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  • Writer's pictureMatt Olsen

Daniel Bennie: The Perth Glory sensation starting to prove his worth

Rarely in the A-League Men do we see teenagers emerge and prosper in their environment to the point that they seem bound to stay in the main core of a playing group. However, this trend has been quashed most recently by the emergence of 17-year-old Australian youth international and Perth Glory winger Daniel Bennie. Front Page Football  recently caught up with the prospect to chat about his wild start to life as a frequent Glory starter.

The raucous Glory fans embrace Bennie after Perth's win over the Brisbane Roar last month. (Image: Perth Glory FC X)


From his appearances at youth international level last winter, making a senior debut against English Premier League opposition, and learning from experienced forwards such as Adam Taggart and Stefan Colakovski, Daniel Bennie's career has already been quite an eventful one.


We started by discussing his early life and playing career, which started in Hong Kong. Bennie was foreign-born and learnt his trade at an early age in the East Asian country.


"I grew up playing the game in Hong Kong. I was playing there from about the age of three or four until I was about 12, then moved to Perth, and got started with Sorrento," he told Front Page Football.


Bennie then played youth football for several big-name clubs in Perth's Northern suburbs before his move to Glory's youth setup came through the guided figure of coach John Walmsley.


Walmsley had been involved with sporting programmes at the school Bennie attended but was also involved at Glory, and from there, the young winger's career gathered pace.


"He (Walmsley) was a big reason why I got started and was one of the main people to help me out at Glory, because I had been with John for a few years in school teams and state teams, and he taught me a lot that helped me get to the A-League."

Bennie then took his opportunity within the ranks of Western Australia's only professional side, becoming an attacking player of note in the local game.


Remarkably for someone his age, Bennie has gone on to successfully grind his way through the youth ranks at the club, and he described his multi-year rise from the U18s in 2021 to the senior NPL squad, which was completed in 2023.

Bennie playing in the Perth Glory Academy setup in 2022. (Image: @tom_mc_c X)


"I started in the 18s, and that season, I got moved up to the 20s. The season thereafter, I was with the 20s again but broke into the NPL first team. Last season, I was mostly with the first team, and I had that breakout moment, so to speak," he explained.


However, before the NPL stint was over and Bennie received his first A-League Men cap, there were two moments in mid-2023 where he burst onto the scene, namely through his exploits with the Joeys at the U17 Asian Cup in Thailand.


So impressive was Bennie's stint with the side, especially against Tajikistan in the group stage, that comparisons were made with former Socceroos striker Josh Kennedy.


Reflecting on the experience, a modest Bennie spoke about the honour of playing internationally and the reception he received for his performances.


"When I moved to Australia, this was the goal; to play in an international tournament, and to get the experience to take the opportunity in Thailand was an absolute dream," he said.


"I enjoyed playing against other countries in Asia. You can really test yourself against the best players at your age, and that game (against Tajikistan) was such a great moment for me."

Over that same period, by July, Bennie made his senior debut for Perth Glory. This moment was noteworthy as the fixture was against English Premier League club West Ham in front of 30,000 people at Perth Stadium.


Bennie scored in a 5-2 loss. It capped off another insane honour for the teenager, with Kenny Lowe, who was interim manager for the friendly, describing Bennie as having had a "shitload of potential" in his post-match press conference.


The youngster, now roughly eight months removed from the experience, humbly described the whole period as a dream, noting that many things went in his favour at precisely the right time.


"That couple of months, from being away with the Joeys, coming back and scoring against West Ham, it really was like living in a dream for me, everything was falling into place and going right; I'm thankful that I had the experience," Bennie said.

Bennie was sublime in the Joey's 2-0 win over Tajikistan at the U17 Asian Cup last year, a match where he scored. (Image: The AFC Media)


From there, Bennie was all set to join the professional ranks after such impressive showings, which is certainly a familiar experience for teenage footballers previously, and currently, across the A-League Men. However, the fashion and circumstances around his debut season certainly attracted intrigue.


The one thing you may expect to be a challenge for younger players at that level is the major contrast in travel and conditioning, especially when undergoing the harsh schedule Western Australian clubs often face in professional sport.


Though Bennie believes that issue is not much of a problem, explaining that the travel is something that has helped him embrace the journey more.


"I think it has been alright. I did travel a lot at a younger age for football, and it has helped me in the professional ranks. You're doing this every second week or so, and I am embracing every minute of the challenge as a footballer," he explained.


A resilient character was undoubtedly formed at a young age, and Bennie has certainly taken well to the challenge beyond him at this moment in time.


With this Glory setup and the warm embrace of teammates such as the ever present Taggart, and former young starlet Colakovski, Bennie opened up on the guidance they provide in training and through other learning experiences.


"It's a quality experience, every day training with them, and you're trying to get as much from their style of play and add it to yours, ultimately to improve every day, and I think I have learnt so much from those guys in the team."

The same goes for Glory manager Alen Stajcic, with Bennie offering an insight into the guidance he provided in the early markings of his debut season, and his appreciation for the man who gave him his start in the professional game.


"He (Stajcic) has put all this faith in me, and since coming into the club, he has taught me a lot and to settle into first team football. I'm really thankful for that," Bennie added.

Bennie has featured in 19 of the Glory's 21 league fixtures so far this season. (Image: Dan McAdam/Laughing Bulldog Images)


A laid-back approach has been the way to go, and it has been as exciting as ever for the prospect, who feels Stajcic's advice has changed his game for the better. Something perhaps noticeable early on, as Bennie would further explain how exactly this guidance propelled his personal game.


"I remember before our first game together, he had a simple message to go out and enjoy it, play with a smile on your face, and it was great advice for me because I really enjoyed the match and set myself up for a great season."

However, the breakout of such a young player is in part due to the factors surrounding the club and its transfer limitations under the regime that was temporarily provided by the APL after the removal of former owner Tony Sage's licence.


There was light at the end of the tunnel, though. On the topic of new ownership, Bennie shared some insight into new chairman Ross Pelligra's influence and role for the playing squad, and the changes they feel amid the dawning of a new era.

 

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"He has spoken to a lot of the boys. I have personally not had much interaction, but I am sure that will come when he settles down more over here, and we're all thrilled to have the new owners," he said.


As for where the Glory can go in the coming months, Bennie says the team has success in its future, with a healthy mindset and a competitive spirit set to lead it to better places.


"I am extremely confident in these boys," he said.


"We work really hard, and we just need to continue with that mindset until we can come as close as we can to a Finals spot."


So ultimately, to understand the rise of Daniel Bennie is to understand the unique circumstances that have made the prospect find his feet at this level, from his humble upbringing at an international school in Hong Kong to the financial restraints at Glory, and his superb performances in an Australian shirt.


The case study of his career is without doubt one into what can go right for young Australian talent, and that the game should be looking to promote from within at younger ages. The kids making Australia a stronger footballing nation with a more competitive league can very much be the springboard and the way forward for the game.


The days of older legs for attacking flair can slowly falter with more names like Bennie promoted nationwide, and he gave off the embrace of someone who is willing to give 110% to be better.


You can catch Bennie in action after the international break, as Perth Glory travel to face Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on March 31, with kick-off at 3pm AEDT.


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