Teenage Australian full-back Luca Doorbar-Baptist is out to impress after securing a two-year deal with English Championship club Nottingham Forest.
Eighteen year-old Doorbar-Baptist joined Forest last year after successfully trialling with the second division outfit. After battling a broken ankle and then returning to Australia to ride out the coronavirus, the defender will return to the UK this month to continue his development at the City Ground.
Doorbar-Baptist has been moved up into Forest’s Under-23s from the Under-18s and is loving his time at this historic 155-year-old club.
“It’s a massive club. By the time I was watching football they were back down in the Championship but as you learn more about the club you realise what a rich history they have,” he told The World Game.
“It’s just embedded into the city. Brian Clough is a legend in the whole of Nottingham. It’s just a massive, massive club.
“They’re in the Championship now, they’re doing well now and could get promoted, but they’ve just got a lot of history. Obviously the two European Cups were massive and playing for them has been the most amazing experience of my life.
“I was in the Under-18s in my first season, and they were very happy with me and they said they’re confident in me going up. I’m really looking forward to training with the Under-23s, there’s always first-team players with them.
“It’s amazing to be alongside them. I’m good mates with [first-team winger] Alex Mighten. We’re really close and it’s so good to see him travelling through the grades.
“It’s very promising that they do look at the youth, consider it and reward the youth if they deserve it.”
Doorbar-Baptist was born in Sydney and grew up on the northern beaches. He spent his junior years at Manly United, where he captained the club’s youth team and a NSW state representative team, and also had a formative spell at former Socceroo Nick Rizzo’s academy.
“When I was 13 or 14 I heard about Nick Rizzo and his academy,” the 18-year-old explained.
“He was really impressed with that and encouraged me to come along. I thought the training was great, it’s the most intense training I’ve ever done. Nick took me under his wing.
“All the coaches there really helped me a lot during that time and I improved a lot. They always spoke about taking me to England. They reached out to their connections at Forest and set up a two-week trial for me.
“I went over and trialled, and at the end of that two-week trial they did a medical on me and offered me a two-year contract straight away. That was when it all changed.”
A right-back or wing-back by trade, who can also play in central defence and as a defensive midfielder, Doorbar-Baptist admits it was always his goal to play in England.
“It was always going to the UK, I couldn’t think of doing anything else with my life,” he said.
“When I looked back a year-and-a-half ago before I went on trial, that was all I could envision, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else when I know that’s what I wanted to do badly.
“It was the weirdest thing because I didn’t know how I was going to do it and become a professional, I just knew it was going to happen. I feel very lucky to have found Nick’s academy, I was in the right place at the right time, I was working hard and then when I was on trial it was tough because they don’t want a bar of you because you’re there to take their spot.
“I didn’t get passed the ball, people were going in way harder in tackles on me than anyone else. But during the second week I had a change of mindset and I had a week to change my life.
“I’m going to give this everything and the second week was the best football I’d ever played in my entire life. I had a really good feeling about it and that’s when they offered me a two-year contract.”
Doorbar-Baptist has battled homesickness and injury while in the UK, not to mention the dour British weather. But the full-back is determined to succeed in English football and is raring to go when the new season kicks off in August.
"Both my parents are from England – my mum’s from Manchester, my dad’s from Essex and they met in Sheffield at uni and then they moved over here together,” he said.
“They always used to say to me you don’t realise what you have in this country [Australia], it’s gorgeous. I used to take it for granted.
“When I got to the UK I realised, especially when we hit the winter, what a privilege it is to live in Australia. England’s just very different and it was tough for me [to adapt].
“In October I broke my ankle really badly. I scored my first goal against Wigan, then I went over my ankle at training and snapped it to pieces. That was really tough.
“I struggled a lot in the first year being away from home, but I’ve been working really hard on that and I’m really looking forward to going back. I feel like I’m in a much better headspace and ready to go again.
“I wanted it since I was a kid, I’ve worked incredibly hard for it that there’s noting else that’s going to stop me.”