With the greatest football tournament on the planet now just days away, we caught up with Australia Captain Mile Jedinak to talk Russia, that hat-trick and supporting DT38.
The 33-year-old is about to take part in his third FIFA World Cup and second as Socceroo’s skipper.
There’s no shying away from it, the assignment is tough.
Awaiting the boys from Down Under in Mother Russia for the group stage are the star-studded French, Christian Eriksen’s Denmark and Peru, who emerged with a flourish from the South American qualifying “group of death”.
But despite the tricky fixtures, Mile – the Patron of DT38 Foundation – believes his comrades have nothing to fear; they plan to treat the French to a healthy dose of propre médecine!
“Regardless of who we’re playing, getting on the front foot is the Australian way,” he revealed.
“We always try and take it to the opponent, it’s something that we relish and we’re really looking forward it.
“There are no boundaries with us as a group and we are not going to put any limits on how far we can go.
“Of course you have to take one game at a time but thinking outside the box you want to go as far as you can.
“We are not just going out there to make up the numbers and we will definitely be taking that thought process and mentality into the tournament”.
Prior to 2006 the Aussies had only qualified for the World Cup once, in 1974, but since the trip to Germany 12 years ago the nation has made it to the finals every four years.
We asked Mile why there has been such a dramatic improvement in recent years.
“I think prior to the 2006 we did get close so many times,” he said.
“Growing up in that era and seeing how many times we didn’t make it and how much hurt that brought towards football fans out there in Australia, I think whoever was going to do that first it would always need to be extra special.
“At that time we had the golden generation, as they say, and the boys were playing at an extremely high level.
“They were the flag-bearers back then and they achieved something really special in qualifying.
“Subsequently we ended up moving into the Asian Confederation and that’s never been an easy feat but we’ve found out feet as a nation in those qualifiers and been able to maintain the standards that we set for ourselves and it’s now time to try and make an impact at the finals.”
Despite the 10,000km distance, it is anticipated that a large number of passionate green and gold fans will make the trip to eastern Europe for the event, which runs from June 14 to the final on July 15.
The visible and vocal support of Australian fans means a lot to Mile and the boys.
“Wherever we’re playing the support is unreal,” he revealed.
“It just brings that pride out just to see how many people are behind you and it brings out that responsibility of making sure that we give the absolute best account of ourselves at all times.
“Anyone who has had the honour of representing their country at any level, it’s always a huge honour and something that stays with you forever.
“To do it at a World Cup, to be captain at the World Cup, it’s pretty hard to describe.
“Just an immense amount of pride are the words that come to mind and it’s a sense of responsibility to make sure you and your team mates give the best possible account of yourselves when you’re going into playing at such a huge event.”
In fact, it was the Aston Villa man’s hat-trick in a 3-1 victory against Honduras back in November that cemented the Socceroo’s place in the 32-team tournament.
But with 75 caps under his belt (and 18 goals), age is starting to catch up the father of three; does he believe Russia 2018 will be his last appearance on the biggest stage of all?
“One thing I’d say in football is never say never, you never know.
“You look at someone like Tim (Cahill) and you see what he’s been through how he’s doing and it gives you a lot of encouragement.”
Tim Cahill is about to kick off his fourth World Cup campaign representing Australia at the age of 38.
Since DT38 Foundation was launched in 2015 – following the tragic passing of Dylan Tombides the year before – Mile has been a staunch supporter of the charity’s mission to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
Had Dylan not lost his battle with the disease at the age of 20, Mile believes it is highly likely the striker would have featured at Russia 2018.
He said: “If it all fell into place I have no doubt he would have been there.
“If the development continued in the way that it was and how highly rated he was then, I think it would have been a big possibility he’d be there and I don’t just say that lightly.
“It’s with my football brain that I’m speaking there and that’s my honest opinion.”
Dylan played for West Ham United and had represented Australia up to under-23 level prior to his passing.
Mile – a close friend of the Tombides family – is keen to spread the word about the importance of men checking themselves on a regular basis for signs of testicular cancer.
He said: “Having an awareness and understanding of your body even if it feels a little awkward is so important.
“You just need to know that it’s normal to check yourself, remember, it could save your life.
“The awareness that DT38 is raising through their ongoing campaigns and the mobile scans they are arranging at certain events are fantastic.
“The more we talk about testicular cancer and the more we check ourselves or get checked, the better chance we will all have in picking up the signs of this disease.”
For more information about how to check yourself for testicular cancer click here