To date, over 80 different nationalities have been represented in the A-League, and given the history, popularity and quality of the game in Britain, it’s no surprise that the UK and Ireland have provided more than their fair share of players to Australia’s top flight.
Despite giving the game a number of massive stars over the years and enjoying increased club and international success, Wales has only seen three three players head Down Under since the formation of the A-League.
However, the Principality could be set to add another name to that shortlist in the not too distant future, thanks to a surprise recent call up for Perth Glory academy player Toby Snook.
The young striker joined up with the country’s Under-17 squad earlier this month, scoring a goal on his starting debut in a 3-4 win over their Scottish counterparts.
Kick360 caught up first team assistant coach Steven McGarry and the young internationalist himself to find out more.
“With my previous role as Academy Technical Director I had a couple of years overseeing Toby’s development” says McGarry.
“I’ve known Toby, being around the local scene here in WA. Toby was a good young player that we had our eye on for a couple of years, tracking him to see how he was progressing.
“He came in to my Under-18s team and did really well. Last year he played 18s and U20s for a period too. He’s a top young person, he’s got some really good attributes, he’s powerful, he’s quick and he’s got an eye for goal.”
Despite working with the youngster for a number of years, the Wales call up took the Scot by surprise.
“Like everyone, we were taken a bit by surprise a little bit. We didn’t really know he had those roots and connections, but him and his Dad spoke to the club, said there’s been the opportunity.
“Everyone was really stoked and really proud of him getting an international call up. It’s a pretty big thing, there’s nothing better for a young player than to go and experience international football against different opposition. It’s good to experience these things, to benchmark yourself against some of the best players at your age group in different parts of the world.”
Snook had been previously come close to representational honours a year earlier, with Joeys coach and Football Australia Technical Director Trevor Morgan handing the teenager a call up to the Australian Under-17s set up after monitoring his progress closely.
“He came over on a number of occasions and seen Toby, and we share all of our games and all of our top young prospects with him. It’s the opposite end of Australia compared to Sydney and Melbourne, and we want to give every single one of our young players the opportunity to play international football.”
But like so many things in the last couple of years, COVID put an end to that opportunity.
“Just when Covid hit, about March 2020, we had elite games for 04/05s” said Snook.
“I guess I impressed there, because I got in to the Joeys extended squad for friendlies in Bahrain. Everything got scratched because of Covid, so that was a bit disappointing, but this popped up a year later.”
The Football Association of Wales reached out to the family after discovering the Glory goalscorer was eligible via his grandparents who hail from Sennybridge and Blaenafon, two small towns in rural South Wales.
“There was a contact that knew I had Welsh ancestry that got in touch about early August maybe, regarding the two friendlies against Scotland and said if I could, they’d like me to be a part of it. They had watched my videos and my highlights, and wanted to see some more extended highlights, but they were willing to bring me over for that camp.”
Having gone through the disappointment before, he was concerned the pandemic might once again scupper his chance of a first foray in to international football.
“There was lots of blockages because of COVID. I never thought I’d get the opportunity, just because I’m on the other side of the world, and they might just give the players in Wales or England the chance but they were really, really keen.”
After a lot of work behind the scenes on both sides of the world, Snook soon found himself touching down in the UK.
“Obviously at first, it was pretty nerve-racking, but as soon as I got here everything cooled down, the lads I met there were really supportive, really made me feel part of the team straight away.”
The warm welcome helped him settle quickly, and ensured he was ready to hit the ground running when called upon.
“The first game, I came on after 60 minutes, as the coach wanted me to see how the game was in the first half before getting me on, but it was brilliant. The adrenaline rush you have when you’re playing is just amazing.
“For the second game, when the coach came to the team with the starting line-up and I saw my name up top, I was just really, really excited to play and show them what I can do. Grabbing a goal was the best feeling ever!”
“The game wasn’t live streamed unfortunately, so I was on the team bus after the game on the way to Birmingham Airport and my brother texted me to ask ‘how’dya go?’ And when I told him I scored, his reaction was crazy. Really proud as a family and friends and stuff back home. It was a really good feeling.”
It wasn’t just the Snook family eagerly awaiting news.
Steven McGarry’s network of contacts in his homeland were quick to pick up the phone and let the Glory coach know how their man had performed.
“I knew a couple of people at the game and heard that he’d done well, that he was always a threat on the shoulder and in behind.
“He’s done himself justice in terms of his performance… if he can go and show some of those good attributes I’ve spoken about at that level it’ll definitely put him in good stead.”
Following his maiden International experience, Snook has remained in the UK and is currently training with an EFL club in a bid to remain fit ahead of the next group of Wales games.
Should he continue to improve and impress, McGarry feels the Glory offers the perfect pathway for him to make the step up to first team football when the time is right.
“There’s a pathway. There’s a pathway for any young WA footballer at the moment. We had 10,11 players play in the Asian Champions League and A-League last year, which is pretty unheard of. I think it shows Richie is willing to give young players an opportunity.
“Like all young players, their form fluctuates. There’s still parts of Toby’s game that he needs to work on, but at the same time, he has some real assets. He’s quick, he can score goals, different types of goals, he becomes a real threat any time he’s in the front third.
“The kids who have come in and done well, your Josh Rawlins, your Ciaran Bramwell, your Callum Timmins and your Luka Bodnars, they’ve had that opportunity because Richie is not afraid to put them in there, but because they’ve earned the right as well.
“For any young kid, it sends a signal, to a Toby or whoever it might be, in the top level of a senior academy… they’re not too far away.”
Getting his chance to show the world what he can do on the international stage has certainly given Snook the motivation and drive to make his dreams of becoming a professional a reality.
“It’s definitely made me think this is something I really want to seriously pursue and give it my best shot.”