A year ago, Matt Jurman was more concerned with keeping his place in a high-flying Sydney FC team than playing international football.
On Wednesday night, the Dapto junior is set to be one of the three defenders who will stand between the Honduras forwards and Australia's place in a World Cup.
The towering centre-back made a remarkable rise to become one of the Socceroos' crucial defenders despite being part of only two national team camps. He made his debut in his first selection – the away leg of the play-off against Syria – and has kept his place ever since.
"I said to him when we picked him, 'You can make debut in meaningless friendly, but if you come into game like that and do well, it kind of shows straight away that you can play at this level'," Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou said.
Jurman stood firm in that game in the neutral venue of Malaysia before returning stronger in the home leg days later. He barely put a foot wrong in another dominant display away to Honduras in San Pedro Sula but despite his rapid progress in international football, those who've known him the longest are hardly surprised. Sydney FC's Rhyan Grant has known Jurman for almost a decade having developed alongside the defender from the club's youth team in 2007. When he watches the Socceroos, he still sees the same 18-year-old imposing presence that stood behind him.
"He was always a big body with a good left foot. He just loved a header, he's always been a monster, he loved getting sucked in and I really don't think too much has changed," Grant said. "He is such a nice guy, really quiet and would do anything for you. But as soon as he gets on the pitch, he becomes this demon who hates everybody, gets stuck in and loves a battle."
He's a player Postecoglou always saw potential in him as a 20-year-old. He was the first signings Postecoglou made after joining Brisbane Roar, prying him from Sydney for two years before Jurman returned to Moore Park.
Now, Jurman is beginning to reap the rewards of a move from Sydney FC to Suwon Bluewings in Korea. He sacrificed being part of an A-League title for a move that would help propel his international ambitions by moving to a country that's polished several Australians into Socceroos. Alex Wilkinson, Robert Cornthwaite, Sasa Ognenovski and Luke De Vere all broke into the national team after stints in the K-League.