TRENT Sainsbury has replaced Football Hall of Fame Legend Gary Marocchi as the WA-born player who has captained the Australian international team on the most occasions.
Marocchi led the Aussies twice in 1978, but Sainsbury has now worn the skipper’s armband three times – and, as an added bonus, he boasts a 100 per cent success record.
The 26-year-old classy defender made his third appearance as captain in the recent international friendly against Lebanon, which the Socceroos won 3-0.
He had previously led the side in two friendlies in Europe earlier this year before the start of the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
With regular captain Mile Jedinark struggling with injury, Sainsbury was handed the lead role by then Socceroos coach Bert Van Marwijk for the game against the Czech Republic on June 1 which the Aussies won 4-1.
He retained the captain’s position for the next challenge game a week later against Hungary, which the Aussies won 2-1 despite Sainsbury gifting his opponents an own goal after a mix-up between himself and keeper Brad Jones.
A fit-again Jedinak regained the captaincy for the three World Cup finals games against France, Denmark and Peru. Sainsbury played in all three contests.
Jedinak has since retired from the international scene, so Sainsbury is now vying for the regular captain’s role with fellow defender Mark Milligan, who led the Socceroos in the 1-1 draw with South Korea recently.
Sainsbury was born in Thornlie and played juniors with Armadale before gaining a spot in Perth Glory’s youth team and then obtaining a scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
He joined A-League club Central Coast Mariners as an 18-year-old in 2010, before going to Europe to play for Dutch side PEC Zwolle. He then had a spell in China with Jiangsu Suning and had a couple of loan spells with Inter Milan (he was the first Aussie to play in their senior side) and Grasshoppers of Zurich.
In August, 2018, he joined top Dutch side PSV Eindhoven after being head-hunted by coach Mark Van Bommel, who was assistant to van Marwijk in Australia’s World Cup matches.
Sainsbury won his first senior Aussie cap in 2014. He was Man of the Match in the Socceroos Asian Cup Final victory over South Korea in 2016 and has now represented Australia 41 times at the top level.
Subiaco-born Gary Marocchi represented Australia 16 times, including a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Iran in front of 100,000 in a World Cup qualifier in Tehran in 1977.
The following year he was called on to lead the Socceroos in an international challenge series against Greece.
Marocchi captained the side in the opening two games, which the Greeks won narrowly, but injury prevented him from playing in the final game of the three-match series.
Another Hall of Fame Legend, Northern Ireland-born Ron Adair, has also captained the Socceroos.
He led the national team in a B international against Scottish club side Hearts at the WACA Ground in 1959, and also in a clash with another European club team, Rapid Vienna, in Adelaide in 1955.
PIC ONE: Sainsbury in action against Denmark. PIC TWO: Sainsbury gets away a header against Peru, with another West Aussie, Josh Risdon, in the background. PIC THREE: Marocchi in his playing days. PIC FOUR: Marocchi (centre middle row) in the 1976 Socceroos squad.