At 21, Nikolai Topor-Stanley was at a crossroads in his footballing journey.
The inaugural A-League season commenced in 2005 and Topor-Stanley was without a club.
Topor-Stanley was a full-time student, studying sports administration and doors were opening which could have led him away from football.
His degree presented employment opportunities which offered job security and a steady income.
Topor-Stanley had to make a decision.
“It got to a point where I had to question if I could make it,” Nikolai Topor-Stanley said.
“I had minus dollars in the bank account and the tolls were chasing me because I couldn’t pay.
“So, I was really struggling for a time there and I had to think was it worth it.”
However, the tall stature defender persevered and remained resolute to making it professional.
Topor-Stanley’s patience would be tested but his determination was not to be deterred.
“I trialled at Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory,” Topor-Stanley said.
“I just wanted to get my foot in the door.”
Despite the rejection, Topor-Stanley’s opportunity to play in Australia’s premier footballing competition was realised when Sydney FC offered him a short-term contract as an injury replacement.
“Through someone else’s misfortune, I was able to get my chance.” Topor-Stanley said.
Topor-Stanley has come a long way since making his professional debut.
Born to a Mauritian father and a German-Polish mother, Topor-Stanley’s parents have always been there for him.
At 36, he often reflects on their immigration experiences to Australia to grasp how fortunate he is.
“My mum came from nothing,” Topor-Stanley said.
“She jumped from migrant camp to migrant camp.
“My dad put himself through university and my parents worked hard to give me and my brother the best possible life.”
Since becoming a father himself and a senior figure in the team, he can now recognise the crucial role his parents played in his football journey.
“I would cringe when they gave the motivational talk but now that I’m a bit older I can see the life lessons that they gave me through their character and what they’ve been through,” Topor-Stanley said.
Today, Topor-Stanley has become an icon of the A-League and carries his strong will into every game and training session.
As a veteran of the game, Topor-Stanley leads by example and wants to direct the younger players coming through the ranks.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be extra vocal,” he said.
“I can lead by my actions, by my intensity in training.
“To show what a professional does.”
This is Topor-Stanley’s second stint at the Jets after first joining the Club in 2009.
Following 22 games for Hatta Club in the Emirate of Dubai, he returned to the Jets in 2017 and is as determined as he was all those years ago.
Winning silverware and reaching the highest level in Australian football is his priority.
“Every year I’m a footballer, I want to win an A-League title,” he said.
“If you have that ambition and that desire, you can make it possible.
“We showed that a couple of seasons ago.”
Topor-Stanley believes Newcastle has a strong footballing culture and wants to see continued footballing success in the Hunter.
“There’s been a rich history of football in this region,” Topor-Stanley said.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve added in a small way to this history.”