'Take it with both hands': Kuol & Nisbet relishing reunion in U23's camp

Living with large families in Victoria and Queensland respectively, Alou Kuol and Josh Nisbet both made the leap to leave home as teenagers and pursue a career in football with the Central Coast Mariners.

A few whirlwind years later, they sit side-by-side in national team camp, preparing to take on Asia's best young talent in the upcoming AFC U23 Asian Cup. 

The pair are roommates in Uzbekistan and are enjoying the chance to catch up following Alou's first season in Germany with Vfb Stuttgart. 

Both have never represented their country in a competitive fixture - with Nisbet enjoying his maiden call-up following a couple of standout seasons in the A-League Men's competition. 

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Considering his age and recent rise, Nisbet is not taking any of it for granted. 

"It's my first time being here and I can't wait to take it with both hands," he told Inside Camp with the U23's. 

"I've been aiming for this for a while, I thought maybe I was at the age where they would skip past me at this stage, but fortunately I got included. 

There'll definitely be a moment to think about putting on the jersey, and what it actually means and stuff like that.

"It was always something I'd have loved to do but I had more achievable goals that I had to get to before I got to this. Fortunately, I achieved those and made it here." 

Nisbet traded Queensland for the Coast at just 17 when he joined the Mariners' academy, before working his way up to the first team. 

It was then that Kuol came along, and hit the ground running, bursting onto the scene after making his debut on March 1, 2020 - where he was substituted on for Nisbet. 

Kuol jokingly recalls the first time he saw his teammate play. 

"I remember watching him, thinking this guy is this short!," he recounted, "And then when he started kicking a ball and chasing me it was a bit difficult, so I was like 'makes sense!' 

The two are both players who enjoy a firm challenge, whether it be Nisbet snatching the ball back with his shorter frame or Kuol delivering a true striker's challenge. 

It is something they discussed upon joining U23's camp (6:15 in the player above), while also looking back at how their last few years with the Mariners have developed. 

It's been an ongoing process of learning for Kuol in particular, whose move to Germany has helped him continue to push his game to another level. 

"I enjoyed my time there (at the Mariners), tried to make the most of what was in front of me and I'm just happy with the experience and what happened," the striker reflected. 

"(In Germany) I've just been working on some areas of my game that I'm not so good at. Training under good coaches, with good stuff and getting better every day." 

Alou has enjoyed watching from afar as the Mariners' young talent continues to impress, with his younger brother  "little Garanski" (Garang Kuol) stealing the show throughout the season, while teammates Lewis Miller, Jacob Nisbet and Jacob Farrell all delivered stellar campaigns that resulted in their international call-ups.

"I was looking forward to watching them play, and all of the other youth boys getting their opportunities. I enjoyed seeing all of the teammates I played with get a chance," said Kuol. 

The Australia U23's kick off their Asian Cup campaign in Qarshi on Wednesday (11pm AEST) against Kuwait, with Nisbet and the squad raring to go after a productive week's camp in Tashkent. 

"We want to grow and perform as a team  really get in there as a group and fight for each other, win for each other and for the badge." 

Australian fans can watch all of the action live on Paramount+.