Rarely does a footballer have such close ties to his club as young gun Daniel Wilmering does with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
When the Wanderers played their first-ever match in the Hyundai A-League, Wilmering was right on the sideline as one of the club’s ball boys.
As well as being a foundation member of the club, along with his whole family, the ball boy role was a position he fulfilled at most home games for about two-and-a-half-years.
“I used to do quite a few games during the season, but I always used to beg for the derby games because they had the best atmosphere and I always used to ask to stand in front of the RBB [Red and Black Bloc],” Wilmering recalled to www.a-league.com.au.
“It was such a great experience. I remember one game I was a bit slow to throw the ball back so [Wanderers skipper Nikolai] Topor-Stanley yelled at me.
SIGNING NEWS: Who are Western United FC's three young Aussies?
RUN TO THE FINALS: Glory closing in on maiden Hyundai A-League Premiership
“It was a little scary at the time, but it’s funny when I look back at it now.
“[Being a ball boy] was exciting and it just made me want to get out on the field even more. It kept me dreaming to hopefully play for the club one day.”
Wilmering got the chance to live that dream in late 2015 when he joined the club’s youth academy.
Fast forward a few years and the 18-year-old is now a fully-fledged Wanderer after making his Hyundai A-League debut in last weekend’s clash against the Phoenix in Wellington.
“It’s very special, it means everything to me,” said Wilmering of his late cameo off the bench at Westpac Stadium.
“It was my goal ever since I joined the club back in 2015 - to progress through the academy and eventually play in the first team.
“My short debut in Wellington was just a taste and it makes me want to work harder to keep achieving that goal.”
Wilmering added: “I didn’t really expect it. [NPL coach Arthur Diles] called me up on Thursday night and told me to check if my passport was valid.
“I didn’t know because I’ve never had to use my passport before:
I have never been overseas.”
It is a trip the attack-minded left-back will never forget, even with the Wanderers on the end of a 3-1 defeat.
Wilmering’s debut continues the Wanderers’ trend of blooding youngsters this season, with seven Academy players now featuring in the Hyundai A-League in 2018/19.
“We have three boys over with the [Australian] U23s now and we had about six go for the qualifiers for the U20s, so it’s definitely credit to the club for giving the young boys a chance,” Wilmering said.
“[Coach Markus Babbel] gives us young boys a lot of confidence.”
While currently on a youth-league contract at the club – which ends in September – Wilmering is hopeful his hard work and progression will see him remain with the Wanderers on a scholarship or first-team deal.
With the club set to move into their brand new Bankwest Stadium at Parramatta next season, there would be a nice sense of symmetry if the youngster could be running out in the opening match of the 2019/20 campaign.
“I’ve seen a lot of photos of the stadium on Facebook and Instagram and it looks amazing. Hopefully I get to play there and I’ll go from being a ball boy in the old stadium to playing in the new one,” he said.