Newcastle Jets: Gamble pays dividends for Thurgate with senior contact

ANGUS Thurgate was 15 when his school-teacher parents allowed him to move to Newcastle to pursue his love for football.

The Port Macquarie prodigy then quit school one day into year 12 to concentrate purely on becoming a professional.

On Friday, the 18 year-old inked a three-year deal with the Jets, his first senior contract, and was selected in the Australian squad for a training camp ahead of qualifiers for the under-20 FIFA World Cup next year.

“It’s been a pretty crazy year to be honest with the way everything has panned out, but to be recognised by Ernie and the coaching staff with this upgrade is great,” Thurgate said. “Especially after the success last year, I was excited to jump at the chance to sign here for three years. It is another opportunity to work hard and keep improving. The goal is to make more appearances off the bench and hopefully push for a starting spot towards the end of the season.”

The Australian squad, which will be formally announced on Monday, goes into camp next Saturday on the Central Coast under new coach Ante Milicic. The camp is the main hit out in preparation for the Asian Championships being held in Indonesia, starting October 18.

“It is exciting,” Thurgate said of his selection. “I had a sniff at the under-18s but didn’t get in. It’s a good opportunity to meet the boys and learn the style of play. I will be able to see where I am at alongside players in my age group. I haven’t played for my country yet and hopefully that is not too far down the track.”

Thurgate was 15 when he relocated to Newcastle along with another Port Macquarie youngster Riley Smith and his father.

“I was in the under-17 Emerging Jets team,” Thurgate said. “Mum and dad said if I wanted to do it, they would back me. Riley and I went to school together in Port. His dad moved down and I lived with them at Speers Point. I knew what I was getting into but it was tough at the start. In the first year, I went home most weekends I had free.”

Thurgate completed year 10 at St Mary’s before shifting to Francis Xavier for his senior years.

“I finished year 11 and went to year 12 for one day,” he said. “I just couldn’t do it any more because I had training every day. There are plenty of opportunities to study later if this doesn’t work out. It was a brave call. My parents knew if I worked hard that I would get there.”

Thurgate made his A-League debut against Brisbane in round 16 last season and now has seven appearances.

He is predominantly a midfielder but has played most positions on the park.

“He has just improved out of sight since he joined the senior group for training,” Jets coach Ernie Merrick said. “He made quite a few appearances last season and it made sense to give him a full contract. He is boy who can play just about any position. I have played him in all three midfield roles – 6,8,10. He has played on the wing, I have played him as a striker and I think he ran at right fullback.

“He has a lot of technical ability, enormous endurance and a terrific attitude. Nothing fazes him. He just gets on with the job. If he makes a mistake he picks himself up, gets on with it and gets it right the next time.”

Thurgate will start off the bench in the Jets’ trial against Central Coast Mariners at Maitland Sportsground on Saturday.

The match is Jets’ first against A-League opposition this pre-season and will be used to fine-tune their game ahead of the FFA Cup battle with Melbourne City at AAMI Park on Wednesday.