It’s hard to believe Ben Kantarovski is just 24. If the former Broadmeadow Magic youth player takes to the pitch this Saturday against Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park, he will equal Tarek Elrich as the Club’s all-time leading appearance maker in the Hyundai A-League with 134 games to his credit.
Having made his professional debut at only 16 years and 208 days way back in August 2008 against Central Coast Mariners at what was then known as EnergyAustralia Stadium, Kantarovski has featured for the Club in every season since.
The former Australian youth international says it will be an honour for him to draw level with his former teammate Elrich should he feature against Victory in Victoria this Saturday.
And he’s even received some friendly banter from the Adelaide United fullback in the lead up to round 8.
“To be from Newcastle and be able to have accrued so many games for Newcastle, my hometown Club, is a privilege and an honour at the same time,” Kantarovski said. “It’s still early in the season so hopefully I can make a few more appearances and build my number up.”
“He (Elrich) took me under his wing a bit when I started at the Club. He was a great player for Newcastle and you can see that in the career he has built for himself. So to reach the same number as him is a great accomplishment.”
“He actually messaged me and said ‘you finally got there mate’, so we’ve had a bit of a laugh about that this week,” he said.
Kantarovski --- whose brother Michael has also represented the Club in the Hyundai A-League in 2015 --- was still at school when he started training full-time with the Jets as an apprentice in 2007.
Being on the periphery of the Club’s Championship winning squad of 2008 provided the impressionable Kantarovski with the unique opportunity to learn so much about the game at a young age.
This education deepened when he traversed East Asia representing the Jets in the 2009 version of the continent’s premier Club competition, the AFC Champions League, at just 17.
“It was an experience,” Kantarovski said of being involved with the Club’s first team as a teenager.
“Still being at school, studying, and being able to represent Newcastle and play football at a professional level was surreal.”
“I didn’t take things for granted back then, but I look back now and realise the things that the higher-end professionals did and what it takes to be at that level.”
“When we were in the AFC Champions League we had a lot of great and experienced players --- to see how they did things was a great privilege.”
“I was an apprentice for the whole season in 2007/08 and while I didn’t get on to the field I was happy to be a part of that culture and see what it is, and what it takes, to be a Champion.”
If Kantarovski sees game time this weekend, he will have the opportunity to become the standalone record holder when Newcastle host Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday 4 December.