Nathaniel Atkinson’s surprise rapid rise as “Mr Dependable” for Melbourne City this season has paid dividends, with the Launceston wide man signing a two-year senior contract with the A-League club on Friday.
The 18-year-old, who was named City’s December player of the month, made his senior debut against Central Coast Mariners at AAMI Park last month and has impressed every minute since.
Atkinson has made six-consecutive first team appearances since and will remain in sky blue until the end of the 2019-20 season.
He is the first player to graduate from the John Fawkner College through the Melbourne City College of Football program, where he completed year 12 to a senior contract.
“It’s an honour,” the versatile teenager and ex-Riverside Olympic talent said.
“My first aim was to play for a professional club, and now to have signed a senior deal is a dream come true, particularly at such a great football club.
“I appreciate the opportunity the coaching staff have given me; hopefully I can continue to repay them with positive performances.
“There’s a lot more hard work to go, try to do the best for the team, start winning and hopefully get titles.”
Atkinson said he has bought hard-working attack and defence to the City starting line-up.
“That’s been a big thing for me, and I’m known for doing that,” he said.
“My mum’s proud, my nan’s proud and they’re always saying ‘well done’… my friends are proud and my whole family’s proud and it’s really good to give something back to them for all the sacrifices they’ve made for me during my junior career.”
After leaving Riverside Olympic, Atkinson joined Tasmania’s National Training Centre, and was scouted by Melbourne City youth coaches in 2015.
Head coach Warren Joyce said Atkinson’s determination and character to apply himself training on match day has held him in good stead.
“He’s a player I have been impressed by since I first came to the club and he’s worked hard, made sacrifices and demonstrated versatility to play a variety of roles for the senior team,” he said.
“We want young player’s coming through into the first team… he’s had an opportunity and he’s made the most of his opportunity.
“You’ve seen him play in several positions and one v one he’s very good.
“He’s showed a great attitude to work, he’s clever in tight situations, he’s got good feet and if you’ve got a lot of players that are good in one v one situations it helps you tactically as a coach.”
Warren said squad depth was an important part of any club’s campaign.
Third-placed Melbourne City’s upcoming round 16 fixture against eighth-ranked Central Coast Mariners will take place in Gosford on Sunday.