Central Coast Mariners defender Kye Rowles says the Olyroos' goal for Tokyo 2020 is simple and clear: return home as Olympic medalists.
Australia are preparing to feature at an Olympic Games Men's Football Tournament for the first time since Beijing 2008, but the 13-year gap between appearances has done little to knock the confidence of Rowles and Graham Arnold's talented 22-player squad.
Argentina, Spain and Egypt await the Olyroos in what's sure to be a challenging group stage, but Rowles is leaning on his experience gained with the Joeys at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup to garner belief in himself and the Australian squad ahead of the first game of the upcoming tournament.
As kick-off against Argentina on July 22 draws closer for the Olyroos, read more on Rowles' journey to the Australian Olympic team as socceroos.com.au provides you with a chance to get to know every member of Graham Arnold's squad that little bit better.
SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: Australia Men's Football Team
Olyroo Profile: Kye Rowles
Place of Birth: New South Wales
Club: Central Coast Mariners
International experience: Joeys, Australia U-23
Did you know? Rowles earned the Mariners Medal on July 2 for his outstanding performance throughout the 2020/21 A-League season.
Awarded to the best Central Coast player of each season, Rowles joins an esteemed list of prior Mariners Medalists including current and former Socceroos Trent Sainsbury, Mathew Ryan and Mile Jedinak.
A confident approach to an almighty challenge
It's the "Group of Dreams" according to Olyroos boss Arnold.
Argentina, Spain, Egypt: three nations ready to push Australia all the way in the upcoming group stage of the Tokyo 2020 Men's Football Tournament kicking off later this month.
The challenge reminds Rowles of the similar task presented to himself and the Joeys squad ahead of the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, where Australia met Germany, Mexico and Argentina in the group stage - and ultimately progressed to the knockout rounds.
Rowles started all three group games as Australia lost 4-1 to Germany, drew 0-0 with Mexico and won 2-1 over Argentina to progress to the Round of 16, where Nigeria - the eventual cup winners - proved too strong for the Joeys in a 6-0 victory.
"Look, we're here to win a medal," Rowles said.
"And everyone is on the same page. As soon as we got here, as soon as we kind of started the preparations for qualifiers even we knew what the end goal was.
"I believe in that firmly as well that it doesn't matter who's in front of us, that's our end goal and we're going to get there."
"Yes, (it was) really special especially playing with the Joeys at the 17’s World Cup," Rowles added.
"We had an alright right, run, I mean, we had a similar group in that then what we've got now and we managed to get through.
"It's good to have that experience versing the best in the world I guess and it'll be tough here again, but that's what you want.
"You want to test yourself against the best in the world and that's what we’re here for.
"You know that the teams are going to be tough but we know that if we do what we know we can do and we just work hard together when we have a shot.
I don’t think anyone's got like the Aussie spirit within like we do so that's an advantage I think."
A stellar individual campaign has Rowles raring to go
Rowles joined a stellar list of Mariners Medal winners at the end of the 2020/21 A-League campaign, capping off a stellar season with his club's top individual honour.
Rowles helped the Mariners keep eight clean sheets and win 12 games out of 27 throughout the season, as the Gosford side banished the memories of six forgettable seasons without Finals Football to finish the campaign in third spot on the table.
Rowles penned a new two-year deal with the club at the conclusion of the campaign as he continues to develop at a club close to his heart.
"Yeah, (it) was pretty, pretty amazing the turnaround, but especially for what we've been doing the last few years," Rowles said.
"The club is such a nice place to be around.
"Just the whole energy of the Central Coast and everyone around it is just like so positive and they really get behind you, and then all the boys and the staff that work at the club, it was just really friendly and just a positive place to be around this year for sure."
Receiving the call-up
It's a current theme amongst the current crop of excited Olyroos, and it's no different in the case of the Central Coast defender: Rowles could hardly believe what he was hearing when Arnold confirmed his place in his 22-player Olympic squad.
It's the stuff of dreams for Rowles, who has risen through the age groups of the national side to make the natural progression toward the Olympics with the U-23 side.
"Arnie gave me a call and at first I didn't really know how to reply because I was a bit shocked but I was just so stoked," he said.
"I was in a bit of disbelief, to be honest but so stoked, and as I said before it's just a massive honour and a privilege to be like part of this special occasion."
Rowles added: "It's unreal, to be honest it's a dream come true for sure and it's such an honour and a privilege to be here with this group and yes it’s just something that is really special.
"You dream about representing your country and at the highest level especially as, just something that’s like unbelievable really... it's such an honour and a privilege to do it and it's something that's so close to my heart and really special."
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.