Launceston talent Nathaniel Atkinson has credited his soccer foundations at Riverside Olympic to the dream he lived on Sunday night – making his professional debut.
The 18-year-old was drafted into Warren Joyce’s Melbourne City starting XI for Sunday’s A-League fixture against Central Coast Mariners as a replacement for Manny Muscat on the right wing and he left a lasting impression.
Atkinson said he did not find out about his first appearance until he walked into the AMMI Park changerooms. “Through the week the gaffer gave me the idea that I might be a part of the team… but I found out I was going to start when I walked into the change room – when I saw Warren, he was the first face I saw – and he told me that I will be starting,” he said on Wednesday.
“They [teammates] could tell I was nervous – they were saying “why are you nervous, it’s just another game of football”, they calmed me down a bit and it was good.”
Atkinson said it was a dream come true.
“I always wanted to play in a professional league no matter where it was,” he said
“I know when I was younger going to all the A-League matches that came down to Tasmania for a friendly, I was like maybe I could play there one day. It was always a dream to play professionally and I’m lucky I got the debut.”
He said his time at Riverside with his family and Tasmania’s National Training Centre undoubtedly helped him achieve his goal.
“I started off going to Riverside Olympic, that was my junior club, my whole family played there – uncles, my mother and now my younger brother’s there – my nan was the treasurer – so I was always around.
I always wanted to play in a professional league no matter where it was.Nathaniel Atkinson
“Eventually under-14s I made the Tasmanian state team… then got invited to move to the other side of the state for the NTC. Tassie football is pretty small I guess but we have a lot of good players around, it’s just the spotlight really isn’t on Tasmania.”
Atkinson said he was grateful for his NTC coach Kenny Weston who pointed him out to some key figures.
The Young Socceroos’ debut match made him the first player to graduate from John Fawkner College through the Melbourne City College of Football program.
“Our NTC came here to play against the under-20 Melbourne City team, and I managed to score a goal in the first 15 seconds or so, finished off with a hat-trick by the end of the game and the next day they asked me to come for a trial,” he said.
“It’s been great – I’ve come in as a 20s player first off. It’s a big step up from 20’s to NYL (National Youth League), I struggled for about a year.
“I couldn’t really get much game time with the youth league but eventually I found my feet and built on that and now I’ve moved up from youth league to here, it’s great.”
Aside from wanting more minutes and a more permanent role in third-placed City’s first side and having completed year 12 studies last month, Atkinson is now undertaking an online personal training course.
Our latest #ALeague debutant reflects on his first senior match and the week leading up to the game.— Melbourne City FC (@MelbourneCity) December 12, 2017
See his full interview as he talks his junior football in Tasmania, working through the City youth system and more about his first match 🎥 https://t.co/s1cLc9HR7Tpic.twitter.com/8gT8AMhRph