BACKYARD games at the Petratos family home in Bankstown were something to behold. Full-on.
Dimi, the eldest of four siblings, would team up with Yerasimakis, seven years his junior and the youngest in the football-obsessed Greek family.
At the other end of the yard – the pitch – were middle brothers Stavros and Kosta.
They would battle for hours. Father, Angelo, a former defender with Sydney Olympic in the NSL, was arbitrator. Mum, Chris, the timekeeper, with the onset of darkness normally the signal for full-time.
“The games were pretty intense,” said Dimi, who along with Kosta is part of a refuelled Newcastle Jets. “I’d like to say we won most of them.”
It wasn’t just a field of dreams. It was a virtual football factory.
Angelo operates a five-a-side football business in Bankstown. Anything and everything the boys needed to develop and hone their skills was at their bootlaces.
Dimi was the “lucky one”. He made made his first-grade debut, aged 16, alongside his dad at Penrith Nepean in 2009, before a year later teaming up again for home club Sydney Olympic.
“Seeing Dimi and my dad play together was a big thing,” Kosta said.
Kosta may have missed out on sharing the same field as his dad, who was 40 when he first teamed up with Dimi. But the 19-year-old is the doing next best thing: forging an A-League career at the Jets alongside his brother and star midfielder, Dimi.
“Little brother” Yerasimakis is in the Central Coast youth team. They all came through the Sydney Olympic junior system.
“Dad was a massive influence,” Dimi said. “Everyone looked up to him. He taught us a lot over the years.”
The “ultra-competitive” siblings now share an apartment in Hamilton with their respective partners. Dimi is married to Samantha, whom he wed last year. Kosta is engaged to Jessica. They each met their sweethearts at school. “It is the first time we have lived together outside of home,” Dimi said. “We are lucky we have our wives with us. They look after most things. We concentrate on football.”
The brothers joined forces on Tuesday night for the first time since childhood when the Jets took on Weston at Bear Park in their first hit-out of the pre-season. It was a proud moment. “I know Mum and Dad will be looking forward to it,” Dimi said.
Both boys play up front and maraud down the channels. Playing position is not the only similarity. Kosta has longer locks, but his mannerisms and the way he goes at defenders, you could be watching Dimi.
“Other people say we do similar things,” Kosta said. ‘We grew up together and had similar training methods. It would be good to score a couple of bombs like Dimi.”
Although beginning their football journey at the same starting point, the brothers have taken different paths to get to Newcastle and the Jets.
Kosta had two years at the Football Federation Australia Centre Of Excellence (formerly the AIS), where he boarded with a family and represented the Joeys. He signed with Perth Glory in 2015 and made nine A-League appearances in two years in the West.
Dimi, a youth international at under-17, 20s and 23s, skipped the AIS to play alongside his father. He made his A-League debut for Sydney FC three days shy of his 18th birthday in a 1-0 win over the Jets at Allianz Stadium.
He joined Brisbane in 2013-14, but it wasn’t until a breakout season in 2015-16, helping propel the Roar to a preliminary final, that his star truly rose.
Dimi and Kosta signed with the Jets in January. However, less than two weeks later, the elder brother accepted an offer from Korean club Ulsan Hyundai, netting the Jets a $150,000 fee.
Six months on and the brothers are finally reunited.
“We always wanted to play alongside each other in the A-League,” Dimi said. “We want to work hard, be competitive and make finals. That is why you play, you want to win.”
Especially in the backyard against your brothers.
* NEWCASTLE winger Andrew Nabbout has reportedly attracted the interest of United Arab Emirates club Al-Dhafra. SBS website said on Thursday that the Jets have already knocked back one offer for Nabbout but might consider a transfer fee of $650,000.
Nabbout scored eight goals in 24 games after joining the Jets last season. He and fellow winger Andrew Hoole, who has joined Central Coast, were Newcastle’s main attacking threats.