When Riley McGree was promoted to Adelaide United’s first team squad just before the Hyundai A-League 2016/17 Season, he probably wasn’t expecting to break straight into the Reds’ Championship-winning side.
But as we head into the last stage of the campaign, the tough-tackling teenager has not only got a taste in the A-League but is turning heads with his performances.
And it’s why McGree is now one to watch in the race for the NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award.
The 18-year-old Gawler SC product began his time at the Reds as part of their youth team squad in 2015.
After carrying his good form into the South Australian PS4 NPL last year, McGree was rewarded with a first-team contract along with fellow youngster Jordan O’Doherty.
And he’s made the most of every opportunity under Gui Amor this season.
McGree has made 11 appearances for the Reds – starting six of those – and has looked assured in the heart of their midfield.
He bagged his first Hyundai A-League goal in the recent 2-2 draw with Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium, and what a moment it was.
After Sergio Cirio weaved his way into the Phoenix box, he chipped the ball back to Marc Marino to lay the ball into the path of the youngster, whose sweetly hit shot took a slight deflection before beating keeper Glen Moss.
The goal has been the highlight of some pretty impressive numbers so far.
McGree has had 15 successful dribbles, seven key passes and has 84% passing accuracy for the campaign.
But it’s arguably his tenacious qualities without the ball that have him earmarked as a star of the future.
McGree doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game and has made 44 ball recoveries, 8 tackles won and 7 interceptions as well.
Even so early in his career, McGree is becoming an important member of the Adelaide United team and one who belongs in the Hyundai A-League.
That’s why it’s no surprise he’s right in the mix to be this year’s NAB Young Footballer of the Year.