Football: Newcastle Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna says A-League debut beckons for Port Saints junior Angus Thurgate

Ticking the boxes: Port Saints junior Angus Thurgate is making an impression down at the Newcastle Jets. Photo: Sproule Sports Focus
Ticking the boxes: Port Saints junior Angus Thurgate is making an impression down at the Newcastle Jets. Photo: Sproule Sports Focus

ANGUS Thurgate continues to kick goals both on and off the pitch.

And if he keeps doing what he has been doing, he could soon be finding the back of the net in the Hyundai A-League.

It was something that appeared unlikely at the start of the season, although not totally out of the equation.

His rise has been so immense that Newcastle Jets chief executive and Youth League coach Lawrie McKinna has suggested it is now only a matter of time.

The 20-year-old has made an impression already this season – he scored a hat-trick in the Jets 6-3 Youth League win over Canberra United on December 3.

He could have added his name to the scoresheet the week before in a 1-1 draw with Sydney FC, but his goal was ruled out.

That’s not to mention the four goals in three games he scored for the Jets in a pre-season trip to China and as a result, more people are sitting up to take notice of the Port Saints junior.

Jets A-League coach Ernie Merrick has joined the growing list of football experts that have a high opinion of the attacking midfielder.

“Ernie [Merrick] is just over the moon how he’s come in and adapted to training with the first team,” McKinna said.

Ernie wouldn’t rule out maybe chucking Gus in on the bench one day because he’s doing well and deserves it.

Newcastle Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna

“I know we’ve got a few injuries, but Ernie wouldn’t rule out maybe chucking him in on the bench one day because he’s doing well and deserves it.”

McKinna, Merrick, Labinot Haliti and Joel Griffiths have kept a close eye on the former Mackillop College student, offering advice on how he can improve.

They see the under-15 Emerging Jet as a future A-League player.

“The fortunate thing for Gus is Ernie needed some players [to train] because of injuries,” McKinna said.

“Because he’s doing well with us, we promoted him because the days are gone now at the Jets where you go and train with the first team because you can.

“You have to earn the right to go to the first team to train.”

Attitude is a key indicator of how well-equipped a player can be to join an A-League squad and it’s something the Port Macquarie youngster has in spades.

“When you go [to train with the first team] you have to train well or you could be a one-session wonder and you’re back with the youth team,” McKinna said.

“His attitude is fantastic and he’s gone up to first grade and done very, very well; he’s done everything that’s been asked of him.”

McKinna said Thurgate was in the mould of former Jets captain Matt Thompson who wasn’t afraid of doing the hard yards.

Because he’s doing well with us, we promoted him because the days are gone now at the Jets where you go and train with the first team because you can.

Lawrie McKinna

“He’s an old-fashioned box-to-box midfielder,” he said.

“We put a GPS on him a few weekends ago and he came off with 15 mins to go and the GPS showed he did 12.5 kays.

“A-League midfielders who do 11 and a half kays are doing well, so to be doing nearly 13 kays  in 75 minutes is some shift.”

An A-League debut that appeared a season or two away now looms large on the horizon.

“It’s feasible Gus could appear on the bench some time during this season definitely, that’s how far he’s come,” McKinna said.

“He just has to keep doing what he’s doing; he’s working hard, has a great attitude and he’s scoring goals. He’s ticking all the boxes.”

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