McGrath eager to build on starting debut when Manly face the Wanderers
By Chris Curulli
Manly United will be after their first three points of the rebooted NPL NSW Men’s season when they host a youthful Western Sydney Wanderers Youth outfit at Cromer Park on Friday night.
The Wanderers have been temporarily promoted to the NPL 1 for this shortened campaign, taking the spot of the Sutherland Sharks who opted not to participate due to COVID-enforced hardships.
On Sunday night they kicked their season off with a Sydney Derby at Ilinden Sports Centre, where a spirited late fightback saw an early 3-0 deficit finish in a tight 3-2 defeat.
Manly on the other hand fought well against a solid Rockdale outfit in a 0-0 stalemate at Cromer Park.
One of the bright sparks throughout the match was Lachlan McGrath, who made his first grade starting debut at left-back.
“I’ve come off the bench a few times and played a few minutes of first grade, but it was really good to get the first 90 minutes in,” the young defender said.
“Playing at left-back made it really easy being next to Sammy (Gallagher) and behind Baldy (Scott Balderson), two experienced players.
“They kind of showed me the ropes and I knew what I had to do to get the ball out of my feet fast and play it because it’s a much quicker tempo compared to the 20s.”
McGrath has been at Manly since the U14s age group and has patiently waited in the wings for his opportunity, training alongside the 20s and First Grade squads for the past five years.
He is a versatile defender who prefers playing at centre back but is more than capable of doing a job on either flank.
Last season’s trip to Queensland for the FFA Cup Round of 16 is one that McGrath recalls as a key motivator for breaking into the starting side in 2020.
“I think trip that was a big insight and a motivation to maybe make this year one for a huge push into the team,” he said.
“It’s good that I’ve got the opportunity now to have a start and play 90 minutes and hopefully I can get more minutes now moving forward.
“Paul Dee has been encouraging and having Adam Griffiths as a coach last over the past couple of years has shown me a few things, especially being a centre back himself, to help me push towards the first team.”
McGrath is quietly confident Manly will be primed for their first win of the campaign against a Wanderers side packed with teenagers and without a number of their stars due to the current A-League bubble.
Nevertheless, the team are preparing for another tough challenge.
“The A-League academy boys they’re there for a reason – they’re young, but they’re good, they’re fast, and they’re fit,” McGrath said.
“I guess it’s going be a test for us but I think we’ll hopefully have them, but they’ve got something to prove so we need to be on the ball that’s for sure.”
First grade kicks off at Cromer Park on Friday night at 7:30pm. Spectators can attend if they sign-in upon entrance and observe social distancing protocol.
If you are unable to catch the game in person, remember all matches of the 2020 NPL NSW Men’s 1 competition are being broadcast live and exclusive on NPL.tv.
CLICK HERE to sign up and create a free account that will allow you to stream all of Manly United’s Men’s and Women’s senior fixtures.