Olyroo Profile: McGree over the moon to take part in global 'celebration of sports'

Socceroo #609 Riley McGree is ready to combine what he's learned after debuting for the senior national side with his continued development in the English Championship at club level to shine as a soon-to-be Olympian.

McGree sees his inclusion in Graham Arnold's 18-player squad bound for Tokyo 2020 as another opportunity to learn, thrive and take his game to another level.

The midfielder's development will continue to benefit his country so long as the 22-year-old continues to display the hunger to improve and eagerness to put his full array of skills on show as opportunities for both club and country have come thick and fast in recent years. 

As kick-off against Argentina on July 22 draws closer for the Olyroos, read more about McGree's journey to the Socceroos squad and back again as socceroos.com.au provides you with a chance to get to know every member of Graham Arnold's squad that little bit better. 

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Olyroo Profile: Riley McGree

Age: 22
Place of Birth: Australia
Position: Midfield 
Club: Birmingham City (on loan from Charlotte FC)
Previous clubs: Adelaide United, Club Brugge, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne City
Grassroots club: Gawler Eagles
International experience: Joeys, Australia U23, Socceroos cap #609 (3 appearances)

Did you know? McGree was unlucky to lose out to Liverpool FC forward Mohamed Salah after being included in the 10-player shortlist for the Puskas Award for 2018.

Named after Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas and awarded to the best goal scored in world football each year, McGree put his name amongst the likes of Salah, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale with his scorpion kick stunner whilst at A-League club Newcastle Jets.

Salah was determined the winner in 2018 after a fan vote held before The Best FIFA Football Awards.

Read on below for more on McGree's reaction to receiving his call-up to the nation's Olympic team...

Socceroos debut another milestone along upward trajectory

McGree prepares to link up with the Australian U-23's in Tokyo having made his dream debut for the senior Australia side in June.

After coming off the bench in Australia's 3-0 win over Kuwait on June 4, McGree shone in his first Socceroos start as Australia notched 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei on June 8, notching an assist for Trent Sainsbury in the first half of his 74-minute appearance.

McGree was to get his third taste of playing time eight days later, coming off the bench for a late cameo in a 1-0 win over Jordan. 

McGree featured in Arnold's squad throughout all four of the Socceroos' recent 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June. As he gets ready to join the U-23 side in Japan, McGree says his recent experiences at senior level on the international stage will help equip him for whats to come at the Olympic Games.

"(It's) very important. I think I’m trying to take experiences from my time in the Socceroos and also from clubland and bring it into one," McGree said.

"In itself, the Olympics is going to be another experience that really helps me go forward in my career."

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia Men's Football Team

ASSIST: McGree sets up Sainsbury to finish

Olympic memories

One of Australia's greatest Olympic triumphs lives long in the memory of McGree.

Despite being two years old when Australian great Cathy Freeman won Olympic Gold in the women's 400m sprint event at Sydney 2000, McGree has grown up with the story of that triumphant moment help enhance Freeman's status as an Australian legend.

"For me I think it’s a big celebration of sports, and the best athletes in the world coming together as one," McGree said.

"Cathy Freeman winning the 400m event, I was only two but that’s something that stuck with me throughout my years growing up."

Now, as McGree prepares to play his own small part in his nation's Olympic history, the 22-year-old says he's eager to see how Australia's three group competitors at the Tokyo Men's Football Tournament shape up, with squad announcements imminent.

Australia kick-off their Olympic campaign against Argentina on July 22, before facing Spain on July 25 and Egypt on July 28.

"It’s very exciting, these countries have some of the best players in the world," McGree said.

"Once we find out the squad lists, for me and for the team I think the better players that come, the better for us to really test ourselves.

"I know a lot of the boys that have made it, obviously a big congratulations to them," he added.

"It’s going to be good to meet up as a group and start getting stuck in and prepared."

READ: Ruon Tongyik's 'speechless' reaction to surprise selection

What it means

The day McGree found out he was a part of Arnold's squad bound for Tokyo was a proud one for both the young midfielder and his family.

McGree, a local of Gawler, South Australia, hopes his appearance at the Olympics brings pride to those watching on from his home town, too. 

"I feel over the moon, to be honest, a huge honour for me and my family, and something I’m very proud of," McGree said.

"Spoken to my family, obviously they’re very proud for me. It’s another milestone in my career."

It's a milestone that McGree knows not to take lightly, especially after conversations he's shared with Olyroos boss Arnold.

The Australia U-23 and Socceroos leader has expressed to all of his players the importance of seizing the opportunity to represent their country on the Olympic stage - as he did himself at Seoul 1988.

"He’s shared how much of an honour it is to represent the country, and how not many people in this world get to do it," McGree said.

We have to do that with pride and really show what we’re made of."

READ MORE: Ambitious Arzani hoping to inject X-Factor in Tokyo

Stay tuned to socceroos.com.au and the Socceroos' social pages for more in-depth profiles of Australia's Men's Football Team at Tokyo 2020. You can check out all of our exclusive pre-Olympic content here.