Roar striker’s advice to those following his NPL footsteps
DYLAN Wenzel-Halls’ A-League dream came true because he knew the value of hard work.
His was a trailblazing path from local footballer to professional star that many young footballers now hope to emulate.
Turned away by the Brisbane Roar Youth early in his career, the Ipswich-born footballer returned to hometown NPL Queensland club Western Pride determined to prove he belonged at the top level.
What followed was a stunning state league stint at the Pride, which included scoring the winning free kick in the 2017 grand final against Moreton Bay and subsequent team of the season selection.
The following year he was crowned the NPL Queensland’s Golden Boot winner after scoring an incredible 24 goals in just 14 games.
That scoring prowess caught the eye of the Roar, who had previously knocked him back after 19 games and three goals for the Youth team in 2016.
In May 2018 Wenzel-Halls signed once again for the club he grew up idolising – six months later he came off the bench, replacing one of his idols Matt McKay, for his professional debut against Melbourne City.
Even now as he enters his third professional pre-season, the fan-favourite forward still picks the brain of his senior contemporaries at every opportunity.
It’s that attention to detail and constant want to improve that landed Wenzel-Halls his breakthrough A-League chance, but also what is keeping him in the game.
As the 22 year old prepares for Saturday night’s pre-season clash with Magpies Crusaders, the striker shared the details of his rise to the top – and what an opportunity to play against the Roar might mean for those in Mackay hoping to follow in his footsteps.
“From experience playing against the Roar as an NPL player, it’s like your grand final,” he said.
“Every player wants that opportunity to showcase themselves to a professional football team. The Magpies boys have a big opportunity there to come and give us a really good hitout and really show us what Mackay football is all about and how good they can be and how good they are.”
Magpies Crusaders players Kyren Walters, Willem Lejeune and Marko Milutinovic joined the Roar for a gruelling session at Sologinkin Oval this morning.
Walters in particular shares many similar traits to Wenzel-Halls; pace, power, a knack for finding space and, importantly, a penchant for scoring goals.
“The way I approached it in the NPL was: I’m a striker. To get the attention of the Roar I knew I had to score a bucketload of goals,” Wenzel-Halls explained.
“Ten to 15 goals a season wasn’t enough, because everyone can score 10-15 goals. I knew I had to go above and beyond. Score one, two, then go score a third in a game. Every week keep scoring, doing my extras, work hard, so when you do get the opportunity to train or be involved, you make the most of that.”
And though the end product may be what ultimately landed Wenzel-Halls his place at the Roar it is the rest, he said, that helped him get there.
“A lot of boys … train two or three times a week and want to be a pro. I think if you want to be a pro you have to be training as much as them,” he said.
“So when they’re training four, five, six times a week and you’re training two, three times a week, you’re not going to get any better than they are.
“If I could give any young player any advice it would probably be that. Work hard, obviously enjoy it, but you have to work harder than the people around you.”
As Magpies Crusaders prepare to re-enter the NPL Queensland in 2021, Wenzel-Halls said the state league pathway was pivotal to his rise to the top and it should be viewed as such by those starting on that journey.
“It was vital for me. I was released from the Roar Youth team at 18, 19, and I had the NPL as a pathway to go and get my important game time,” he said.
“Fine tune my game, work on things I needed to work on; it gave me a platform to showcase myself and score the goals that I needed to do to get back to that level and show the Roar and A-League what I can do.”
Now that he is there, the third-year striker hopes to take his game to another level this season as the club aims to go “two better” than the elimination final loss to Western United in the 2019-20 campaign.
That means picking the brain of those who blazed the path for him to follow, just as he offers guidance to the ones chasing his shadow.
“For me I’m always working super hard with Scotty Mac (Scott McDonald) and taking feedback from the Gaffa (coach Warren Moon) and the (more experienced) players that have done a lot in the game,” Wenzel-Halls said.
“I need to score more goals, assist more goals and be more influential in general.
“I want to score double digits this year and just be really influential. I think that comes from training and playing regular football. My goal is to play regular football at the Brisbane Roar.”