For those who have embarked upon it, crossing the border between New South Wales and Queensland can often mean the blissful start of a holiday, but for Brenton Fox and Matt Symes the state-side switch resembled one of the toughest decisions the pair will ever make.
Fox, a bullish forward hailing from Caboolture, was poached from under the nose of Brisbane Roar before making the giant leap of faith toward Parramatta last November. Symes, a towering ex-Hakoah Sydney City East shot-stopper from Townsville made a pilgrimage of similar style in September 2014.
A galling, eye-opening but ultimately rewarding transition for both has now landed the pair of naturalised Westies together in a Prospect home – and they’re loving every minute of their Western Sydney adventure.
“I’m definitely feeling at home in Western Sydney,” said Fox, who shares a house with Symes in the Western Suburbs.
“I’m happy living here, playing with the boys and seeing where I go with the Wanderers.
“They haven’t tried to change me or anything but they’ve given me the confidence to go out on the field week to week.”
The prospect of leaving home, family and friends behind in the pursuit of dreams has been an exhilarating one for Fox.
Son of an AFL-playing father, the former Sunshine Coast player of the year had always played his senior football for home town club Caboolture, where he won six premierships in a row and became something of a prodigy: attracting the eye of Brisbane Roar at the age of 16.
“I went down to Brisbane and had a bit of training and was there for about four months before we realised it wasn’t going to work out” said Fox.
But the three-time Hyundai A-League champions went back in for Fox six-months later. With an offer from Western Sydney also on the table, it was an inextricably difficult choice for the boyhood Roar fan.
“It was a hard choice, I wanted to stay there but I thought I’ve been there twice, they’ve had a good look at me and if they didn’t pick me the first and second time I should try something else.”
Eventually Fox landed in Prospect with fellow Queenslander Symes – the long-time apprentice of goalkeeping dream team Zeljko Kalac and Davide Del Giovine no less.
The trio of shot stoppers were all previously on the books of Sydney FC, where at the time Symes lived on campus at Macquarie University whilst on board with the Sky Blues.
“It was a big eye-opener to move down here with no family at all and train every morning at a high intensity then work every evening,” said Symes.
For the current Red & Black custodian, moving to Sydney revealed a whole new world on and off the field.
“Before coming down here there was only every one style of football I’d played and that was route one: if you had a goal kick you’d kick it as far as you can, or if I caught the ball I’d run to the edge of the box and smash it as far as I could.”
But under the careful stewardship of Kalac and De Giovine, Symes has developed into one of the country’s most promising young goalkeepers.
“Working under them has been amazing and something I never thought I’d be doing, they really focus on making you a better goalkeeper.
“You go to other clubs and they have a goalkeeper coach just for the sake of kicking balls at you, whereas we sit down, go through videos of our training sessions and look at what went wrong and were we can improve.
“They’re both very professional about their job which makes me enjoy it that much more.”
Both Fox and Symes have been back across the border twice since their move to Sydney, in what little time their packed schedules will allow.
Their stint in Prospect has gone swimmingly thus far according to both, with cooking duties shared evenly and ample opportunity to have kicks at the local park. And fortunately for Fox, having a goalkeeper around the house has plenty of benefits.
“Matt’s given me lots of little tips for what do to in certain situations and taught me how to figure out what certain goalkeepers aren’t good at.
“He’s a good person to live with.”
You can check out Fox and Symes as they take on Marconi Stallions this Sunday at Marconi Stadium. Kick-off is 3pm. The Wanderers’ next home game in the NPL is the Sydney Derby on Sunday 28 August at Popondetta Park. Kick-off 3pm.