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Rogic on fast track to top

Date

Lee Gaskin

It hasn't all been smooth sailing for the Canberra product on the way to his Socceroo dream

Rogic at home in Griffith in January 2011 after winning a Nike Chance scholarship to trial with clubs in England. Click for more photos

Rogic's rapid rise

Tomas Rogic has gone from unknown and unwanted by the AIS, to being selected for the Socceroos in under two years. Photo: Andrew Sheargold

It's incredible to think Australia's most exciting soccer talent was turned away from the Australian Institute of Sport only a few years ago.

The then head of the institute's soccer program, Jan Versleijen, deemed Tom Rogic didn't have what it took to be included among this country's elite juniors.

Rogic was vindicated for his persistence this week when the 19-year-old earned selection in his maiden Socceroos squad - just 10 months after signing his first professional contract.

Sudden rises in Canberra usually only happen this fast in the cut-and-thrust political sphere.

An ageing national squad and a blistering beginning to his A-League career made Rogic's inclusion for next Wednesday's friendly with Asian heavyweight South Korea hardly surprising.

National coach Holger Osieck is wary of putting too much pressure on his young shoulders, having seen numerous others with raw potential failing to live up to the tag of the next big thing.

But Rogic has proved all he needs is a chance. An opportunity to dispel the doubts about his lack of size, and instead use his skill on the ball and fearless ability to run at defenders to become a lethal attacking weapon.

Questions over the attacking midfielder's ability to handle the physical aspect of the game were behind his failure to make the AIS.

Ron Smith was the head coach at the AIS from 1986 to 1996 and is renowned as one of the most respected coaching minds in Australia. He first saw Rogic when he was an 11-year-old playing for Woden Valley, and even at that tender age his skill on the ball stood out like a beacon.

''Tommy's always had an exceptional talent, he's been great at going by people,'' Smith said.

''The big question about Tommy was how he was going to develop physically.

''He took a bit of a jolt when he didn't get into the AIS and that surprised an awful lot of people, myself included.''

Rogic is more circumspect about being overlooked, but admits he used it as motivation to take his game to another level.

''Things like that are obviously a setback,'' Rogic said.

''When I was younger, I wasn't as rated for any of the young national teams, the Joeys or things like that or the AIS.

''That's just how it is in football, it's a game of opinions.

''You've just got to keep going. Not to prove those people wrong, but I guess to prove to myself and to some of the people who have helped me to date to have something to show for it.''

After missing out at the AIS, Rogic honed his skills with ANU in the ACT Premier League, a team that sought to promote promising Canberra players in the absence of having a side in the National Youth League.

He's also talented in the indoor version of the game, having represented in the Futsalroos as a 17-year-old in 2010, and was invited for an unlikely cameo at the Futsal World Cup, currently being held in Thailand.

Soccer, though, has emerged the big winner.

Rogic's break came when he took out the Nike Chance, winning one of eight worldwide scholarships and learning his craft in England.

He has made an instant impact in the A-League since signing with the Central Coast Mariners at the start of the year, and is sure to be in the conversation for a move overseas during the January transfer window.

Yet he has not forgotten where it all started.

Smith was working as a scout for the competition and alerted organisers to Rogic's talent, nominating him for the Melbourne try-outs.

Rogic credits Smith and ANU coach John Mitchell as playing leading roles in his development, so much so that he called both men on Tuesday once he found out about his Socceroos selection.

''I let them know that I definitely wouldn't be in the position I am with my football career if it wasn't for those two,'' Rogic said.

''I owe a lot to them. The pathway in Canberra is not as good as some states and cities, so to have people like that around you and getting you going in the right direction is extremely helpful.''

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