IT is the whirlwind 12 months Angus Thurgate could only have dreamed of.
At the start of the 2017/18 Hyundai A-League season, the former Port Saints junior appeared long odds to make his first grade debut.
The progression from the National Youth League to the top grade appeared a bridge too far for the 17-year-old.
Since then, the talented midfielder has made such an impression that it appears only a matter of time before he becomes a regular in the Newcastle Jets squad.
Further indication of Thurgate’s progression up the Jets ranks came in a 10-minute appearance in Melbourne last Thursday which saw regular first grader Wayne Brown remain on the bench.
Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna said the Port Macquarie teenager wasn’t originally in the squad until he was a late replacement for midfielder Dimitri Petratos.
“Gus flew down on the morning of the game because Petratos’s wife was having a baby so he was a late addition,” McKinna said.
He’s trained with the first team, he’s been on the bench, he’s come on and he’s contributed in each appearance he’s had.Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna
The Jets boss said the club “couldn’t be any happier” with Thurgate’s progression through the ranks.
McKinna also coaches the club’s youth team.
While an upgrade from the youth league to a professional contract could be a while away yet, anything is possible.
“He’s trained with the first team, he’s been on the bench, he’s come on and he’s contributed in each appearance he’s had,” McKinna said.
“He can’t do much more; if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s going to be going in the right direction.”
McKinna said there was no set timeline on when a professional contract could be on the table, but there were other options.
“There’s no timeline on that and there are scholarship contracts as well – Joe Champness is on one,” he said.
“It’s something that we’ll discuss internally and then make that decision, but the boy is doing everything right.”
McKinna and coach Ernie Merrick will discuss the future at the club in coming weeks and Thurgate is sure to be on the agenda.
“He’ll be one of the things that is ongoing, but his progress has been great,” McKinna said.
“Even at the weekend in the youth team game where we got beaten 3-0 he was a standout and best on ground for us.”
Now Ernie doesn’t look at him as a 17-year-old rookie, he’s looking at him as a squad player.Lawrie McKinna
With regular first graders such as Roy O’Donovan and Ronald Vargas set to return in coming weeks, Thurgate may not play another minute in the top grade this season.
But he’ll have plenty of time in future seasons if his first three appearances are an indication.
“If he never played another game on the bench again this year, it wouldn’t be that he’s gone backwards, it will be that all these senior players are all back,” McKinna said.
“But now Ernie doesn’t look at him as a 17-year-old rookie, he’s looking at him as a squad player.”