JUST 12 months ago, former Gawler Eagle Riley McGree was in and out of Adelaide United’s squad and was expecting to “maybe get some minutes here and there” this A-League season.
Unsurprisingly, his recent call-up to the national team came as a huge shock.
At just 18 years old, the Reds’ midfielder has the chance to become the third youngest player to debut for the Socceroos after he was named in Australia’s 23-man FIFA World Cup qualifying squad on Monday, which is set to face Iraq, in Tehran, next week, and the United Arab Emirates, in Sydney, on March 28.
The former Xavier College student said he definitely wasn’t expecting the call-up, but is grateful for the opportunities presented to him.
“Honestly, I was a bit lost for words; I didn’t really know what to say,” McGree said.
“I didn’t really think it was true, to be honest.
“It’s, obviously, a great opportunity for me, being very young.”
McGree was promoted to Adelaide United’s senior side in August last year after playing in the Reds’ youth team in 2015/16, and said his focus this season was to get some more time on-field with the first string team.
“Due to some unfortunate circumstances of injuries, and players leaving, I was thrown in at an earlier stage than I expected… (it) has helped me get where I am now,” he said.
The emerging talent has started in seven A-League matches this season, passing with 84 per cent accuracy.
McGree said his mum was “over the moon” and “screaming” when she found out about the announcement, while his dad was “really happy”.
But, the Gawler star said he would just take the experience “in his stride”.
“It will be a good experience, I will be able to learn from the coaching staff and from the players,” McGree said.
“I think I will just take it all in my stride and grow from the experience and, hopefully, do well if I get the opportunity (to play).”
McGree said growing up in Gawler, and playing for the Eagles, shaped him as a player.
“I think my development at Gawler has been a bit different to the city teams… it’s based around your ability to be an athlete, going in hard and throwing yourself around,” he said.
“Growing up in Gawler has definitely (contributed) to what my game is today.”