North Eagerly Awaiting Turkey Matches
When the National League came to a close last month, Perth Glory defender Jade North went out a winner. On Friday night, the dread locked defender will cap of a huge year when he fronts for the Socceroos at Aussie Stadium.
By Ben Coonan If there is one homegrown talent deserving of a Socceroo call up, it-s Perth Glory-s Jade North. The 22-year old defender is one of three (or four if you include recently departed Ante Milicic) Australian based players chosen by Frank Farina to face Turkey this Friday in Sydney and Monday in Melbourne. North-s selection was just reward for an overwhelmingly consistent spell over six seasons in the National Soccer League. Starting with the Brisbane Strikers in 1998/99, North has enjoyed a phenomenally successful stint at the top of Australian soccer given his relatively tender age. Now, for not the first and certainly not the last time, North will wear the green and gold of Australia and there-s no need to remind the versatile back of the grandeur of the occasion before him. “I-m happy as, it just couldn-t have come at a better time,” said North, speaking with the heart of an Australian soccer purist. “Just watching all the other internationals that they-ve played, I-d think ‘I-d love to be alongside these boys-, and now it-s happened.” Although a relative newcomer to the senior national team, North is no stranger to representative duty. He was a part of Australia-s most successful representative team of all time, that being the 1999 Under 17 World Championship side that finished runners up to Brazil in New Zealand. In that series, North started each one of the Joeys six games, all of which were alongside fellow Socceroo squad member Adrian Madaschi. Two years further on and North was unlucky to miss out on the Young Socceroos 2001 campaign to Argentina, having been involved in the lead up to the tournament that Australia ultimately exited at the second round. More recently, North has been a central figure in Australia-s Athens Olympics odyssey. North-s combination on the right flank with NSL compatriot Ahmad Elrich was a major positive to take from January-s qualifying tournament and many would expect North to be amongst the first selected for a spot in Greece this August. North is also capped 4 times for Australia at senior level, all of which occurred at the last edition of the OFC Nations Cup in Auckland, 2002. The tournament was a forgettable one for a much-depleted Socceroo side that eventually surrendered their Oceania crown to New Zealand 1-0 in the final. However, North was thankful for his first representative stint for Australia-s showpiece soccer outfit. “It was a good experience, coming off a good season with Olympic, going into the Socceroos camp was a big moment for me,” recalls North. “It was an honour, but being involved with this is a lot bigger because obviously this one-s with the overseas boys.” Following the Joeys success in New Zealand, North was quickly snapped up by then Brisbane Strikers coach John Kosmina. After three seasons in Queensland, North moved south to Sydney where he enjoyed two highly successful campaigns with Sydney Olympic. Come the conclusion of his two-year stint in blue and white, North had registered three goals in his 60 starts, which included back-to-back grand final appearances in 2001/02 and 2002/03. North-s grand final hot streak continued in 2003/04 when he played an integral part in Perth Glory-s charge towards their second consecutive Championship trophy. The next obstacle in North-s way is Ersun Yanal-s Turkish brigade and the Taree born boy is counting the days until a possible match up with some of the most notorious players in world soccer. Due to club commitments and injury, the defensive options at Frank Farina-s disposal are almost thread bare, leaving the possibly of North being handed a starting spot all the more likely. “I-d love to start, anyone would,” says North with the eagerness of a young child on Christmas Eve. “If I had the chance it would be the best experience for me, as a player, in my career at this stage.” North is under no illusions as to the enormity of the task before the Socceroos. “All over the park they have, great, fantastic touches on the ball, they-re quick, sharp and I-m sure they-ll come over here with a good, attacking style of play,” says North. “It-s going to be a great test for us to see where we-re at, playing a team such as Turkey. “You just have to look at what they-ve achieved over the years, third at the World Cup says a lot. “I think it-s going to be good for us and a great experience.” Of course, a starting berth in the Socceroo back line on Friday spells a likely date with Turkish immortals Hakan Sukur and Hasan Sas. The goal-scoring prowess of both marksmen is terrifying to opposition defenders to say the very least. Surely a young defender wouldn-t welcome their challenge? “It would just be mind-blowing!” North explodes with enthusiasm. “Opportunities like these don-t come around that often and you-ve just got to take them with everything that you-ve got. “Against players like that, you-d be one of the first players to run down and swap jersey-s with them at the end of the game!” But, of course, the world-class soccer talents on display at Aussie Stadium this Friday and the Telstra Dome on Monday are not confined to those wearing red. The home side will have their fair share of soccer royalty on their books and North is bursting at the seams to be rubbing shoulders with Australia-s best. “It-s a good achievement for myself just to be involved with these guys,” North speaks of his Socceroo colleagues. “You-ve just got to look at what they-ve done overseas, players like myself look up to these sort of players and the next minute your playing along side them and training with them. “It still hasn-t really sunk in that I-ll be meeting up with these boys. “Now, Australia is getting better and better, establishing ourselves more and more overseas, you just have to look at someone like Bresciano and what he-s done. It-s a huge achievement for him and for soccer in Australia.” Is the result on Friday important? “It-s important for the fans at home because it-s been a while since we have played a game in Australia and I think it-s important to show the crowd what Australia-s got to offer against one of the top ranked teams in the world,” said North. If soccer matches were won on zeal and passion alone, North-s name would be the first on any coach-s team sheet. Come Friday night, North-s excitement is sure to come to a head and watching from the stands to cheer on Australia-s latest soccer sensation will be none other than the North family themselves. “Oh, they can-t wait!” says North. “A lot of them are coming down for the game from Taree and my parents and brother will be down in Melbourne. “I-d have to say my family have played a big part in my career, and some close friends of mine, they-ve helped me take the next steps forward.” Taking steps forward is what Jade North is all about. In less than a decade, the man with arguably the most recognizable hairdo in Australian soccer has achieved more than what many would hope to achieve in a lifetime. All of Australia is hoping that same success will correlate with North-s young Socceroo career. No one can deny North his place on the world stage and everyone is hoping that one of the emerging talents of Australian soccer blossoms into something sensational in the coming years. Friday night could just be the start of it all. “The under 17-s is my biggest achievement to date and being part of the Turkey games is up there with that, in fact, it-s bigger than that!” says North. “It-d be good for everyone to come out and support us because the national team is moving on and doing bigger and better things.” Australia plays Turkey on Friday May 21 and then again in Melbourne on Monday May 24. For ticketing details, simply click here.