Charlestown City Blues’ wide man Riley McNaughton has enjoyed a terrific career in the NPL Northern NSW where he’s played in three Grand Finals and been a danger man out wide for both the Lambton Jaffas where he spent a long time, and now Charlestown. Known for his strong crossing and assisting ability, Riley is a major threat when the ball is at his feet attacking defences, but after being originally considered “too small” for senior football, his journey to become one of the most consistent players in the league is quite an interesting one. NPL NNSW Correspondent Quentin caught up with Riley (who both interestingly enough found out that they’re actually related) to find out about his career so far including what it’s like being a two-time Champion, and why he decided to leave Lambton Jaffas the end of 2017.
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
I started my football career at Lambton Jaffas Junior club in under 6s back in ’96, I left in under 13s after not being selected for the NYL side in 13s. I went to play at Merewether with a group of other guys who also didn’t make the cut and played there for a couple of years. We then we moved as a team to Adamstown with the aim to feed into Adamstown’s U/19s side. I didn’t make the 19s side though at Adamstown because I was still “too small” at the time. So, I returned to Lambton Jaffas U/19s in 2008 where I got into senior football and went through a bit of a growth spurt and played there for 10 seasons. Finally, recently I moved over to Charlestown in 2018 and it is my second season here.
You had a great, lengthy stint at the Jaffas where you won 2 Championships – what made you change over to Charlestown in 2018?
I love the Jaffas and loved my time there. Winning the 2 Grand Finals was unreal but in 2017, I just wasn’t enjoying my football as much as I used to. Tanch [David Tanchevski] contacted me half way through that season as he had been watching and noticed I wasn’t getting much game time. He asked whether I would ever leave Jaffas as he was coaching somewhere again next year. He didn’t think I was really a chance and neither did I, but after we sat down for a coffee, I thought about it for a few weeks before eventually committing to Charlestown for the following year.
You suffered an injury last year that kept you out for most the year – talk me through that experience and trying to get fit to come back? Has there been any setbacks and disappointments? Have you been finding it difficult to return?
Yeah last year wasn’t great in that sense. I was really enjoying the start of the year but after suffering a Grade 3 MCL tear in round 8 I struggled to get back. I possibly would have been right in the last few rounds but given we weren’t a chance of semis, it wasn’t worth the risk. It was disappointing to not make it back but I’m glad the knee is feeling 100% this year. I definitely started slow, in the first 2 rounds and made some poor mistakes which was tough but I’m hoping as the season goes on I can find some better form.
What do you do for work?
I am an electrician by trade, but I currently work as a Construction Supervisor for NSW largest home builder.
What player has been one of your favourite players to play with and you have admiration for? Why?
It would have to be Jobe Wheelhouse I would say. He is a great central midfielder and I learnt a lot playing alongside him. He is a good leader and quality player, the kind of player where you just felt like you were going to win when he was on the pitch. He always gave the side that sort of confidence.
Which player is the hardest to play against? And why?
Josh Piddington or Josh Evans. Both are solid at the back, strong, read the game well and are always just involved in everything.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing football?
I love my golf. I play every Saturday morning and try sneak in a hit during the week as well.
What’s the most memorable moment(s) of your career so far?
Both Grand Final wins were special, but I would say the first Championship would be more memorable for me. In the 2013 Grand Final, when we played Magic, I played left back and got found out a lot as it isn’t my preferred position, so to come back in 2014, score in the Grand Final, and win – that was an unreal feeling.
Who’s the most influential person in your career?
It would have to be my parents. Without them I wouldn’t be playing. Ever since they took me to their first game, they’ve been there every week. They’re always supportive and still come to games. Dad is always honest with how I play as well which is great (sometimes).
What are you hoping to achieve for this year’s season? Individually and as a team.
Individually I don’t have many goals as such. I just want the team to do well and just help achieve that as much as I can. As a team I think we all have pretty high hopes of making the semis and going as far as possible. Most of the boys don’t know what it’s like playing semis so that would be nice.
What’s your plans for the future of your career? Where are you hoping to progress?
I don’t think there will be any progression. I’m just happy playing week in, week out and want to continue doing that for as long as I can and hopefully win a couple more Premierships.