So many players have the talent but not the drive to become the best. But Mitch Nichols looks ready to take that step.
It-s been some kind of week for Mitch Nichols.
The Brisbane Roar midfield tyro went one step closer to realising a boyhood dream midweek, when Holger Osiek named his latest 23-man Qantas Socceroos squad for the World Cup qualifiers coming up in Oman and Thailand next week.
By Saturday night, Nichols found himself toiling away fruitlessly as the defending champions were denied by a Melbourne Victory team reduced to nine men after a dramatic first half.
Nichols was subbed at the 70th-minute mark as the Roar-s dazzling midfield floor show started to lose some of its lustre in the face of the Victory-s stubborn resistance.
It was probably not the way the 22-year-old wanted to see out the game as he tried to press claims for his next Socceroos cap, but on reflection he must surely know that he has made huge strides in his quest to go from precocious tyke to headline act at Suncorp Stadium.
Like former teammates Matt McKay and Robbie Kruse, Nichols was considered an unrealised talent in his first few seasons in the Hyundai A-League. And just like those two, somewhere along the line the penny didn-t so much drop but it started raining brass coins for the Gold Coast boy.
McKay got it. Kruse did as well. And so now does Nichols.
Hard work, uncompromising preparation and a determination to test the limits of their expectations have resulted in a quantum leap in performance. Many didn-t think they had it in them. Hell, it-s debatable whether they themselves did.
And that self doubt might be at the heart of why so many of their contemporaries who also possess similar gifts are on the cusp of becoming Australian football-s lost generation.
In June 2006, Kristian Sarkies was a 20-year-old with the world at his feet. Called up to Guus Hiddink-s Socceroos squad ahead of the World Cup campaign in Germany, the then Melbourne Victory colt made his International debut in the 3-1 win over Leichtenstein.
It should have been the opening line in a great story but it became something of a full stop. Sarkies has journeyed through three A-League clubs since then and has fallen out of Socceroos calculations. Injury may have played its part, but it alone can-t account for Sarkies star fading so dramatically.
Similarly, Kaz Patfta-s story is one of too much too soon and not enough hard work, sacrifice and determination to realise a dream. As a junior, the young midfielder was groomed at Portuguese giant Benfica. On his return to Australia he was touted as a talent capable of succeeding the like of Kewell in an attacking midfield role for the national team.
Now it-s a case of Kaz who? His career seems to have stalled quicker than a rented combi van.
The same could be said for Stuart Musialik. And for Mark Milligan, who, at one time, thought he had the cream of Europe-s top clubs beating a path to his door. If they wanted to find him these days they-d discover him grafting out a living in the 2nd division of Japan-s J- League.
Bruce Djite, Adrian Leijer, Nathan Burns and Scott Jamieson all fit a similar profile, young stars that never really shone – or at least not yet.
And then there is David Williams, a player of immense talent who has so far he has been anonymous at his new club Melbourne Heart. Williams has all the tools required to be the player he-d like to think he is, but at the moment seemingly none of the drive required to make it happen.
It-s not too late for some of these young players. Time and talent remain on their side for now.
If they really want it bad enough they should look at the blonde kid from Brisbane and ask, “Why not me?”
I think in their heart of hearts they, like you and I, know the reason why.