Tarek Elrich (standing) reaches this weekend a remarkable milestone in his A-League career. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts, File)
There were 1,181 players who had appeared in the A-League since 2005, but only seven had the honor to assemble 250 performances.
- Tarek Elrich has played every season of the A-League since he started in 2005/06
- Elrich appeared for the Wanderers in their inaugural season
- He returned to Wanderers after a stand with Adelaide United
Perhaps even more impressive, only four players have appeared in each of the 14 A-League seasons.
Western Sydney Wanderers defender Tarek Elrich is one of these four and this Saturday against Brisbane Roar in Mudgee he becomes the eighth member of the 250-game Club.
"It's a huge honor to get that number and be on the list of players who have reached it," Elrich said.
"Bridgey (Wanderers striker Mark Bridge) and the boys bought it … I knew I was close to 250, but I did not know how close I was, so it's massive."
31-year-old Elrich is Western Sydney at the core.
He grew up with his three brothers and two sisters, less than five miles from the inaugural Western Sydney Wanderers home, the former Parramatta stadium, and spent his formative football years with the Parramatty Eagles.
As often happens, the game he loved dragged him away from his family, home.
First to Newcastle, then to Adelaide, although a short stop at the local A-League club when the Wanderers became pre-season 2012/13.
"When A-League first started, I did not have much opportunity to play," Elrich said.
"I think I played only 10 games in the first two seasons, and I only did my last stint for thinking of 11 performances."
Elrich's story is so different from the others.
His younger brother, Adham, was hit like a four-year-old car and stayed in the middle of his bed until he died at the age of 25 in 2015.
Elrich's elder brother Ahmad, a former English player of the Premier League, who was confined to Socceroos for 17 years, spent four years in prison from 2011 to 2015.
Elrich "likes to be home" in western Sydney
The family is everything for him, and the distance, both emotionally and geographically, between Adelaide and the western suburbs of Sydney has been aggravated last year, when his full back has broken his front cross and has had an uncertain future in the final period of his contract.
"Last year was a tough year in terms of injuries, I lost my contract, but it was not easy, very stressful time, but I'm glad to be home and that it's a huge milestone in my home club," said Elrich .
Tarek Elrich rejoined Wanderers again after a five-season season with Adelaide United. (AAP: Ben MacMahon, File)
The race for the 250 games was long and often lonely and occasionally seemed as if it had never been completed.
"I remember being in Newcastle when I was a young guy and the coach tried to get rid of him for the second season," Elrich said.
"You never know what's going on for you. We, the players when you're young, are pretty sure you'll have a long career, it will not be for all, so I'm very blessed."
Beginning his life as wings as his older brother, Elrich has evolved into one of A-League's most dependable full backs and now under the coach Wanderers Markus Babbel reappears in the center of defense.
"I started like a wing in Newcastle, I remember Mark Jones telling Gary van Egmond to play me on the right," he said.
"I stayed back totally back, right or left, and now I think with my age I slowly returned back to the middle.
"I do not know what message the coach sends me, but it's just about what I have to do for the team, and I really really enjoy it."
Elrich is one of Babbel's first players. He feels at home in the middle, behaves like at home with Wanderers, and he is mostly home with his family.
"I'm just glad I'm back from a knee injury that plays week by week and helps Wanderers hope he will succeed this season," he said.
"I know I'm one of those lucky guys who have been so long, and clubs have the belief of signing me and giving me the opportunity to put my shirt on nearly 250 games."