing the dream.

"It's difficult for indigenous players to move away from home - I've experienced it myself.

"It's difficult to break away and to go live in another city, another state or even overseas is very difficult for most.

"It's easy to get homesick but the outcome and the result in the end are always going to be very nice and you'll obviously help your family a lot more if you pursue your dreams.

"I'd love to inspire young indigenous kids to follow their dreams."

Although his personal transition has been testing, Minniecon has formed new bonds and found new sources of inspiration in New South Wales.

"I live with Jerrad Tyson and Josh Barresi. We get along brilliantly and it just feels like a home away from home.

"The fans, the administration, the coaching staff - everyone, we all get along.”

The support of the Wanderers fans is second-to-none in Australia and aside from creating an electric atmosphere, they play a large role in players like Minniecon dealing with hardships.

"The fans are unbelievable. Even when I was injured and putting little Tweets out or Instagram pictures of my foot, there was so much support.

"It just makes you feel wanted and that's a big thing for a footballer.

"When you're on the field and it's the last 20 or 30 minutes and you can hear them screaming, it's unbelievable the amount of adrenaline and energy they give to you.

"I'd definitely call Western Sydney my second home."

With a large part of his career still before him, Tahj Minniecon is slowly working towards finding a regular place in the Wanderers team. However, with the continued support of head coach Tony Popovic, the staff, his teammates and the red and black supporters, Minniecon is sure to continue his development and push through the barriers of distance.