"It did shock me when I made my debut" - Harry Steele opens up on his breakout season
19-year-old Harry Steele was thrown into the deep end when he made his league debut for the Central Coast Mariners in an F3 Derby back in round one this season.
But the youngster was assured from minute one and has continued to impress since.
In the 83rd minute at McDonald Jones Stadium, Steele came on with the Mariners protecting a 2-1 lead.
He was shocked that manager Nick Montgomery gave him his debut in such an important fixture.
Since his debut, he has featured in five matches, racking up 257 minutes of professional football along the way for the Central Coast.
Front Page Football recently sat down with the youngster to discuss his season so far, the players who have influenced him, adapting to senior football, and his goals as a Mariner.
Steele was involved within the senior set-up throughout their pre-season.
Montgomery and Sergio Raimundo, Steele's former academy coaches, invited him to train alongside the first-team squad.
Steele himself wasn't sure if he would get any game time at all this season and shared his expectations during pre-season.
"During pre-season, I wasn't too sure how much game time I would be getting, or if I would be getting any game time this year, but I think I had a pretty good pre-season and trained well," he said.
Montgomery replaced Alen Stajcic in the off-season, his first time ever in a managerial hot seat. (NPL)
"With Monty and Sergio coming from the youth team into first-team role[s], it helped a few of us younger boys, and they were very supportive with us. They knew that capability we had.
"It's been a good transition so far, and it did shock me when I made my debut, but it's been good."
Both Montgomery and Raimundo have been key figures in Steele's development as a young, energetic central midfielder.
They have coached the youngster for three years now.
Steele discussed how the two figures have helped him ease into senior football.
"Him (Montgomery) and Sergio, I have known now for about three years, so they have been supportive," he added.
"A lot of those boys have come through the youth ranks with me. It has been really easy to train, and everyone gels together so well.
"With Nick and Sergio, it's like a big family that has been together for so long."
Despite only being within the senior set-up for a short time, the Mariners more senior players have already made themselves role models for youngsters like Steele.
Captain Oliver Bozanic is someone who Steele looks up to a lot.
"[He] plays the same position as me, has played [at] the highest level for the Socceroos, and he is a Central Coast boy like myself," he said.
"He has been supportive, and [has] taken me under his wing a bit and been helpful. Playing next to him has been unreal.
"Oli pretty much guides you through the game and even offers tips after the game too and at training. All the senior players have been supportive.
"I think with such a young team; the senior players have to kind of take on that big leadership role."
Central Coast currently sits in the top four on the A-League Men ladder and have booked a spot in the FFA Cup semi-finals after thrashing NSW NPL side APIA Leichhardt 6-0 last month.
Reaching an FFA Cup Final with his young teammates is one of many goals for Steele in 2022.
"I think this year is going to be a big year for us. We've got the FFA Cup Semi-Final coming up in hopefully a few weeks. We have a really good chance of winning that, and us young boys being able to play in a semi-final is such a good achievement," Steele said.
The Mariners celebrate after thumping APIA Leichhardt 6-0 to reach the FFA Cup semi-finals. (Getty Images)
"It's something we are looking forward to. After that, [we hope to] keep winning games like we have been doing, and hopefully, in the end, we can win the A-League Men.
"I think we have the capability and depth within the team to do just that."
The Mariners next take on the Jets in the second F3 Derby of the season, the same team that Steele made his debut against back in November.
The midfielder will want to keep making an impression if he gets the chance there.
Perhaps he may even contribute to some silverware for this young Mariners side come seasons end.