When he was just seven, Joey Katebian took his first steps inside the Veneto Club in Melbourne’s North East.
He was joining the Bulleen Lions, a club that had recently seen Michael Theoklitos graduate to professional football with Football Kingz, while Mark Bresciano was embarking on a foray into the Serie A with Parma after a journey that had – to that point – spanned Bulleen, Carlton in the NSL, and Empoli in Serie B.
It was also the same club that would later see Mathew Leckie rise through the ranks before signing at Adelaide United and forging a career in Germany and with the Socceroos.
For Katebian, however, it was the beginning of a 12 year odyssey that saw his love for the game, along with a knack of scoring goals, grow in equal measure.
As a 10-year-old, he refused to travel to England for a family wedding to avoid letting down his teammates by missing out on two games.
At 15, on the day he was supposed to walk his mother down the aisle, he played in the Manchester Cup and forced the bridal party to wait while he was running late.
After making a senior debut as a 16-year-old, his development culminated in National Youth League stints at both Melbourne clubs, along with a maiden NPL 1 season yielding 26 goals, a Football Federation Victoria Golden Boot, and an offer from Victory to switch to their NPL side.
It’s no surprise that the now 20-year-old credits the club for providing him a platform to showcase his talent from a young age.
“It was just the game time, I was given and the opportunity,” Katebian says.
“Bulleen gave me the chance to develop technically such as my dribbling and touch, and I worked hard in the gym outside of Bulleen.
“I’ve always had an eye for scoring, but at senior level I kept improving.”
While the decision to leave his childhood club was a heavy cross to bear, at Victory Katebian proved he wasn’t a one season wonder.
His reputation continued to soar with 33 goals in 2015, earning the youngster the captaincy following Thomas Deng’s elevation to the senior team, a second consecutive FFV Golden Boot, and a Player’s Player of the Year award.
The striker’s goalscoring form was rewarded with a maiden senior appearance in the FFA Cup against Rockdale City Suns.
He then made an A-League debut in Round 7, coming off the bench against Central Coast Mariners for fellow youth star George Howard, who had deputised for an injured Besart Berisha in the starting XI.
— Melbourne Victory (@gomvfc) September 1, 2015
Katebian became another ex-Bulleen player to make the step up to a national league competition.
“It was excellent, I got my call up and took my opportunity, I’m thankful to Victory for giving me that, and hopefully another one soon,” Katebian says.
“When we conceded [a late goal in the 2-1 win] I thought, “Is the boss going to put me on?” but he did, he gave me the chance and we ended up winning, so I was happy with that.
“Making the debut gave me great confidence, training with the first team is good, they’re much sharper, you have players around you that have played overseas and are very experienced so I’m looking forward to the future.”
After recently turning 20, Katebian’s case for a professional contract continues to strengthen.
Having made a couple of senior appearances following two state seasons yielding an unrivaled scoring ratio, the striker has added six goals from four games in the NYL, often under the watchful eye of Kevin Muscat.
With the club already promoting the likes of Deng, Howard and youth goalkeeper Lucas Spinella to senior deals, Katebian believes he can be the next in line.
“Everything’s going to plan at the moment, I’m just training well, keeping fit and doing the team thing, and it’s good,” Katebian says.
“He [Muscat] comes to our games and he’s good, has a look, gives the young boys a few pointers, and he brings us in to training with them and gives us a lot of confidence coming into the youth games as well.
“Obviously the boss has given [Deng and Howard] a contract and a massive opportunity and they’ve both taken it very well, George got his start against the Mariners and he did very well, I know they were very happy with him.
“He gives young players a go and that’s why we’ve improved a lot, especially in the youth team, with a lot of confidence.
“They [coaches] just say keep scoring, keep fit, do the team thing, keep working at training, as the captain you’ve got to lead the team.
“I just want to finish this season off on a high and obviously try and break into that first team, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
And while a prolific scorer can carry a reputation of being selfish, unhinged and putting themselves ahead of the side, Katebian remains modest, acknowledging the importance of his teammates to the role he plays within a team’s structure.
“I can’t take all the credit, it’s the players around you, they give you goals on a platter and obviously they work hard,” Katebian admits.
“I have to work hard to get in the positions, but if it’s not for the assists I don’t score, so it’s not just me, it’s my teammates.”
With Katebian’s star on the rise, the Victory #33 shirt – his lucky number, worn throughout his time at Bulleen and tattooed on his ankle – may just be a number that features more often on the national stage in the future.