It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Newcastle Jets youngster Angus Thurgate.
Regular training with the Hyundai A-League squad earned Thurgate his first-team debut, albeit off the bench, against Brisbane Roar on 12 January 2018 at just 17 years old.
Little more than a month later, the young midfielder and fellow Academy graduate Pat Langlois signed scholarship contracts.
Gus went on to make a further six appearances for the Club throughout the season, going so close to scoring his debut goal for the Jets in Wellington.
Only the post denied him.
A breakout season for the youngster earned him an upgrade to a full contract during the pre-season, and an extension through until the end of the Hyundai A-League 2021/22 season.
It’s a rise that’s earned him the nickname ‘Port Macquarie Pele’ in some parts.
For Thurgate though, the best was yet to come: selection in Ante Milicic’s Young Socceroos squad for the AFC U-19 Championships.
The seed was sown during a Young Socceroos camp on the Central Coast back in August, and sprouted when he received word in October that he was headed to Indonesia for the competition.
The first challenge was getting out of the group, and the young Jets talent was on hand to make sure it happened. An assist on his international debut helped the Aussies to a 1-1 draw with Korea Republic.
Then, on his second ever match in international colours, Thurgate got on the scoresheet in a 4-1 win over Vietnam. He was key once more in the 1-1 draw with Jordan to qualify for the competition’s next stage.
The midfielder was in the starting XI for the quarter-final clash with Asian powerhouse Saudi Arabia, but the Aussies crashed out 3-1.
”It was a good time away, a good experience for myself, and it was incredible to play for my country,” Thurgate said.
“I had no idea [what kind of gametime to expect], I was lucky to start four games out of four and I thought I took my opportunity pretty well.
“The coaching staff tried to keep us really positive, we were troubled a bit by sickness, but the feedback was all positive.
“It was really good to get on the scoresheet [against Vietnam]. My parents came over just for that game, and got to see my first international goal.”
It meant that Gus has returned to the Jets with a swag of international experience, against some of the best youngsters that Asia has to offer, and with a renewed drive to get back to the national stage.
Now back in training with the Jets after his exploits with the national team, Thurgate has had to work hard to break into an extremely strong Newcastle squad.
His first opportunity to show the people of Newcastle just what he’d learnt from the tournament in Indonesia was the Round 4 clash against Sydney.
In front of a strong crowd of more than 11,000, he came off the bench in the 82nd minute with one aim: change the game.
While it was Nick Cowburn who poked home the equaliser five minutes after Thurgate had entered the contest, the youngster made his mark – and impressed the man that matters.
“A really good decision we made early on in the pre-season was to go to China, and not take six or seven first-team players,” Jets boss, Ernie Merrick said in the wake of the draw with Sydney FC.
“The likes of Angus Thurgate have really stood up… for a little fella, he causes a lot of trouble.
“I quite like that. He pushed and shoved, made some good runs. He’s a real player for the future, young Angus.”
Still hunting for his first start of the season, Gus has seen game time off the bench on three occasions.
From an energetic and game-altering performance against Sydney FC in Round 4 to a big effort against City in Round 6, Thurgate is continuing to give boss, Ernie Merrick plenty to think about.
With each appearance, the young attacker's stocks continue to rise. It's only a matter of time before he has a goal under his belt, and is knocking on the door to the starting XI.