Back when he signed with Melbourne City in June of 2018, Lachlan Wales likely wouldn’t have been able to predict what was to come.
Despite appearing in 10 fixtures with his hometown Central Coast Mariners in 2017-18 – including seven starts – Wales had yet to win a single game in his professional career and was now walking into a club that still had attacking options such as Daniel Arzani and Bruno Fornaroli on its books.
Fate, however, smiled upon the now 21-year-old soon after he arrived in Bundoora when Arzani earned a move to Europe following a breakout World Cup campaign in August and Fornaroli’s fell from favour; leaving an opening in City’s XI.
Quickly winning the trust of City boss Warren Joyce, Wales seized that opportunity: making 23 appearances – with 15 starts – and scoring three goals during the ongoing 2018-19 season.
“The move here has really given me a big opportunity to develop my game,” Wales said on Tuesday.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities from the gaffer, so I’ve been pretty happy in the first half of the season.
“I’ve surprised myself but, in the end, football is about opportunities and taking opportunities and I’ve worked extremely hard to develop my game.
“In the gym and on the pitch, I’ve been doing everything I can to put myself forward to get selected each week.
“Once you get a chance it’s all you dreamed of as a kid, so you get out there and give it your best crack.”
Those who have watched Wales with any frequency this season will have no doubt picked up on a facet of his game that is regularly put on display: his love for a stepover.
“It something I learned as a kid,” Wales laughed when asked about his frequent use of the technique.
“You see Ronaldo and those kinds of players expressing themselves.
“It is a nice thing to do for the crowd and for the kids to look at to try and put that in their own game and be different to other people.”
Wales, who had never represented Australia at any youth level prior to this season, had his endeavours with City this season recognized by Socceroos and Olyroos Head Coach Graham Arnold in March when he was one of the 23-players selected for the Olyroos 2020 AFC U23 Championship qualifiers.
He started twice across the three games that went into qualifying, – including in the pivotal 2-2 draw with South Korea in which he set up Nicholas D’Agostino’s first.
“It was my first ever call up, I’d never made the Young Socceroos or the Joeys,” Wales said.
“I’d been called into the three camps and made the squad to go away for the qualifiers and it was an unreal experience with Arnie taking the job.
“The performances were good and we’re through to the next round so I am very happy.
“We went into camp and Arnie spoke about how much the Australian jersey should mean and asked us a few questions.
“I am a proud Australian, grew up in a coastal area, so to put on the jersey was unreal.
“It was a really good group, we all bonded together despite the fact that we all played for different clubs.”
Wales was speaking at a City in the Community (CITC) Young Leaders event run at City’s Bundoora headquarters.
Founded in 2015, CITC runs programs such as I Speak Football, Homework Club, Yarra Pathways, City Sisters, City Pathways to Employment and City at Work and recently reported that in 2018 that CITC delivered 18 social impact programmes to 18,000 young participants in addition to 680 inactive mothers and 1,300 inactive older adults.
Though it’s not something young footballers often think about when they’re striving to break through into senior football, Wales said he enjoyed the community work that goes with being a modern footballer.
“I like doing it,” he said.
“To come out and put smiles on kid’s faces, if you can give your time to them they really appreciate it.
“It’s something I love, giving back to the community, and it’s important to get them on board.
“I remember being a ball boy at the Mariners games and it was a massive thing when the players came over and even speak to you or give out some of their gear.
“It’s moments like that that make football special. I saw Roy Krishna do something on TV the other day with a young fellow and it’s those moments that make football beautiful.”