Sitting on less than 10 career A-League starts going into last season, the past nine months have panned out like something out of City midfielder Connor Metcalfe’s wildest dreams.
The 21-year-old is now both an A-League Premier and Champion, a Socceroo, an Olympian, and a Harry Kewell Medallist.
It sure has been a ‘pretty crazy’ ride for Metcalfe, who puts his breakout season down to staying fit, healthy, and having the consistency of playing week in, week out.
“Last season was everything I wanted, and everything I've been working towards,” he said.
“My main goal was just to play every game, I never expected that I'd get the kind of rewards that I did. I'm very grateful for it all.”
Although he may have only had nine A-League starts under his belt before Round 1 last season – a game in which he also happened to score the winning goal in – City Football Academy had been Metcalfe’s home for a long time.
The Newcastle-born midfielder made the move to Melbourne to join the Club’s highly successful Academy in 2014 and progressed through the ranks before getting his first taste of A-League action four years later.
He would make five more appearances the following season, before becoming a more regular fixture in the squad in the 2019/20 season.
In April this year – seven years after joining – he was part of the City team that secured the Club’s first piece of A-League silverware and lifted the Premiers Plate on AAMI Park.
“It was such a good feeling,” Metcalfe said.
“Having been at the Club for so long, and after that feeling from the past season of almost achieving what we'd worked so hard for, and then finally getting it, was just indescribable.
“It’s what everyone wants.”
So much hard work had gone into that moment, but Metcalfe’s rise and breakout season was far from done. In fact, it was just beginning.
He’d started every game of the season – playing the full 90 in all but four matches. Plus, he'd bagged five goals and added a further three assists. That consistency and high level of performance was recognised, and a childhood dream would soon come true with a national team call-up just around the corner.
There'd been a few rumours amongst the boys at the Club that I was going, but I didn't believe them for a second. I just thought 'Nah, Socceroos - no way.
A confusing ‘good luck’ comment from a City physio during a May training session was a sign of things to come for Metcalfe later in the day…
“As soon as I got in the car to leave training, I got a phone call from Joel Freeme, the Socceroos team manager, who congratulated me and told me I was in the squad,” Metcalfe said.
“Straight away I called Mum and Dad who were just over the moon for me.
We spoke about how when I was a kid, I would always be wearing Socceroos jerseys around the house and running around in the backyard. My dream had actually come true, and it was just so surreal.
The boyhood dream was fully realised on June 7. A ‘pretty nervous’ Metcalfe entered the pitch as a substitute against Chinese Taipei, joining teammates Jamie Maclaren and the recently announced Mathew Leckie.
“In the back of my head I was just saying to myself 'You're actually playing for the Socceroos,” Metcalfe said.
“Once I started getting a few touches, I became pretty calm and it just turned into a normal game.”
It was a big night for the Club with fellow Academy graduate Denis Genreau also making his Socceroos debut. Following Daniel Arzani, they became the second and third City Academy products to play for the national team, with no doubt many more to come.
His time away from Melbourne was extended as he made his way to Tokyo as part of the Olyroos squad for the Olympics, what he said was an ‘amazing experience.’
Metcalfe would play all but one minute of the campaign and was one of Australia’s best. Now back in Melbourne after completing his quarantine and having a little time off, his focus is on backing it up this season.
“There's probably going to be a bit of pressure on me now but I'm just going to be here putting my head down and working hard every day,” he said.
“My main goals are just to influence games, score more goals and provide more assists.
“Hopefully we can have plenty of fans at AAMI Park this season watching me celebrate a few more goals!”
Be there this season to see Metcalfe and his City teammates back it up and push for more silverware in 2021/22! Head to citymembership.com.au to become a Member today.