When Ben Garuccio walked into camp with the Australian U-23 squad on the Central Coast last week, he did so with added motivation of making every session count.
The Adelaide United flyer has worn the green and gold before as part of the Young Socceroos, making 17 appearances between 2012 and ’14.
Injury robbed Garuccio of a chance to be involved in the AFC qualifiers for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup, with the squad missing out on playing at the tournament.
It was a crushing blow for the youngster, who wasn’t sure when his next chance to represent Australia would materialise.
But a string of impressive performances for the Reds in the Hyundai A-League this season saw the 21-year-old in Josep Gombau’s 26-player squad for a recent training camp.
“I was actually saying to Josep that it’s been a long time for me. I had a big injury when with the U20’s I couldn’t be a part of the qualifiers when I had been involved for a big part before that,” Garuccio told www.footballaustralia.com.au.
“It’s been a long time between drinks for me with the national team set up so I’m very happy to be back and it’s really good stepping stone to have the U23’s.”
Asked if his previous experience was extra motivation now, Garucio said: “120% it is.
“After the U-20s everyone thought it was all over for a while and now to have these 1995s and ’96s [born players] being brought in again for the U23s is excellent.
“It’s been reinforced to us that it’s a very important competition and we want to do as well as we can there and show that Australia is the best country in Asia.”
The competition Garuccio is talking about is next year’s AFC U23 Asian Cup in China.
To get there, Gombau’s troops must first come through the qualifying tournament in July, with the young Aussies to find out their opponents at a draw in Kuala Lumpur on March 17.
“You see the Socceroos when they are playing in Asia how tough it really is. But what better way to match yourself up than against players of your own age group who are also the best players in Asia,” Garuccio said.
“It’s a very tough test in tough conditions but us as Australians we relish that and we embrace it.
“It’s excellent seeing so many young players in the A-League and getting consistent game time.
“This camp is filled with all the young talent and there’s a lot of boys with a lot of confidence.”
Despite Adelaide United’s struggles in the 2016/17 Season, Garuccio is one of those players who is brimming with confidence right now.
He has arguably been the Reds’ most consistent player, starting in every game for Gui Amor’s side.
While he’s played most of the season at left-back, the last few weeks he’s been shifted further forward onto the wing, where he started his career.
“I’ve definitely grown into the fullback position more comfortably now and I’m enjoying my football there,” said Garuccio, who has caught the eye with his speed and excellent crossing ability.
“Ever since I was a young kid and still now, my biggest goal now is to represent the Socceroos one day. It’s a major dream of mine.
“I’m hoping I can make that happen.
"For now it’s about when I’m in these camps and in the A-League, playing as much as I can and impressing.”