If ever there was a player who personified the new Made in the Hyundai A-League TV ad campaign, it is Rhyan Grant.
Like Hyundai, he has been with the A-League from the start. This year he notched up his 10th season at Sydney FC – and celebrated with a Socceroos debut.
Given the chance to pull on the green and gold at the age of 27, he took his game to the next level, earning himself a new three year deal with Sydney in the process.
In the space of a few games at the AFC Asian Cup, he cemented himself in Australia’s right back role, developing even better vision, touch and decision-making.
He powered up and down the wing tirelessly, playing a pivotal role in both attack and defence.
But just as Hyundai back Australian football from grassroots to the A-League to the Socceroos, Grant’s story has more humble beginnings.
And when former Sydney FC academy coach Gerry Gomez first saw the country kid, he thought he’d been mistakenly sent a surfer.
In 2008, former Socceroo Gomez was coach of Sydney FC’s academy side along with Grant Lee and Steve O’Connor.
“Rhyan arrived from the AIS looking more like he was a surfer than a footballer with his blue eyes and long blond hair,” Gomez says with a chuckle.
“I had no idea he was from the country! He probably never saw a surfboard until he got to Sydney!
“But very soon I saw the quality. I came to the realisation pretty soon that it was only a matter of time before he would play for Australia.
“His work ethic was superb. A great attitude, too, who wanted to achieve things.
“But what I remember vividly was his pace. Incredible it was.
“He was a man on a mission. Nothing was going to hold him back.”
However, O’Connor knew all about Grant, having coached him at the AIS. And he knew looks were deceptive.
Grant was originally playing in midfield at the AIS, but a Hyundai A-League move to a wide role and right back was always on the cards.