By sports editor Russell Bennett
The boy from Gembrook had never given up hope, but he had started to think that an A-League call-up just wasn’t written in the stars for him.
Now 23, Ryan Scott had been dreaming for years about his big chance, and when – or if – that day would come.
Never, not even for a second, has the young goalkeeper doubted his own ability. It’s just that he knew his performances on the pitch should have spoken for themselves – and if they didn’t, well that was out of his own control.
But professional clubs did stand up and take notice of his incredible clutch performances in goal for NPL powerhouse Bentleigh Greens, time, and time, and time again.
First was an unsuccessful tryout for the Newcastle Jets last year. The rejection hurt, but he didn’t give up – instead playing a starring role once again for the Greens in a grand final-winning performance on the big stage at AAMI Park against Avondale.
Bentleigh has cemented its place as a dominant force of Victorian football, winning three NPL Victoria championships in the past five years.
And Scott has been a central figure over that period – with championships and Dockerty Cup wins along the way, not to mention multiple appearances in the semi-final stage of the FFA Cup.
In both of the championship-winning games that Scott has started in goal for the Greens, he’s walked away with the Jimmy Rooney Medal as the best player on the pitch.
His saves and deflections during the clash with Avondale in September were bettered only by his performance in the shootout – saving a penalty that won the Greens the title in scenes reminiscent of those that have seen his highlights shown on Fox Sports before.
It capped a remarkable fairytale for a club that had at one stage slipped to fifth on the table during the season following the loss of renowned head coach John Anastasiadis, who joined the A League’s newest club, Western United, as an assistant.
And, it was Western United that ultimately offered Scott his chance.
On Monday he was on the tools as a bricklayer. Just days later, he’d signed a three-month contract as United’s new back-up keeper following the ACL tear suffered by a desperately unlucky James Delianov in a friendly the Sunday prior.
Scott is now the understudy to Polish star Filip Kurto, and has been ushered into the game-day squad for United’s Remembrance Round clash with the Western Sydney Wanderers at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong on Saturday night.
It’s a dream come true in more ways than one for the lifelong Cats fan.
“I worked on Monday but we got washed out at midday, and I got the call from the (Western United) goalkeeper coach saying they wanted me to come in the next day,” Scott recalled.
“I had to go and get a heart check and a medical on the Monday night, and then I was in there training on the Tuesday, and again at Kardinia Park (GMHBA) on Wednesday, which was surreal.”
Ryan’s dad, Alan, is a Geordie and a football diehard, as is Ryan’s older brother – fittingly-named Geordie – who is a striker for the Monbulk Rangers. All three are Newcastle through and through when it comes to their EPL allegiance.
Scott, a former Country Week cricketer in the West Gippsland Cricket Association who also scored a brilliant unbeaten 211 in a club game for Gembrook, signed his first professional football contract on Thursday morning and, in a sign of the step up into the A League, met with a dietician almost straight away. He knows he needs to improve, physically, if he’s to be called upon.
“I’ve always felt I’m good enough, but – physically – I’ve probably never had that fully-professional mindset that you need,” Scott admitted.
“But now I’ve basically got a three-month dress rehearsal now to prove what I’m capable of, and I just never know when I might be called upon.
“I have to be ready, for whenever my chance comes.”
Scott’s season for Bentleigh Greens finished five weeks ago, and now he knows he has to be ready to go all over again.
His big game performances have already become the stuff of legend in the south-east, particularly on the hallowed fields of the Greens’ Kingston Heath home base.
It’s all served to help put his name up in lights, and be front-of-mind for sides on the lookout for goalkeeping options.
“As a keeper, you have to step up in those moments and if you show you can, they’re going to be much more inclined to give you a crack,” Scott said.
“At 23, nearly 24, I feel like I deserve this chance I have now because it’s probably a case of having a few runs on the board, so to speak.”
In his five years at the Greens so far, Scott has missed just two games in four-year seasons as the first-choice keeper.
His consistency in Premiers plate, championship, and Dockerty Cup-winning campaigns has been nothing short of brilliant.
But his clutch performances on the big stage have set him apart.
“I honestly don’t feel the pressure,” he said of penalty shootouts, in particular.
“I probably thrive on the challenge and the adrenaline they provide.
“Look, it is a guessing game for the most part – I just pick a side and commit to it.
“My main theory about shootouts is they’re a mental game within the game. I’ll be a bit of a clown, carry on a bit, rev up the crowd, even dance on my line if I have to – whatever it takes to upset them (the kick takers) and put them off.
“The odds are against you as a keeper, but that’s my way of making sure they’re not quite as stacked against me.”
That’s the thing about Ryan Scott, though. The odds might be stacked against him, but never bet against him achieving the remarkable.