Five Minutes With… Sam Munro

Mariners midfielder Sam Munro is in his third season of the National Youth League, and a veteran of the competition before his 20th birthday. Now plying his trade on the Central Coast after a stint with F3 rivals Sydney FC, Munro has a passport littered with evidence of football achievements.

Mariners midfielder Sam Munro is in his third season of the National Youth League, and a veteran of the competition before his 20th birthday. Now plying his trade on the Central Coast after a stint with F3 rivals Sydney FC, Munro has a passport littered with evidence of football achievements.

His initial foray into football began at an early age on the New South Wales Mid-North coast. Sporting bloodlines run strong in his family with his elder sister being selected in the Australian Institute of sport gymnastics program. The move to the Canberra proved fruitful for the youngster who ultimately graduated into the ranks of the AIS.

A move to big smoke beckoned for Munro who was to enjoy a meteoric rise into the Qantas Young Socceroos setup. Capped nine times for his country Munro had the thrill of netting a goal on debut against Thailand, and getting game time at the 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup held in Egypt.

An off-season recruit for the Central Coast club, Munro is comfortable in his new environment and is driven to succeed with the National Youth League this season.

Munro talks with about his thoughts on captaincy, his experiences in the National Youth League, and the ambitions of the NYL team.

At what age did you first begin playing football, and what attracted you to the game?

I started playing football when I was around 5 years old and started playing in the U/7-s. It was just my old man giving me a ball to kick around and I fell in love with the game.

Growing up in the country, did you have a team you supported, and players you based your game on?
When I was a youngster I liked Manchester United. I like to play like Roy Keane. I watched him a lot and based my game around him. How he works and how he passes a ball and I based my game on him, and that was who I wanted to be like when I was older.

You are a versatile player, having played both midfield and defence, what is your preferred position?
I sort have played everywhere through all the age groups to be honest. I-m happy at the moment playing centre mid but previously I have played right back. For the last two years I-ve been centre midfield and am happy to be there.

How were your experiences with the Australian Institute of Sport?
I moved to Canberra originally when my older sister went to the AIS for gymnastics. I was there for four years before I made the AIS team. After moving there I was over the moon when I gained a scholarship for two years, learning my game and going from there.

What was the program like and what areas of your game did they really focus on?
Just teaching you how to play the game to be honest, and working on technique. If you made a mistake you had to work until you improved. We trained twice a day and had gym to increase strength and fitness. You learn everything down there.

You were signed ‘sight unseen- in the NSW Premier League. Did that competition help your game?
When I was signed by Sydney United a couple of years ago, I wasn-t too sure what to expect. I had played in the Victorian Premier League previously, which, was a good competition. The NSW premier league is of high standard. It did help my game and a lot of the youth boys can come out of there for the youth league and then go back and play in the off-season. It definitely helped my game.

You-ve been involved with the NYL since its inception, how has it changed over that time?
I-m a bit of a veteran with the Youth League now. The standard has definitely picked up and a lot of the younger boys are breaking into the first team in their hometown. Definitely the standard has picked up and it-s got to keep going for these youngsters to come through. The Youth League is vital in the development of Australian football. It is a good competition and it helps the youngsters learn the next step to become a professional player.

You-ve captained two sides in the NYL, Sydney and the Mariners. Is it something that comes naturally and what type of captain do you see yourself as?
I-ve been captain a lot because I never stop talking on the field. A big part of my game is leadership and helping the players. I come in with a bit of experience after being overseas with the young Australian teams and I just try and help the boys a bit.

When you were unable to secure a first team contract with Sydney FC, and you were very close, why did you elect the Central Coast Mariners?
I struggled a bit with Sydney when I thought I was in and then I was out. Tony called me up about four or five months ago, and at the time I wasn-t really thinking about where I was going to play and I was in talk with a few other clubs. Tony was great when I spoke to him and he really helped me a lot. I knew the area was nice, and I knew about the club. I really wanted to move out of Sydney and the club has looked after me really well. The area reminds me a lot of what it was like growing up near Scott-s Head. I loved the beach and being in the surf and I-m really comfortable with my surroundings here.

How were your experiences with the Young Socceroos?
They were unreal experiences. Having the chance to play at the U20s world cup is the highlight of my career so far. Travelling the world and playing football is one of the best things you can, and I-m stoked that I made those teams and had the chance to do that as a younger player.

A goal on debut against Thailand in 2008, a member of the FIFA U20 World Cup Squad in Egypt, nine caps for your country, it must be a proud feeling?
Being a defensive midfielder I don-t get the chance to score too often and it-s a goal I remember very well. It was against Thailand in my debut match, I got the ball on halfway and dribbled it for a while before slotting it in with my left foot. To be honest I don-t know what I was doing up there as I don-t usually get the chance to get that far forward. To score a goal for your country is special and to do it on debut, well it-s a great feeling. I was lucky enough to get to play one match in our world cup campaign in Egypt. We did cop a lot of stick for our results over there, but it was a fantastic experience to see how elite some of those other countries are. We played against some very stiff opposition and to be honest we were outplayed in some of areas of the game. There is some great talent coming through Australian football at the moment, and I think that in the future all three of our junior teams; the U17s, Young Socceroos and Olyroos will all be highly competitive and have a chance to get the silverware in major competitions.

What are your goals for the season?
Last season the Mariners were the frontrunners pretty much all season when they won the premiership, and were unlucky not to win it. Tony has retained a large part of that squad so the aim is to keep improving. I-d like to think we can win it, we-ve had a rough start but I think we have a very competitive side capable of playing good football. Individually my goal is the same as every other young player, I want to earn a first team contract and break into the senior side. I-ll be working hard to try and achieve that goal.