Wilkshire shows way for youthful Socceroos

Albion Park junior Luke Wilkshire is part of Australia’s World Cup squad for the tournament in Brazil, starting next month. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Albion Park junior Luke Wilkshire is part of Australia’s World Cup squad for the tournament in Brazil, starting next month. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

FOOTBALL

Wollongong-born Socceroo Luke Wilkshire is happy to play the role of an unassuming mentor to Australia’s youthful World Cup squad.

The 32-year-old was among a 27-strong preliminary squad which left for Brazil on Wednesday and is in line to play in his third straight World Cup.

But unlike the previous campaigns, Wilkshire will be surrounded by many players who are yet to feature on the sport’s biggest stage.

More than half  squad have played less than 10 games in the green and gold, while Preston North End defender Bailey Wright is yet to  make his debut.

On the other hand, Wilkshire heads to the South America nation as the squad’s most-capped Socceroo with 80 appearances. 

As one of the few surviving veterans from the 2010 World Cup campaign, he is buoyed by the prospect of playing with the country’s developing young talent. 

‘‘There are a lot of new faces,’’ Wilkshire said.

‘‘I guess you could say it is an exciting time and it is an opportunity for some of the younger boys what they can do.

‘‘Naturally the younger boys will be looking up to some of us older guys who have been around a while. 

‘‘They are experiencing some things that they have never done before ... [they will] see how we handle and do things, given we have been there and sort of done this sort of thing.’’

Three players from the initial 30-man  contingent were culled from the squad on Tuesday before the Socceroos’ jetted off to Brazil. 

Adam Sarota, Josh Brilliante and Curtis Good (injury) all missed out on selection with coach Ange Postecoglou required to make a further cut of four players on June 2nd. 

One goalkeeper is more than likely to depart, leaving three remaining positions still teetering on the edge of disappointment.

While Wilkshire’s experience is sure to hold him in good stead to survive the final cull, he wasn’t counting his chickens. 

‘‘I am like everyone else, I am here and I am very hopeful,’’ Wilkshire said. 

‘‘I am desperate to represent my country on every occasion.

‘‘What better occasion than at a World Cup?’’

Wilkshire came off the bench as a second half substitute for Ivan Franjic in Monday’s final preparation match on home soil against South Africa.

Before the match, he had told the Mercury he was ‘fighting fit’ after landing in the country as one of the latest arrivals following another strong campaign in Russia.

He was hopeful that solid club form with Dynamo Moscow could result in another appearance on the world stage.

‘‘Every time you put on the shirt is a proud moment and every time you play is another opportunity to represent your country. At a World Cup there is no bigger time to do it and no better time either,’’ Wilkshire said.

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