Gargantuan former Olyroos defender Jay Rich-Baghuelou has soaring international ambitions to match his towering stature after making his League One debut for Accrington Stanley - his first foray into the world of men’s professional football.
After a two-year learning curve with Crystal Palace’s U-23s, the 1.9 metre stopper from the Gold Coast jumped at the chance when the historic Lancashire club came calling last week, convinced the time is nigh to test himself in an arena of battle-hardened protagonists and ambitious fledglings.
Part of Australia’s squad at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, the 22-year-old knows he has plenty to accomplish before emerging as a serious Socceroos contender.
But he reckons he’s in the right place get himself “on the radar”.
After coming off the bench in 1-1 weekend draw with compatriot Bailey Wright’s promotion-hunting Sunderland, Rich-Baghuelou told FTBL: “Coming here, the national team was always in the back of my mind.
“I had that taste at the Olympics but the only way of making the step up to the Socceroos will be to be performing really well where I am now.
“There’s now that platform there and I’m going to be on the radar a bit more than before when was playing at U-23s level.
“I’ve got to give my all for Accrington and whatever happens happens after that.
“The Olympics was amazing (Rich-Baghuelou appeared in the final group game against Egypt). For an Aussie boy growing up on the Gold Coast to be a part of that squad was a dream come true.”
The centre-back, who has dual Australian-French citizenship, believes his apprenticeship in south London has equipped him for the challenges ahead in a bruising, demanding league where physical attributes are paramount.
“Palace gave me all the right tools and it’s up to me to show it now,” he explained.
“I trained with the first team on several occasions (at Selhurst Park) and I learned a lot there - now I need to take my trade and apply it in a tough division, and show everyone what I can do.
“I had until the end of the season at Palace but it was a no-brainier when Accrington came in.
“It’s league football and perfect for my development. It’s a big step up and the right move to make.
“I’m buzzing to have got some minutes already - the fans were something else, you can see how much this club means to them.
“You just want to perform well for the club, for them and for yourself. I’m very grateful to be part of this club.
“There are a lot of big teams in this division - I just want to repay the gaffer (John Coleman) for the trust he's shown in me.”
The ‘Owd Reds sit 10th on the ladder with 36 points from 26 games - seven points off the play-off spots.
“It’s a football mad town - it’s a small place and it feels like everybody knows each other. They’re pretty crazy for their club up here," added Rich-Baghuelou.
“I’ve signed for two-and-half years, and so happy the deal got done.
“The team know how to get the ball down and play but they can also direct - it all depends on the situation.”