Academy Spotlight: Jesse Cameron

“I’ll go and smash someone (and) cop a yellow card if it means that the team is going to win.”

Perhaps this is a blunt way for a player to describe himself, but Jesse Cameron is showing he is a player with a ‘team first’ mentality, which in itself is refreshing to see.

It is a mantra he has carried through from his days as captain of the Australian Schoolboys team, to going through the Blacktown City system and finally landing in Wanderers Red and Black.

Cameron – an 18-year-old dynamic full back in his second season at the club – says he is inspired by similar players who wear their heart on their sleeve.

“I support Real Madrid, so I look at Dani Carvajal – who is in my position as well – and he’s not their most special player scoring the goals and getting the assists, but he’s always in everything is playing for the badge… (he) represents what a hard working player is.

“That’s what inspires me, the hard work. Hard work beats talent.”

Yet talent is something Cameron has in abundance, and he has been able to flourish in a Wanderers set up tailored to the needs of each individual player.

“It’s a difference in professionalism… the detail in the information and how personable it is to develop your game.

“At Blacktown it’s a lot more team tactical on how the team is going to get points and how we’re going to be at the top of the ladder. Whereas coming into the youth setup with the Wanderers, it was a lot more, ‘how are we gonna make Jesse Cameron an elite player?’ And how we’re going to develop his game and in turn, how that will make our team better?”

Cameron says it was an interesting experience reaching a point he had been working towards for years.

“It’s a bit daunting… from when I first joined Blacktown and U11s, first grade is what you idolise and you’ve always wanted to be there, so the first couple of games it takes you a while to catch your breath and get into it.

“I think now the more I’m playing in it and the tougher games… they’re the games that help build your confidence; you’re not just another player out there, now you can hold yourself and do the things you’ve been doing throughout the age groups in the men’s group.”

Cameron has played in every game so far this season – with eight games being starts – though he faces stiff competition from the likes of Dylan Scicluna and Anthony Pantazopoulous in the full back spots.

He says the season has been a good mental practice for the competitive nature of top level football.

“I think something I’ve done well this year is controlling what I can control. With the amount of A-League boys that we have, there’s times that you’re going to be in the team and times that you’re not going to be in the team, and it’s about just keeping your head down, being a mental beast and just getting on with it.

“Working hard in the gym doing extras, so that when you get that chance to play on the first team, you’re there, you’re ready to go and do what the team needs you to do.”

The A-League academy environment is a unique one where players are working together to achieve great things in the NPL NSW competition, but are also fighting each other for a precious spot in the A-League Men’s side.

Cameron feels the competition is healthy for the entire team in the long run.

“When you’re being pushed by someone that’s slightly in front of you or slightly behind you in terms of position and spots and squads, it’s always good because it brings out the best in you.

“If it was easy and you’re comfortable, you’re not really pushing yourself to get better.

“I’m pushing to be in an A-League squad, so I’m trying to get better every day and prove that I can do things these guys can’t do.”