Socceroos midfielder Tom Rogic is primed for a triumphant homecoming and is intent on putting Canberra on the footballing map.
Despite being one of the last players to join the national team in camp after his duties with Scottish club Celtic, Rogic is ready to play whatever role is required in Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan at Canberra Stadium.
The dynamic No. 10 has overcome his injury curse of the past 18 months to electrify the Scottish Premier League with a number of cracking goals this season.
And his sublime form couldn’t come at a better time ahead of the first Socceroos game in Canberra since they smashed Malaysia 5-0 in 2011.
At that time, Rogic was playing for Belconnen United in the ACT National Premier League before bursting on to the scene with the Central Coast Mariners in the A-League the following year.
Having grown up and played all of his junior football in Canberra, he knows what it would mean to the region to have its own side in the national competition.
“[The Socceroos game] shouldn’t be considered as a trial fan-wise for the A-League or supporter base, but hopefully that’s the next step that’s made because I think it’d be a great addition to the league,” Rogic said.
“I think we’re the only league in the world that doesn’t have a team from the capital, so hopefully that can happen sooner rather than later.
“Growing up here, I’ve seen and been involved in football all my life. I have seen the numbers and the support at grass roots level and such.
“I think it would be great for the city as a whole to have that and hopefully for the league and the country as a possible next team to the A-League.
“Hopefully, firstly, we play in front of a great crowd on Thursday, but that shouldn’t be the only thing deciding this,” Rogic said.
Plans are underway for Canberra to have a team in a revamped National Youth League at the end of next year, but no dates have been set to expand the A-League.
Football Federation Australia wants to have teams based in cities and regions that can draw on population bases of at least one million.
A third Sydney team is understood to be the preference and could possibly come at the expense of the Wellington Phoenix, who had a 10-year licence extension rejected.
“Naturally with the youth league and the A-League, it would give players in the ACT that pathway into professional football which isn’t there at the moment,” Rogic said.
“People are going to other cities and states to pursue their dream of playing professional football.
“It’s not that simple, it’s not that straightforward. I think if there is that pathway it would definitely contribute more players for the national team in the future.”
Rogic arrived in Canberra at 10.30pm on Tuesday after scoring a long-range goal for Celtic in their 4-1 win over Ross County on Monday morning (AEST).
But despite feeling the effects of a long flight, he declared himself a certain starter depending on how coach Ange Postecoglou wants to balance his squad ahead of next Tuesday’s game in Bangladesh.
“I’ve been playing a fair bit lately, feeling fit, so I’m ready to go for Thursday,” Rogic said.
“I feel 100 per cent ready to go, so that decision is for the manager to make.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been home, so it’s quite special to me and it’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”
Rogic moved to Celtic in January, 2013, but was hampered by groin and hamstring injuries.
He missed last year’s World Cup in Brazil and this year’s Asian Cup victory, but has turned heads with his impressive play for Celtic in the past three months, leading to his return for the Socceroos in September’s 5-0 thumping of Bangladesh in Perth.
“There’s not much I could have done about the things that have happened,” Rogic said of his injuries.
“It’s how you move on and deal with it.
“Players have injuries all the time and I don’t feel I’m a special case or any different in that respect.
“I’m in a good place right now and I just want that to continue.”
THURSDAY: World Cup qualifier: Socceroos v Kyrgyzstan at Canberra Stadium, 8pm. Tickets available from Ticketek