Why Wide Bay's fans should be excited about Ben Wilks
FOOTBALL: A phone call three hours before kick-off delivered Ben Wilks the news for which he has waited five weeks.
You can play.
An identical sentiment was echoed by football fans during Wide Bay Buccaneers' 8-0 loss to Sunshine Coast Wanderers, the first time Wilks has featured in a Football Queensland Premier League game.
The Buccaneers' third visa player, Wilks said he was initially told he could play last week, but the winger preferred to wait for official confirmation from Football Federation Australia.
The phone call came during the under-18s game, and just hours later Wilks donned the red and blue, 24-numbered jersey and joined his teammates on the field for the first time.
Wilks played the full 90 minutes in his Buccaneers debut, and the 25-year-old Englishman showed glimpses of why Wide Bay's coaching hierarchy, first under foundation coach Tim Lunnon and now interim duo Kieran McKean and Steve Bates, were so desperate to receive his international player clearance.
He attacked the ball with precision, he directed his teammates off the ball and showed poise under the pressure with it.
He produced the physicality Wide Bay players have largely lacked in the opening six games but is required to compete at this level, and despite being confined to training parks since his February 14 arrival, showed such sublime touch you would not think it was his first game in months.
He almost opened his goalscoring account, as his powerful, long-range drive hit the post.
"It was nice to get some shots off and express myself on the field, show what kind of player I am.,” Wilks said.
"Finally, after five weeks training and watching, finally being able to help them out with things I can add to the game. I think I did in parts, we have a lot to work on as a team, but it was good to be back on the field. I'm really happy to be back playing.”
He started in the forward line but a lack of service sparked his move to the central midfield, a position in which he could have more impact.
It was a smart move.
Wilks was to the Buccaneers what Steven Gerrard was to Liverpool and what Johnathan Thurston is to the Cowboys - he is the go-to man, the player who must get as much ball as possible because of how they can use possession to get the best result.
Like them, it will take time for the team to develop the flow and communication that will allow for the magic to happen.
"I found it difficult at times,” Wilks said. "(Sunshine Coast) played together for a while and we're still getting used to each other. It's just getting everyone on the same wavelength.
"That's where it comes to the older players and those who have played at this level, to get the boys rallied up to have the confidence to always be looking for the ball.”
It is a move that could become permanent depending on the team's dynamics, but wherever he plays, expect the ball to be nearby.