Andrew Cartanos on his motivation to give back to Box Hill United

By Theo Athans

Box Hill United Senior Men’s Assistant Coach Andrew Cartanos has had an interesting and fruitful career as a player, with a storied 11-year stint at South Melbourne and Heidelberg United in which he achieved plenty of on-field success.

Cartanos enters his first coaching gig with a wealth of recent playing experience that includes playing under legendary NPL manager George Katsakis, a demanding but successful manager that steered the ship in Heidelberg’s golden era.

Cartanos will no doubt have learned a tremendous amount from Katsakis – such as understanding how to control the football locker room and using proactive, attacking tactics to put pressure on every team he faced. Under current Box Hill Head Coach Tony Merakis, he will get a chance to be hands-on, whilst also still curating his managerial craft.

Cartanos discusses his experiences at Box Hill United, emphasising youth development success and shares insights into the challenges of transitioning from semi-pro to professional football.

The Heidelberg United golden era occurred right as the transition from VPL to NPL happened and manager George Katsakis led the team to glory over an extended period.

In the golden era, Heidelberg won a National NPL championship, a National Premier League title and secured back-to-back NPL Victoria Premierships in 2017 and 2018.

The club also competed in the quarters finals of the 2015 FFA cup, where they drew a crowd of 11,372 at home against Melbourne City. The club also defeated Perth Glory 1-0 at home in the Round of 32 just two seasons later in the 2017 FFA Cup.

Cartanos played at Heidelberg United for six seasons and discussed what it was like playing in that successful period.

“I was fortunate enough to be a part of that golden era at Heidelberg winning many trophies, being part of that historic squad and playing for a club that had a fantastic culture,” he said.

George Katsakis was the one pulling the strings at Heidelberg United and Andrew Cartanos mentioned that his aggressive management style was a huge factor in their success and has guided him on his coaching journey.

“We didn’t see eye to eye at first and maybe that was down to my maturity level, but as time passed and Heidelberg had success we gradually grew together and had a fantastic relationship,” he said.

“I can say I’m blessed to have worked under him, learned from him and now I can say he is a football friend that I can turn to with whatever I need football wise as well.”

Box Hill United are a club that has put a big emphasis on its youth development systems, from Miniroos up to the NPL Youth teams. The club provides a challenging but respectful environment that has seen past success in developing professional talent.


Andrew Cartanos looking forward to season 2024

Cartanos mentioned that the club’s junior system is a fantastic foundation for young footballers and that he was fortunate to learn off great coaches and players.

Kenny Athiu and Nick Ansell are two names that spring to mind when mentioning the Box Hill United development system and both featured for Melbourne Victory’s first team a number of times – the latter still plying his trade for Adelaide United.

“I had a couple of years here as a junior and it’s a different set up but the club have maintained the same values – obviously attitude is everything here, it’s so important to be nurtured through grassroots football and I think Box Hill do it better than most,” Cartanos said.

“The club have developed players who have gone on to play professionally like Anthony Carter and Nick Ansell which shows how important the Box Hill system is for young footballers.”

Cartanos spent his career in the NPL Victoria system and didn’t quite make it as a professional during his playing days, but he touched on how big the step up is between semi-pro and professional football in Australia through the players he has played with.


Andrew Cartanos with Tony Merakis at Wembley Park

“For me I don’t think it’s a technical step up but more so a tactical, attitude and worth ethic step up,” he said.

“It’s more physically demanding than NPL in certain aspects and that’s the big difference between a semi-pro and professional athlete.

“Being a professional athlete is not as easy as some make out, there’s obviously a big gap between the two and I saw that with Nick [Ansell] and Kenny [Athiu]. I obviously didn’t make that step up but from my perspective it comes from hard work and your consistent work ethic day in day out”

Finally, Cartanos touched on the similarities and differences between this current young Box Hill side and the successful Heidelberg team he played with.

“I don’t want to put down this team or the one I played with in Heidelberg, but these players are aspiring to do what we did there, and I do see the same qualities in a few players here which is a good sign,” he said.

“I definitely feel like they’ve got a long way to go but the attitude is great here – there’s no ego’s and the culture’s really good so it’s the start of what we had at Heidelberg.”

With his first season as Assistant Coach under Tony Merakis commencing soon, there is an optimistic outlook for the future of Box Hill United.