54 days to go: Johnny Watkiss' FIFA World Cup story

As part of the run-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we are profiling every Australian player that has been to football's showpiece event.

The latest member in our countdown is Johnny Watkiss, a highly-rated utility who played in just about every position during a decorated career.

His selection in the 1974 squad was rich reward for the oldest player on Rale Rasic's roster.

READ: FIFA World Cup: Countdown for the Caltex Socceroos

Cap number: 174

World Cups played at: 1974

Position: Various

Age at World Cup: 33 (now 77)

Clubs played for:

Canterbury-Marrickville, APIA Leichhardt, Hakoah, Sutherland.

Best World Cup moment:

At 33, Watkiss was the most senior member of Rasic's squad.

The versatile midfielder didn't see any minutes in West Germany, but simply being at the tournament was well-earned reward for almost 10 years of service to the national team.

He was one of few survivors of Australia's unsuccessful first attempt to qualify in 1965, and was at the centre of more heartbreak four years later as his second-leg goal against Israel was not enough to avoid an aggregate play-off defeat.

But redemption was to come in 1973, with Watkiss appearing in the first of the three matches against South Korea that ended his long wait.

Career highlight:

Watkiss took on a player-coach role with Sutherland in 1977 and, despite being in the twilight of his career, was named Player of the Year in New South Wales for the second time.

An even greater achievement was to come the following season as he led the club to its first two major trophies in a landmark double, beating Sydney Croatia in both the Grand Final and the AMPOL Cup.

Post-playing career:

Having hung up the boots after that success, Watkiss continued to coach Sutherland until the club missed out on a place in the expanded National Soccer League in 1984.

He was an inaugural inductee into the FFA Hall of Fame in 1999, and was fittingly in attendance on the night Australia lifted its qualifying curse and reached the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

In a later interview, one the greatest players the country has produced correctly predicted Guus Hiddink's side would escape the group stage.

Did you know?

Born in England, Watkiss moved to Australia at a young age and became a childhood friend of Johnny Warren, who grew up in the same Sydney suburb of Botany.

Their careers were intertwined, appearing together for Canterbury-Marrickville, debuting at international level five days apart and then being included together in the 1974 squad.

*Photographs from the Les Shorrock, Laurie Schwab and Anton Cermak collections are used with permission from Deakin University Library, Eileen Shorrock and Mrs Jana Cermak.