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As the Socceroos strive to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, striker Jamie Maclaren talks about putting in the hard work and never giving up. By Jack Kerr.
Credit: SUPPLIED

Career goals: Jamie Maclaren, 24, soccer player

Football’s not always about money. It wasn’t hard to turn down those [big money] offers to go to Asia after last season [at Brisbane Roar]. I was 23 and I just felt that I owed it to myself to try the European dream. I think I made the right decision, to come to a team [Darmstadt] that dropped out of the Bundesliga last season and bridge that gap between A-League and German football.

As a footballer, it’s only a short career. So you can’t get angry at any player who chooses money over other things. But with me, I’m still at a pretty good age – I’d like to see if I’m good enough and able to score goals in a European league, and whatever happens after that happens. A German offer doesn’t come around too often. And I’ve worked too hard the past few seasons, put in consecutive 20-goal seasons, and I feel like it was the right decision to come to Europe.

Twelve months ago, there were options. But the choice wasn’t in my hands. It was in Brisbane Roar’s hands. I had another year left on my contract, and they didn’t want to sell me. I accepted that, put my head down and focused on putting in another good season. From a business point of view, maybe it wasn’t the best thing for Brisbane, because it meant I walked away at the end of the next season, when my contract ran out, as a free agent. That’s not really my fault or problem. In football, you have to look after yourself and that’s what I did.

When you’re a free agent, you effectively have all the power in the negotiation process. When you’re contracted, another club that wants to sign you will have to pay the club you’re at. When you’re a free agent, you don’t cost the new club anything in transfer fees, so, yeah, you’re able to negotiate certain things that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. You’re pretty lucky being a free agent because you have the majority of the power.

Any goal at international level is always for your country, for Australia. And the “A” I make with my fingers resembles that. Two fingers up from one hand, one across it from the other. When I was younger, doing the Young Socceroos and the Olyroos, I would always celebrate that way. Like when I scored against Turkey in the Under-20 World Cup, I did that. It was for people back home, watching the games in the early morning.

My mum was born in Malta. My dad was born in Scotland. The players here say, “You’re not Australian then.” But I’m Australian, mate. I was born there. Some of the guys here, they’re Germans, but their parents are Turkish, so they’ll call themselves Turkish. It’s the way it is in Europe. They’re more patriotic than us Australians. You look at our Socceroos squad. I bet they’ve all got a parent from Europe or Africa.

My first international game at any level was for Scotland. The decision to play for Scotland was pretty easy – they were the first nation to get in touch. Australia didn’t want a bar of me when I was 16. Funnily enough, as soon as I got back from playing with Scotland, Australia got in contact. It was a great experience to play a couple of games for Scotland, but you have to choose the country you feel most in your heart, and that was Australia. 

If you doubt me, I’ll do everything I can to prove you wrong. At trials for the Victorian under-12 state team, the feedback was I was too slow, didn’t have an attacking mind, that I wasn’t going to progress. I took those words on board and worked on those things. When I was going to Blackburn, there were people saying I wasn’t good enough to go to England. Even last year, the first three rounds I hadn’t scored. Fast-forward seven months, I won the [A-League’s] Golden Boot.

I’m not the most talented footballer. I can admit that. But I’m one that doesn’t give up. I’ll keep persisting. I’ll keep trying to learn, and I’ll keep trying to improve. I’ve got a twin brother who was a far better footballer than I was, but he was struck down by injury. My dad used to say to me, “Jamie, I wish you had your brother’s touch, but I wish your brother had your heart.” Not all footballers have the perfect attributes, but you find out that the ones who aren’t the most talented have the biggest work rate, and that’s what gets them through.

 

This week’s highlights…

Horseracing: Memsie Stakes Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.25pm (AEST), Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne

• NRL: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v Penrith Panthers

Saturday, 5.30pm (AEST), Lottoland, Brookvale, NSW

AFL: Women’s State of Origin – Victoria v the Allies

Saturday, 7.40pm (AEST), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

• Netball: Quad Series – Australian Diamonds v New Zealand Silver Ferns

Sunday, 2pm (AEST), ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill, New Zealand

Soccer: World Cup qualifier – Socceroos v Thailand

Tuesday, 8pm (AEST), AAMI Park, Melbourne

AFL: Qualifying Final 1 – Adelaide Crows v GWS Giants

Thursday, 7.20pm (ACST), Adelaide Oval

 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 2, 2017 as "Career goals". Subscribe here.

Jack Kerr
is a journalist and documentary maker.

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