Another cursory thumbs up was poised in the direction of the recently established Wanderers Academy on Tuesday when seven of the club’s brightest talents were selected for next week’s Young Socceroos training camp.For Tariq Maia, the call up has been just reward for a series of standout displays across the course of the PS4 NPL2 campaign, and for a young Western Sydney born boy who has truly found his feet as a player in Trevor Morgan’s squad and a home in Red & Black.
Having spent the most of his youth career moving from position to position for Marconi, Sydney United 58 and Sydney Olympic, the Wetherill Park wizard is thriving as the Wanderers’ creator-in-chief.
It is in this advanced role that Maia says he has harnessed his craft most skilfully. But while the versatile midfielder favours licence to roam, he still feels capable of contributing from anywhere on the field.
“I just want to see myself as a player,” said Maia.
“It doesn’t matter where I am on the field as long as I’m playing, and I feel like I can adapt to other positions.”
Maia credits his flexibility, his shaping as a footballer and much of his early success in the game to former coach Mark Diacono, a weathered grassroots educator who has overseen his former pupil’s rise better than most having crossed paths at Marconi, United 58 and Olympic.
“Tariq was always a shy, reserved and humble kid who didn’t really know where he wanted to play,” says Diacono.
“But his ability to maintain the ball so close to his feet was extraordinary and his turnover rate was always so low. He could see things unfold two steps ahead of everyone else.”
Ironically, it was the departure of Olympic teammate at the time and current Wanderer Liam Youlley that led to Maia moving further up the field under Diacono’s tutelage in which his potential subsequently flourished to its full extent.
With seven goals to his name in 2016, including a sensational brace against Bankstown City Lions in late June, the Fairfield local has also proven himself a genuine match winner for Trevor Morgan. His importance to the Wanderers cause has been amplified through the losses of Mario Shabow and Lachlan Scott to the first team, but he downplays the go-to man label that his excellent campaign may otherwise warrant.
“The Wanderers rely on our whole team when it comes to our way of playing,” explained Maia.
“It shouldn’t have to be me to win games but obviously if the ball comes to me I won’t hesitate or be shy to try and do something to win the game.”
You can see Tariq and his teammates in action when the Wanderers travel to the Crest Athletics Centre on Saturday to take on Bankstown Berries. Kick-off is 7pm this Saturday.