Socceroos: Australia to play New Zealand for football Ashes

The axing of his club teammate Cameron Devlin from the Socceroos squad has been a reminder for Kye Rowles to make the most of every national team opportunity, even if it’s not in his preferred position.

A central defender by trade, Rowles was instead used at left-back for a second Socceroos match in succession in Australia’s 1-0 weekend loss to England at Wembley.

Whether he returns to the centre of defence for Australia’s battle with New Zealand for the “Soccer Ashes” on Wednesday morning (AEDT) is unknown, but the former Central Coast Mariners star will play wherever he’s asked.

“It’s definitely different,” Rowles said of his couple of starts at left-back.

“Defending-wise, it’s more one-on-one action … and it’s different when you’re on the ball.

“In the centre of the field you can see everything from centre-back, but when you’re out near the sideline, it’s different, but I’m just happy to be out there.”

In contrast, Devlin – Rowles’ teammate at Scottish club Hearts – was shattered to be overlooked for the national squad after having been a part of coach Graham Arnold’s plans for the past year.

“I’m devastated … I feel I’ve been playing well and consistently well,” midfielder Devlin told The Scotsman.

“As Australia’s coach he (Arnold) picked his team but I’m disappointed.”

Rowles sympathised with his good friend but said competition for spots was healthy for the Socceroos.

“There are just so many great players in and around the squad,” Rowles said.

“It’s a tough situation for Cammy. He’s been playing really well at Hearts, and it’s disappointing to not have one of your close mates here with you in camp as well.

“I’ve been missing him, but it’s also hats off to all the boys who are pushing each other.

“To have that much competition to get in the squad, it’s a good thing, and it’s good for us boys to know that you’ve got to turn up every day and bring your ‘A’ game into the matches, and you can’t just walk into any squad or any team.

“Hopefully, Cammy’s back in for the next (Socceroos) squad. I’m sure he’ll do everything in his power to get back in.”

The “Soccer Ashes” were rediscovered this year in mint condition in a suburban garage, having vanished 69 years ago.

The small wooden trophy – housing a silver-plated razor case carried at Gallipoli – was contested by the Socceroos and New Zealand’s All Whites until it mysteriously disappeared in 1954.

Inside it are ashes of cigars smoked by the Socceroos captain Alex Gibb and the All Whites skipper George Campbell after the first trans-Tasman match on Australian soil in June 1923.

“The trophy is a powerful symbol of the many ties that bind our two nations,” Football Australia chief executive officer James Johnson said after the clash was confirmed.

Following Wednesday’s match at Gtech Community Stadium, the home of English Premier League club Brentford, the Socceroos return to action on November 16 when their qualifying journey to the 2026 FIFA World Cup starts in Melbourne with a game against either the Maldives or Bangladesh.

The Socceroos will also play five days later against Palestine in neutral Algeria due to the Palestinians not playing matches on home soil.

Australia v New Zealand

Wednesday, 5.45am (AEDT)

Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford

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