The joy of World Cup selection for Jamie Maclaren and Mathew Leckie was tempered by the sadness they felt for their overlooked Melbourne City teammate Marco Tilio, and snubbed defender Trent Sainsbury, who had been training with the A-League club.
While Maclaren and Leckie had been considered World Cup certainties, their fellow City attacker Tilio was among a host A-League players who faced a nervous wait for the squad’s selection.
Al-Wakrah centre-back Sainsbury – the former Socceroos captain who was a surprise Cup omission despite indifferent recent form – was training with City after the Qatar Stars League went into an early recess.
So for Maclaren and Leckie, Tuesday’s confirmation of their inclusion in the 26-man squad was somewhat of a bittersweet experience.
“I pulled (Tilio) aside and just said, ‘You have to use this as motivation’,” Maclaren said on Thursday.
“Don’t let this defeat you, don’t let it define you. I’m sure Marco is the sort of player now that the inner hungry beast will come out in.”
It also brought back painful memories for Maclaren, who was initially omitted from Australia’s 2018 World Cup squad only to earn a late reprieve.
“I remember being in tears – I felt the instant (disappointment) when you get declined from the squad,” he said.
Leckie said it was tough to see Tilio and Sainsbury after their non-selections.
“These are friends. I’ve played with Trent for a long time in the national team and ‘Tils’ I’m here (at City) week in, week out with, so I felt the pain for them,” Leckie said.
“Someone like Tilio is such a young talent and if he goes with his career as he has the potential to, he’ll have the opportunity to represent the country at World Cups down the line.
“Trent’s a great guy, a great player, and I’m sure we’ll see him in the future.”
While Tilio and Sainsbury were devastated, Hearts midfielder Cameron Devlin was both delighted and relieved when he found out who had made the Socceroos squad.
The delight came from his own inclusion, while the relief stemmed from the selection of his Hearts teammates Kye Rowles and Nathaniel Atkinson.
“It’s massive to be going with Kye and ‘Natty’,” Devlin said.
“It’s so cool to have two of my Aussie boys over here (in Scotland). Now to be going to a World Cup together is unreal.
“It would have been such a shame if one or two of us missed out, so for all three of us to be going is unreal.
“All three of us live in the same block of apartments. I got the first call and you don’t want to text the others in case they’ve had bad news. Then you feel like a d***head.
“When I found out they were both in it was such a relief.”
The Hearts trio are among seven players from the Scottish Premiership – the others being Aaron Mooy (Celtic), Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Aziz Behich (Dundee United) and Keanu Baccus (St Mirren) – named in the Socceroos squad.
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson said: “It’s the first time St Mirren have ever had someone in a World Cup squad, so obviously we’ll all be supporting the Socceroos now.
“The whole of Paisley is going to be dressed in Australia kits.”