It hasn't quite matched last season's breakout Hyundai A-League campaign for Tate Russell, but the talented youngster could not be happier with the way his football is developing at the Red & Black.
A product of the Wanderers Academy, Russell burst onto the scenes when he made his senior debut against Melbourne Victory in January last year.
Going on to make another 11 appearances for the Red & Black, the 20-year-old established himself as a player for the future with his assured performances as a full back.
This season has had a similar feel for Russell, whose first game of the season came against Western United in December.
While Russell has only featured in seven games this season, the youngster feels like his game is moving forward.
"Still being a young boy, it's expected it would be a bit tougher to get into the squad," explained Russell.
"But, especially from the start of last season, I've improved a lot.
"Now we are winning games, it's going to be tough to get back into the side, but I am in a good way and I like where I am going as a player."
A fullback that likes to get forward, Russell sees the improvement every day in his game.
"My crossing has definitely improved, I feel as though if I come on in a game in the dying minutes and we need the extra boost I am coming on to make an impact now," added Russell.
"I am also a lot more confident on the ball. Being out there on that stage (Hyundai A-League), confidence is such a big thing."
While Russell is still some way off emulating the feats of Scott Chipperfield, Mile Sterjovski, Luke Wilkshire, and Matt Horsley, he is acutely aware of the impact and influence the Illawarra has had on the code in this country.
Russell says he feels privileged to represent the region, which has a proud and long football history.
“I am definitely proud of it considering the talent that has come out of Wollongong,” said Russell.
“We have produced some great players over the years like (former Socceroos) Scott Chipperfield and Luke Wilkshire, so it is definitely a privilege to be a representative of Wollongong.”
Given his strong sense of loyalty to his birthplace, it is no surprise Russell, the son of former Illawarra Steelers rugby league legend Ian, still lives there and makes the long drive to the Wanderers Centre of Excellence in Rooty Hill for training five days a week.
It is something he has done since he joined the Wanderers Academy in 2015 and he admits being in Wollongong helps him to stay grounded.
“I find the travel has got a lot easier and living back home gives me a mental break,” said Russell.
“I feel as if I was up here all the time it would be football, football, football.
“So being back there I get to see family and friends more often and that is very important.”