A severe back injury from playing cricket as a teenager and a football-loving father helped put Macklin Freke on the road to breaking into the A-League.
The goalkeeper made his first-team debut for Brisbane Roar in a 2-1 win over the Newcastle Jets on January 20.
Freke impressed on debut, making five saves and helping the Roar to a victory.
But if it was not for a cricket injury, and the influence of his physiotherapist father Matthew, the 22-year-old might never made the move between the sticks as a 'keeper.
“It was through my dad mostly, he was (and is still) a physio with FFA, working with the Joeys and the Young Socceroos,” he told The World Game.
“I guess he kind of had me kicking a ball around in the backyard from there. I didn’t become a goalkeeper until I was 14 or something.
“I got stress fractures in my back from playing too much cricket and from there it ended up alright… I was just pretty worn out and had to make the change.
“But my dad always used to smack balls at me in the back yard and practice fielding for cricket, so I guess that’s come in pretty handy for the last couple of years.
“I wasn’t much chop as a striker or a midfielder, so I guess you could say it [the stress fracture] was a blessing in disguise.”
Born and raised in the Queensland capital, Freke grew up supporting the Roar and has made the dream transition from being a childhood fan on the terraces to playing for the senior team.
“I’m from Ashgrove in Brisbane, I’ve lived there my whole life,” he explained.
“I’ve always supported the Roar, I was there at the home grand final against the Mariners when they came back from 2-0.
"I came up through The Gap, Brisbane City and then in 2014 I had a trial with the Roar youth team and I’ve been in and around ever since.
“It was a pretty surreal moment walking out there for my debut. A lot of hard work came together at once. I was pretty proud for what I’ve done and I'll hopefully get a few more games.
“Most of all it [the debut against Newcastle] was just really good fun. I went into it with the mindset to just go out there, you’ve been working for this for your whole life, go out there and enjoy it.
“Don’t put any pressure on yourself and give the best account of yourself. I really enjoyed it.
“I’ve been around the traps in the A-League environment for a little while so I know the level. I’m just glad I was able to put on a solid performance on the night and that we got the win obviously.”
Freke, who came through the Roar’s youth team and helped them win the Y-League in 2019, idolised Socceroo great Mark Schwarzer as a youngster.
“He was an absolute mammoth in goals,” he said. “Obviously the 2006 World Cup qualifying penalty shootout against Uruguay, just unbelievable. I still get goosebumps watching that. He was the one I really looked up to.”
The young shot-stopper got his chance in the A-League with regular custodian Jamie Young out injured.
“For the games that Youngy’s out I’ll do my best job and whatever happens from there is not up to me, it’s up to the coaching staff,” he said. "I’m just going to put my best foot forward and see what happens.”
Warren Moon’s side face Adelaide United at Dolphin Oval on Saturday. The Reds are sitting in third spot on the A-League ladder, with Brisbane a point behind them in fifth.
“They’re a good, young team,” Freke said. “They’ve been unreal this season, they’ve promoted a lot of youngsters. It should be a tough game but hopefully one we can come out on top of at home in the form we’re in right now.
“Obviously losing the first game of the season to Melbourne City wasn’t ideal but the way we bounced back against Melbourne Victory and against the Jets really shows our character, I believe.
"Now we’re really looking to kick on for the rest of the season, especially with our three next games at home.”