‘Natural-born goal scorer’: Maclaren’s journey from Hyundai A-League to living his European dream

He may have been born in Victoria and got his Hyundai A-League start in Perth, but it was the move to Brisbane Roar which really kick-started Jamie Maclaren’s football career.

Maclaren moved to the Roar at the start of the 2015/16 Season and went on to enjoy two successful campaigns under John Aloisi at the club, which saw him take out back-to-back NAB Young Footballer of the Year awards.

The speedy striker created his own piece of history along the way, becoming the first Australian player to score 20 goals in a single Hyundai A-League campaign, achieving the feet two seasons in a row.

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In an interview with Simon Hill recently, Maclaren talks about his pride in the achievement and how important that recognition was so early in his career.

“Yeah it was but you also try and learn about staying grounded as well because sometimes you can probably get ahead of yourself or if you are young and you don’t know what the media is talking about you,” Maclaren said.

“For me it was about the team game and not getting to ahead of yourself and trying to individualise it.

He added: “It was a season where I knuckled down being the regular number 9, it was a fantastic year and one I can look back and say I’m so proud that I as the first Australian to score 20 goals in a Hyundai A-League season.”

It was after those two breakout campaigns that Maclaren earned a move abroad, signing with German 2.Bundesliga outfit SV Darmstadt.

While playing in Europe was a lifelong dream for then 23-year-old, it also opened his eyes to the rollercoaster nature of professional football.

“I remember finding myself against Fortuna Dusseldorf, clearing the ball in my own half and I was like ‘that’s just not me’,” Maclaren explained.

“I’m a natural-born goal scorer and someone that thrives being around that six-yard box for mistakes or for balls that just drop.

“It wasn’t me and I needed to dig myself out of that hole I guess.”

And he did just that in Scotland, earning a move to Hibernian on loan for the second half of the 2017/18 Season.

It turned out to be the perfect tonic for the Socceroos striker, scoring eight goals in 15 appearances, including a goal against Celtic and a hat-trick against Rangers in the final match of the campaign.

That treble against the Glasgow giants was much to the delight of Hibs boss – and former Celtic legend – Neil Lennon.

“As a striker, you have managers that really give you that belief and Neil Lennon, he gave me that straight away,” said Maclaren, who is on another season-long loan with the club.

“I knew what sort of fixture Celtic against Rangers was and how much for me to score against Rangers at Ibrox meant for him [Lennon].

“After that he took me under his wing and really pushed me on to improve and bring goals to the Hibs squad.”

Those goals for his club in the Scottish Premiership have now made Maclaren a vital member of Graham Arnold’s squad at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019™.

He has started all three games at the tournament so far, bagging his first international goal in the 3-0 win over Palestine.

“That’s what I have learned the last three years, you’re not just given a cap, you have to work hard for those things,” he said of playing for the Socceroos.

“You have to earn that jersey every single camp. You want to be a part of these moments, you can’t take for granted when you put on that yellow jersey because of what it means to us, the fans and everybody associated with Australia.”