Retro Corner – The Rukavytsya Enigma


The Rukavytsya Enigma.

No, not the title of Dan Brown’s latest bestseller, but rather a description of one of the most mercurial players to have represented Glory in the Hyundai A-League era.

The club’s fans were treated to glimpses of the striker’s potential when he featured on several occasions towards the tail end of the 2006-07 season.

But it wasn’t until the following year that the man who moved to Perth from Ukraine at the age of 14 really announced himself.

And as we approach Sunday’s clash with the Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium, it’s particularly fitting that if you’re looking for a breakthrough moment, a single performance when Rukavytsya announced himself to the wider football world, you need look no further than Glory’s handsome 4-1 win in the Hunter Valley in November 2007.

If ever the WA side needed a victory, it was then.

An 11-game winless run to start the season had cost Ron Smith his job and with more than a little help from Nikita, Dave Mitchell’s tenure as Glory boss got off to a spectacular start.

Andrew Durante’s own-goal gifted the visitors the lead, only for Joel Griffiths to restore parity early in the second half.

Given their atrocious form, Glory fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst at that point, but Jordan Simpson swiftly made it 2-1 and then Nikita strode boldly onto centre stage.

His first goal was an instinctive finish in a crowded box, the young forward unusually using his right foot to steer the loose ball home from close-range.

Then, in stoppage-time, he capped a searing break from Jimmy Downey by gleefully beating an exposed Ante Covic, prompting wild scenes of celebration on the Glory bench.

You can view the highlights of the game HERE.

The pace he showed to keep up with Downey was a foretaste of what was to come from the man who would go on to score a further 14 goals for the club ahead of a move to FC Twente in Holland’s Eredivisie.

18 Socceroos caps would duly follow for Rukavytsya whose career has now taken him to Israel where he continues to ply his trade for Maccabi Haifa.

But for Glory fans of a certain vintage, the prevailing image of him will surely always be the electrifying pace that left defenders trailing in his wake, their feet seemingly mired in treacle as he eased past.

This was a man blessed with the kind of speed that turns an over-hit through-ball into an inch-perfect assist.

Yes, his finishing wasn’t always the most clinical and yes, his reluctance to use his right foot could be infuriating, but the glorious sight of Ruka in full flight made all that fade away.

An enjoyable enigma indeed.