Roar’s McDonald to make history in Melbourne
SCOTT McDonald's football journey goes full circle on Sunday when Brisbane Roar meet Melbourne City at AAMI Park.
The veteran Roar attacker will break Kevin Muscat's record for the longest spanning Australian national league career.
It's fitting the game is being played in Victoria because 20 years and 346 days ago, that was where McDonald made his National Soccer League debut for the Gippsland Falcons.
Only 15, McDonald came on as a 57th-minute substitute for Robbie Puca in the Falcons' 3-0 loss to Wollongong Wolves at Mobil Park in Morwell in front of 1531 fans.
"I was a Victorian Institute of Sport scholar at the time and I was playing in the National Youth League. Ernie Merrick was our manager," McDonald recalled.
"At the time Gippsland Falcons had a couple of injuries and were short, and their coach Stuart Munro had seen me play, and asked Ernie if I could come on loan, which came out of nowhere with five games to go."
Even better for McDonald was the weekend after when he again came off the bench, this time in a 0-0 draw against Adelaide City at Hindmarsh Stadium.
"Coming on for the last 15 minutes, being a 15-year-old and you're all of a sudden playing against (City's revered central defensive pairing) of Alex Tobin and big Milan Ivanovic. It was a great experience," he said.
McDonald only made three NSL appearances for the Falcons but he said it was the turning point of his career.
"It propelled me on to the next thing because I was never in contention to be in Les Scheinflug's under-17 World Cup team before then," he said.
"I came on to the scene in the NSL, and all of a sudden I was going to a two-week training camp (for the Joeys).
"I never looked back and that's how I moved on to go overseas from being seen at the under-17 World Cup (in 1999)."
Soon after McDonald joined English club Southampton and the spent the best part of the next 20 years in the United Kingdom, playing for a host of clubs, including Celtic, Middlesbrough, Millwall and Motherwall.
The former Socceroos marksman doubted he would ever return to Australia to play in the A-League.
"Five years ago I would have said 'no way'. I was very settled in British life. My wife's English, and my children were born there," he said.
"But the children reached a certain age, I was playing back in Scotland, and I'd achieved a lot up there, and my head got turned by (then Wanderers coach) Tony Popovic at Western Sydney.
"He tried to bring me back and it never eventuated, which was disappointing for us as a family, but we really had a thirst to come back from that moment on."
McDonald belatedly moved home last year to join A-League newcomers Western United, but he was soon on the go again, switching to Brisbane Roar during the January transfer window.
"The A-League's been something different from what I've previously experienced in my career. It's a different type of football, different venues, different players, different conditions, tactics … it's always good to try new things like that," the 36-year-old forward said.
"It's been so enjoyable in Brisbane. Everyone's buoyant and we're looking forward to a strong finish to the end of the season."