FOOTBALL Mid North Coast had to bend the rules to allow Angus Thurgate to play as a junior.
That extra effort paid dividends in a big way as the Port Macquarie product forced his way into the Hyundai A-League with the Newcastle Jets.
He is now only weeks away from a possible international debut.
Mark Rogers coached the 18-year-old through the ranks at Port Saints.
So it came as no surprise to him when Thurgate was named on Sunday in the Australian 23-man squad for this month’s trip to Indonesia.
“(When) he was under-13 in the under-15s we had to get permission from FMNC to clear him because there was a two-year age limit,” Rogers said.
“He always had clear ability (because) after that year, I coached under-18s and Angus would have been playing under-16s so I brought him up to play as a sub.
“Even at that age he was one of the better players on the field as a 16-year-old playing in an 18-year-old competition.”
Thurgate regularly sat on the bench for Rogers’ team before he entered the fray and never looked out of place.
“From fairly early on he displayed a fair bit of natural ability,” Rogers said.
“It (Young Socceroos squad selection) doesn’t surprise me, but there are plenty of talented kids who go through junior sport and they don’t all make it.
“He’s always been grounded and I know I’m not surprised by that with his family and he’s clearly worked very hard to turn his abilities into where he is right now.”
Rogers said Thurgate’s progression through the ranks – which saw him offered a senior contract at the Jets – was reward for hard work.
“He is clearly in the hands of some very good coaches and mentors,” Rogers said.
“They’re the ones who are giving him the opportunities and recognising his talent now so I’m not surprised he’s where he’s at.
“Where he goes from here is up to him.
“If people like Ernie Merrick think he’s worth offering a senior contract to, then that’s a high recommendation.”
It’s already been a whirlwind 2018 for Port Macquarie’s answer to Pele after he made his A-League debut for the Jets in January.
He then became a fully-fledged member of their A-League squad in August and also scored his first senior goal for the club in a trial loss to Sydney last month.
Should he receive game time at the AFC Championships which doubles as a qualifier for next year’s FIFA under-20 World Cup which will be held in Poland, it would wrap up an incredible year.
Selection in the Young Socceroos squad is another impressive notch on his belt.
“Hopefully his time with the Socceroos-age team will set him up well for future honours,” Rogers said.
“Angus is a long way from that; he’s just made an under-19 squad so we’ll see what he makes of it.
“But on what he’s been able to achieve so far, there’s no reason to doubt he won’t take this opportunity as well.”