Peter Yannopoulos has grown up with the Inner West Hawks FC throughout his life and career and the stalwart is looking to continue that presence going forward.
The Hawks’ forward has tallied over 120 first-grade appearances and almost 50 goals for the club since his first-grade debut for the club eight years ago, having made his debut playing in the Under 13’s.
He represented the Greek-Cypriot founded club at every youth level, from the under-13s to the under-18’s, including a Premiership victory with the under-15s.
Following that, Yannopoulos moved to the Gladesville Ryde Magic for a few years, where he made his first-grade debut at 17 years old, before he moved back to the Hawks.
He was at the Hawks for a few more years, before he left once more; however, two years later, Yannopoulos returned to the Hawks.
“[The] first year that I came back [in 2019], we won the [NPL 3 Men’s title]; we had a very good year, that year.
“I scored a lot of goals that year.”
Being at the Hawks is where Yannopoulos wants to be, as he captained the club during the 2020-22 seasons.
“I don’t see myself leaving, to be honest.
“[I’ve] seen a lot of players and a lot of coaches come through… it’s such a good club to be at.”
Growing up, Yannopoulos had many sporting heroes who influenced him growing up; growing up an Arsenal fan in the English Premier League, one of his answers was instant.
“It has to be Thierry Henry,” Yannopoulos smiled.
The legendary Arsenal forward scored 228 goals and racked up 103 assists across 376 matches with the club and Yannopoulos explained why the Frenchman inspired him growing up.
“[I’m a] massive Arsenal fan… I fell in love with him, I even got myself a framed jersey from him, that had to be done,” Yannopoulos laughed.
Being an attacking player, there was one football icon Yannopoulos wanted to model his playing style growing up.
“It would have probably been [Lionel] Messi, because I’m not the tallest person going around.
“I used to watch him a lot and try to mimic him, dribbling around all those defenders and getting in behind.”
Speaking on the Hawks, Yannopoulos spoke on how it feels to represent the club every week.
“[I’m] very proud, I love this club.
“It means a lot to me, obviously playing through their youth at every level there and [I] just love putting on the jersey.
“Making people happy in the stands for the ones that come every week, the “oldies”, as we call them.”
The Hawks currently sit in 13th at the time of writing, with two wins from 11 matches, but are looking to push on.
“They’ve watched me grow up throughout the years, so it feels good to make them happy once we win a game and hopefully we can push on a bit this year and get our season back on track.
“There’s a lot of good boys around in this club who are very close-knit.”
Speaking on the direction and hope for the Hawks moving forward, Yannopoulos is optimistic of the Hawks reaching their goal of being promoted in the near future.
“We recently had a coaching change… I think we just need to start again… it’s like a mini pre-season at the moment.
“But as long as we keep building, just be in every game, and get a result, whether that’s a draw or a win, hopefully next year, we can build upon getting promoted.
“I think that’s the goal around here, we’re building something for the future.”
The club has a mix of youth and experience; Yannopoulos is a former youth who now has a lot of experience to share with those around him; the former captain talked about the leaders in the group.
“We’ve got Matthew Paras in there, who’s been around for a while now, Flo [Florim Binakaj] as well, Marcus [Apostolakis] is another defender I used to play with in the youth, as well.
“Sid [Sidhya Malhotra] at the back is very solid, we’ve also got Chris [Christopher Phillips] at left-back, he’s been around for a bit as well at the club.
“Oli [Oliver Stickland] is actually injured at the moment; he won a premiership with me in 2019, so waiting for him to come back, same with Tony Lowe and [Emanuel] Koumis.
“So we’ve got a good squad in there, a lot of experience and a lot of youth coming up, which is good to see.”
Yannopoulos also spoke on who inspires him outside of the sport as he looks to continue his footballing journey.
“Probably my fiancé, she’s pretty good.
“She encourages me a lot, I had a few difficult times recently, so she’s pulling me through, it’s good to have her alongside me for the journey.
“We’re getting married this year, so it’s a big year.”
Yannopoulos also spoke about his parents and how they inspired him growing up.
“They’re always at the games, my dad is also in the club now, so it’s good to have him around.”
Growing up at the club, Yannopoulos had a few players that pushed him along the way one being a former NSW Premier League Championship and Premiership winner Stefanos Liavas
“I know one player who helped me out when I was younger his name is Stefanos Liavas.
Liavis was club captain at the time Peter was coming through the ranks at the club.
“Coming through the club, he was always the one who took the time to speak to me, to see how I was going and when I made first-grade, he was very supportive.
“He always instructed me where to be and was always was good to me; [I] just had a lot of respect for him.
“Also, Sam Awad, who retired last year, he was another one who has been at the club for over 15 years; he was inspiring to play with, he was very good.”
Now 27, Yannopoulos has aided the development of some of the younger players at the club.
“Peter Phillips, he’s the younger brother of Chris, I am talking to him a lot, trying to improve his game, he plays on the wing or [as a] striker.
“He’s got a lot of potential, that one.”
As for the future players at the club Yannopoulos had a few to point out.
“I think Lawrence Claxton is one to watch at the moment, he’s just a beast, he’s so tall and a solid defender, no one can get past him.
“He’s definitely one for the future,”
“[He can play] right-back, right mid, he can even play centre-back, he’s definitely one to watch.”
As for the future of the club and where they want to be fighting in the next five years, Yannopoulos is hopeful of seeing the team continue to progress.
“Hopefully fighting for promotion in the higher leagues.
“We’ve got a base of experienced players who are at the club, had been for a couple of years now and with a lot of youth coming through.
“I think we can gel that together and be stable and we can progress throughout the leagues and get the club to where it belongs.
“It’s got a rich history and deserves to be in a higher league.”
Yannopoulos has called Inner West Hawks FC his footballing home for most of his life and is happy to play for the club week-in-week-out.
“I love it, I’ve still got the adrenaline in me every week and I love it.
“I love the club and I love playing with these boys.”
Peter Yannopoulos has been a stalwart of Inner West Hawks FC for many years and is hoping for more success for the club into the future.
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Writer, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta