Nick D'Agostino became the most recent player to debut for the Socceroos when he came off the bench in Wednesday morning’s final Asian Qualifiers Group B fixture in Saudi Arabia.
The forward replaced Bruno Fornaroli at half time, working hard without reward in a game which sealed the young player’s progression from Joeys to senior national team.
Hailing from Runaway Bay on Queensland’s Gold Coast, the 24-year-old was quick to point out the importance of his time in the junior national teams in his development as a footballer.
Speaking after the game, D'Agostino highlighted the current group of Socceroos and their journey together with five members of last night’s playing squad featuring in the Olyroos squad for Tokyo 2020 – and 11 members of the group having played with Australian underage national teams in the past.
Starting his journey at Runaway Bay – the same club that helped develop Commonwealth Bank Matilda Elise Kellond-Knight – D'Agostino’s career has seen him play in Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, and finally in Melbourne where he has scored seven goals in 15 appearances this season.
READ MORE: What’s next for the Socceroos?
All of this culminated in his debut senior international appearance against Saudi Arabia.
“It's special, I've been waiting for this moment for a long time and it's finally here. It’s good to put the green and gold on: I’m just ecstatic and very proud,” said D'Agostino.
Having worked with head coach Graham Arnold, closely with the Olyroos, it was fitting that it was Arnold who gave D'Agostino his cap – both figuratively and metaphorically – as the forward was handed his ceremonial cap by the gaffer.
“I've always had a great relationship with Arnie and he's had a lot of belief in me over the last few years. Him bringing me through the Olyroos made me instil belief in myself that when I step out I'm able to go out there and perform well and score goals.
“Having him present me with the cap was just icing on the top.”
The effect the Olympics experience had on D'Agostino is not just cliché either, with the data proving it was a defining moment in the player’s career.
Before the tournament in Tokyo, D'Agostino averaged one goal every 230 minutes. Since returning from the Olympics, that average has more than halved with the forward finding the back of the net every 101 minutes.
It’s an experience he is glad that he had, and he wants to see more Australians get the chance to play on that stage.
“We had a lot of a lot of players from the Olympics and the Olyroos in this squad and it's great to see young, Australian footballers getting a chance on the big stage.
“We need to keep pushing for opportunities like that, we need to keep producing youth talent, and we need to keep creating pathways for them to play more football.”
Speaking after his debut, it was clear that D'Agostino is a player who is very appreciative of where he came from, highlighting his junior club and his family.
“Runaway Bay was a very special junior club for me: I joined them when I was nine and it was the club that had the most impact on me, where I really started to develop.
“My dad was my coach and we were working a couple of hours every day just making sure that I was I was ready to keep progressing, just keeping the body nice and strong to get me prepared for senior men's football even at that early age.
“There’s a lot of people that have been involved in my process and you know I can't thank them enough.”
But one debut doesn't make a summer, and it is the hard work and dedication that got D'Agostino to this level that he plans to use to keep him there.
“I've had a taste of international football and I just want more. I'm going to work hard each and every day and keep banging in goals to keep putting my name forward for one of those spots in the play-offs.”
It’s the play-offs that every player and football fan in Australia now has their eye on, with a one-off tie against UAE planned for Tuesday 7 June in Qatar to earn the right to take on Peru in the final stage of World Cup Qualification.