Socceroos midfielder Tommy Oar is set to take on Bangladesh and Tajikistan in World Cup qualifiers. By Jack Kerr.


Wing man: Tommy Oar, 23, soccer player

It’d be awesome to have a soccer State of Origin. Every player would want to play it too. And Queensland would be pretty confident. There’s actually a lot of us Queensland boys in the Socceroos: Robbie Kruse, Mitch Langerak, Matt McKay, Dario Vidošić, myself. There are a few others as well who are sometimes in the squad, sometimes not, and we are all pretty tight. If you look at the attacking players we have, they’d be too much to handle.

The ’Stans is a part of the world that is pretty unknown to me. Going to Kyrgyzstan was a humbling experience. The people were really friendly, and seeing how fanatical they were about the game was nice. Tajikistan, the country we are going to next, is one that I actually hadn’t heard of until we drew them. All I know about it is it’s next to Kyrgyzstan. But I guess that’s the beauty of football – you get to go to all these places that you never thought you would.

A lot of our travelling supporters couldn’t even get into the stadium in Kyrgyzstan. That’s crazy. I heard about crowd trouble, but I didn’t really see any. But I did see people climbing the light towers. That was ridiculous. It’s quite different to Australia when you experience that. As a spectator, I’m sure it might have been very frustrating, but as a player, it’s actually quite nice to play in those kinds of atmospheres.

I made the decision to leave Holland a while ago, but finding the right club takes longer than you anticipate. It’s been quite frustrating, but not a disaster. I’ve had a lot of interest but I’ve also been very particular with my choice. You don’t want to commit the next few years of your career to something you don’t feel is the right step. Every day, I’ve been training with a coach who I’ve known here for years. He’s helped me out, and the training is just as tough – or even tougher – than it would be at my club. It’s as good as it can get.

The weird thing about life in Holland is you can be in the stadium watching a game and a guy next to you is smoking a joint. That’s the kind of thing you can never get used to. When you go out for a beer, there are people smoking it too. But I guess that’s just the life here. I don’t know if it’s even possible for it to get in your system from just breathing, but that’s something that definitely crosses your mind when you’re in that kind of environment. I’m sure that excuse has been used before.

One book that stands out for me, purely because I can relate to it a lot, is the autobiography of [cricketer] Andrew Symonds. I went to the same school as him, on the Gold Coast, and his father was a teacher there as well. And in the book I knew a lot of the people he refers to. [But] I must admit, I’m not the biggest reader. I’m quite slack when it comes to that. But back in the day, I was more into the adventure books – Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and those sorts of things. And I’m going to watch the new Game of Thrones series on my flights to Perth and Dushanbe [the capital of Tajikistan].

I’m probably the least-Basque Basque person you would ever meet. My grandparents on my father’s side were born in Bilbao. I think they moved to Australia when they were quite young, but I’m not sure of the circumstances. My dad was born in Australia, and I grew up on the Gold Coast playing backyard cricket and wanting to be like Adam Gilchrist, even though he was a left-handed batsman and I’m a right-handed bowler.

The players who are stars as kids often don’t go on to make it. That shows, just as much as anything, that it’s about how bad you want it and how hard you work. The players who are in the Socceroos or playing in the A-League or whatever, I don’t think growing up they were necessarily the most talented players that there was. It struck me that I could really do something with my football when I was chosen to go to the Queensland Academy of Sport at 14. Knowing that a lot of players from there get signed to the Brisbane Roar, that’s the moment when I thought this is something I really want to work hard at and pursue.

1 . This week’s highlights…

• AFL: Essendon v Richmond

Saturday, 7.20pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• Rowing: World Rowing Championships

Starts Sunday, Lac d’Aiguebelette, France 

• NRL: Canberra Raiders v Penrith Panthers

Monday, 7pm (AEST), GIO Stadium, Canberra

• Tennis: US Open

Starts Tuesday, 1am (AEST), Flushing Meadows, New York

• Soccer: FIFA World Cup qualifier – Australia v Bangladesh

Thursday, 7pm (AWST), nib Stadium, Perth

• Cricket: Ashes 1st ODI – England v Australia

Thursday, 11pm (AEST), Rose Bowl, Southampton 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 29, 2015 as "Wing man".

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Jack Kerr is a dual Australian Sports Commission Media Awards winner who writes about the business of sport.

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