It’s becoming an all too familiar trend – player X puts in a decent weekend shift and come Monday, he’s had his name thrown into the ever-growing pool of token national team bolters.
A well-taken brace or a one-off plaudit-receiving performance shouldn’t be a high-ranking prerequisite for a Socceroos call-up.
But at a time where our national team set-up is largely unsettled and evolving, there seems to be a growing need to christen as a possible Socceroo anyone who shows a glimpse of something that’s outside the ordinary.
The A-League season may only be four rounds old, but the #bolter hashtag has somehow managed to sprout its ugly head more times than has been warranted.
We’re certainly in a transition period in the national team, which has been and will continue to be characterised by experimentation and chance giving.
Though we need to be mindful that with every name we casually drop into selection talk, we cheapen what it means to be called up to the Socceroos.
This past week, Nathan Burns was touted in some circles for a place in the upcoming Asian Cup squad.
Burns is no mug – he’s represented Australia at all junior levels and has seven senior appearances to his name.
And while he’s lately shown remnants of his promising youthful self, it would be unfair, to both Burns and his peers, to slate him for national team contention at this stage.
Bruce Djite too has enjoyed an admirable start to the season. The Adelaide target man has more than ruffled a few defensive feathers and has a couple of decent strikes to show for it.
But no sooner had the ball hit the net for his equaliser against Melbourne City last Friday, were there calls for Big Bruce to be included in Postecoglou’s next squad.
There are others of course. Corey Gameiro, Luke Brattan, Connor Pain and Mitch Duke. And I won’t even mention the article that advocated for David Williams.
These types of names may well be jostling for a Socceroos spot somewhere down the track. Yet let us remind ourselves that international selection demands a sort of unquestionable quality.
Playing for the Socceroos is a privilege. National team caps are earned – they’re not handed out on whims or half-thoughts. Our conversations regarding selection should reflect this.
That’s not to say that some of these players being mentioned aren’t worthy of playing for the Socceroos. It’s just that there’s a particular hastiness in bringing out the wax stamp before it needs to be.
Terry Antonis is someone beginning to show the type of maturity and intelligence that we know he’s capable of.
He’s a fine player who at 20 years of age can count himself as one of the most technically gifted players in the league.
Antonis’ fine form is certainly one of the contributing factors to Sydney FC sitting where they are. But to say, after just four games, that the Asian Cup “beckons” for Antonis (as one article put it) is positively premature.
It’s definitely not an outrageous claim, but it’s the sort of declaration that we need to be using sparingly.
I’ll admit to being guilty of this at times – in August I championed Tomi Juric as the Socceroos’ long-term number nine – though that’s an affirmation I’ll stand by.
Postecoglou’s bar should be set high – high expectations will inevitably yield high standards.
And with this, we need to begin to recognise and acknowledge flashes of form for what they are – flashes.
So in the meantime, let’s sit back, allow things to marinate and give the players themselves the chance to offer up their own names as Socceroos candidates.