Newcastle Jets: Riley McGree hungry for more after impressive starting debut

ON THE BALL: Riley McGree has proven a valuable addition to the Newcastle Jets squad after injuries to key attacking midfielders this season. Picture: AAP
ON THE BALL: Riley McGree has proven a valuable addition to the Newcastle Jets squad after injuries to key attacking midfielders this season. Picture: AAP

Riley McGree will be pushing for more game time, and more from himself, after an eye-catching starting debut for Newcastle in the 1-0 win over Brisbane.

The 19-year Adelaide product came to the Jets on loan from Club Brugge in Belgium and made three half-hour A-League appearances off the bench before playing the entire game against Roar on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.

The midfielder set up a great chance in the 18th minute and had strikes knocked wide in the 53rd and 93rd minutes in an attacking performance Jets coach Ernie Merrick described as “sensational”.

With Argentinian Pato Rodriguez still out because of a calf strain and fellow import Ronny Vargas weeks away from a return, McGree will be in line to start again in the top-of-the-table clash with leaders Sydney FC at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.

While “pretty pleased to get the start and play 90 minutes”, McGree was hungry for more and believed he had room for improvement.

“I wasn’t really expecting 90 but I’m just happy to get the run in my legs and play some football,” McGree said.

“I think there’s still work for me, there’s always work for players I think, but I still think I’m not at the top level that I can be yet so I’m pushing hard in training.

“I want to be starting games, I want to be playing regularly, week in, week out, and improving myself as a footballer and the team.”

As for taking on more responsibility in attack with Rodriguez and Vargas missing, McGree said: “I think wherever I play I want to take responsibility and create chances and score.

“It’s not a factor whether players are out or players are in. I’ll just come in and do what I’m supposed to do.”

The win in Brisbane guaranteed Newcastle finals football for the first time in eight years and a victory over Sydney will cut the gap to the top to eight points with five rounds to play. It will also keep third-placed Melbourne City at least eight points behind.

Riley McGree tackles Ivan Franjic on Saturday. Picture: AAP

Riley McGree tackles Ivan Franjic on Saturday. Picture: AAP

“It’s definitely very exciting that we’re in the finals,” McGree said on Tuesday. 

“But there’s still a lot of work to do, there’s still plenty of games to go, but we’re confident going in that we can hopefully go all the way.”

Asked if taking on Sydney on Saturday was a daunting task, McGree said: “I don’t think it’s very daunting at all. 

“We’re pretty keen to go in and get a result and play our style of football, attacking and create chances, so we’ll put in a good week on the training ground and see what happens on the weekend.

“I think there’s confidence every game. We’ve got the quality with the players on the pitch so we go into every game expecting to fight and get a result.”

I really think I suit Ernie’s style. His style is definitely very direct and getting in the zone to score. I love scoring goals, most players love scoring goals, so it’s good.

I’ve settled in well. I feel welcomed with the players and the coaching staff, I feel like I’ve been here for a long time, so I’m keen to get playing more and get more football.