Coming into the 2023 season the signing of Samuel Riak flew relatively under the radar.
In a squad full of former A-League talents such as Lachlan and Walter Scott, Joshua Macdonald and Mirza Muratovic, there was an understated nature of Riak's arrival.
But since he pulled on the number eight jersey in round one against APIA, Riak has shown his class and ability.
Whilst playing some of his football in Victoria, he spent most of his career in WA, firstly in the Perth Glory youth setup before having a successful spell with Perth Redstar - where he won the 2020 NPLWA mens league title with pre-merger club ECU Joondalup SC and the 2022 Top Four Cup.
Riak attributes his move to the east coast to Wolves left-back Walter Scott - who played for both the Glory A-League and NPL teams.
He said that once he told Scott he was interested in a move, coach David Carney was quickly on the phone to see if he would come.
"Walter [got me in touch], because me and Walter played together for a long time back home," he said.
"Walter got in touch and said they team were looking for a number six and would I be interested and I said yeah.
"The 'gaffer' [Carney] gave me a call and that's how it happened."
In a testament to how well Riak has played in the first half of the season, the midfielder has featured in all bar one league match plus, showing just how greatly Carney values him in his team.
Riak has formed a formidable partnership with Chris McStay in the middle of the park, marshalling in front of the back four.
His main traits are ball retention, making tackles and doing the 'dirty work' that often goes unnoticed by the average punter.
The 25-year-old said that he had been enjoying his job in the middle of the park with McStay and added that he was learning every day from Carney in his first year of coaching.
"So hopefully we can turn these few draws into wins in the second half of the season.
"I enjoy playing with 'Chrissy'. He's a good player. He understands me and I understand him and I like it just like I like it with all the other boys as well in the squad. We're different players all coming together for the first time this season. We're just trying to get to know each other.
"I try to learn from every coach that I play under, but David is different and has different systems.
"It's been good and it's all a lot of positive stuff."
"It's getting better [the team performances]. The losses we had earlier in the season it was more individual mistakes rather than as a team which was happening a bit too often. We've sort of eradicated those.
"We always score goals and that's something that we spoke about as a group of players, just making sure we don't give anything away knowing that we can always score goals and get the result we want to get. Each week we feel like we're getting better and better," Riak added.
This Friday in the NPL NSW the Wolves will host a Mt Druitt side that have been in positive form in recent weeks.
The Rangers are in the midst of a relegation scrap at present in 12th place on the table. But the team have won their last two league games and will go level on points with the Wolves if they make it a trifecta.
"They [Rangers] have had some good results against the so called top teams this year," Riak added.
Carney's side will be looking to stretch their unbeaten run to five games with a result.
A win would see the Wolves jump to eighth for the time being on Friday before the rest of the round plays out across the weekend.
Last time out Carney's troops were unlucky not to pick up the three points against defending grand final champions Blacktown. The match against the Rangers will mark the half-way point of the new 30 round season.
The side will be away to APIA next week before playing Sutherland at home.
Kickoff for the match against the Rangers is 7:30pm.
The fixture comes just days after the Wolves were approved past the 'expression of interest' stage for the upcoming 'National Second Tier' competition.
The Wolves are one of 26 teams vying for a spot on the national stage, with the competition slated to begin in March 2024. The competition will act as a direct pathway to A-League football, eventually through promotion and relegation between leagues.
Wolves chief executive Strebre Delovski told the Mercury earlier in the week that the announcement would help bring the club to their end goal.
"The club was extremely pleased to be formally advised that our application for the National Second Tier has progressed to the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage," he said.
He added that the job for the club was not done yet.
"Not all of the criteria we need to meet is known yet. We will find out more once the RFP phase begins," he said.
"However, we are confident that we have the capacity to meet the criteria which has been discussed so far. Now is the time for the community to come out and support the Wolves and show Football Australia that our club and our region deserves representation at the highest level."