Newcastle Jets a stopover to savour for Riley McGree

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The on-loan teenager has shown exactly why he earned a contract in Europe

Sometimes in football as in life, what looks like a step back is actually a run up for bigger things to come - and that's exactly the case with Riley McGree this season. 

After signing with Belgium giants Club Brugge in 2017, McGree made the wise decision to return to the A-League on loan with Newcastle Jets in January.

Having secured himself a dream move to Europe after a breakout season with Adelaide United, the midfielder didn't get lost in the clouds quickly accepting that though it wasn't in his original plan, a return to Australia would be best with game time hard to come by in Belgium. 

"I didn’t really plan on it (returning to A-League), I planned on going over there and setting myself up in the first team and maybe getting some minutes," McGree told Goal

"But obviously that didn’t go to plan and I thought the next best thing would be playing regular senior football and coming back here into a league that I knew was a decent step in my career."

Having just scored his first ever hat-trick in the Jets 8-2 demolition of Central Coast Mariners and about to play finals football, McGree's decision has clearly paid off.

Though personally soaring with four goals and one assist from 10 games, the 19-year-old is quick to put his team first.

"It was a really good feeling," he said of scoring his hat-trick against the Mariners. 

"But what I think was better is the confidence boost for the team that we were able to score that many goals.

Riley McGree Newcastle Jets

"Instead of talking about myself, I like to talk about the team.

"We’ve shown what we’re capable of. We finished second on the table, I think that speaks for itself.

"We’ve got the players to beat any team really and that’s going to be the plan on Friday night."

McGree's phenomenal rise through the ranks saw him named in an extended Socceroos squad in March last year. 

Though he isn't focused on any potential World Cup call-up, the youth international cherished the time he got to spend with the senior team.

"It was a great experience," he said.

"I was only 18 then getting thrown in with the senior names like Tim Cahill, who I looked up to as a kid. Learnt a lot from them on the field and off it. 

"Obviously it would be a great thing (to get called up) but I just like to focus on performing on the field and getting the results and these things work out for themselves.

"You’ve seen with our team in Andrew Nabbout and Dimi Petratos getting call-ups, you just perform on the field, they do the things they have to and everything else works out."

Newcastle Jets

While his first stint in Belgium was briefer than he thought it would be, McGree acknowledged its benefits stressing the club earned his signature through the sheer amount of interest they showed in him.

"A real eye opener, the league’s definitely different...the playing style and level," McGree said.

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"I learnt a lot personally on and off the field. It was a great experience.

"They (Brugge) showed a lot of interest in me and they had a plan set out for me. It just felt right to go with the club that showed plenty of interest, that they cared and wanted me there."

McGree admitted he's not too sure what next season holds for him but after taking the right step to join the Jets on a layover of sorts, it's safe to say his career could be about to soar once more. 

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