Maitland FC winger Ryan Clarke is widely known for his big, witty personality in conjuction with his terrific football skills he’s displayed since joining Maitland four years ago. What many might not know though is Ryan’s story of spending time playing overseas in Italy and Romania as well as big clubs in Perth and Sydney. He has been one of the key cogs in the Magpies’ resurgence in Northern NSW’s top flight and the success they’ve tasted this year in the league and the FFA Cup having progressed to the Round of 32 for the first time in club history. NPL NNSW league correspondent Quentin caught up with Ryan to chat about his career so far including what it means to the club to be playing on the national stage.
Where and when did you start your junior career and how did you progress into senior football?
I started out on the Central Coast with The Entrance and most of the time at Doyalson Wolves. I then played representative levels for the Central Coast then when I was 13, went to the Newcastle Breakers and stayed their until I was 16.
You’ve spent heaps of time playing in other states and even countries. Talk me through some of those experiences and what you learnt playing at clubs like Inglewood, Marconi and even Genoa (Italy) & Universitatea Craiova (Romania)?
I was chasing the dream to make it pro. Playing in Italy was amazing. The mindset and passion was crazy – it’s a religion over there. I was very young but learnt a lot as I also did in Craiova which was a big learning curb in my life as I was very immature and probably not ready for that type of life. I was very cold and poor over there. Marconi is a massive Aussie club and playing with the likes of Troy Halpin and Scott Thomas was the icing on he cake. They’re two of my idols. While WA was a place I fell in love with. I originally went to try and make it with Perth Glory but ended up at Inglewood. There a lot of great people at Inglewood and it’s a beautiful part of Australia.
What do you do for work?
I’m a real estate agent at PRD Hunter Valley.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not playing football?
I love the gym and beach and spending time with my beautiful girlfriend.
What player has been one of your favourite players to play with and you have admiration for? Why?
Sala Masi was my favourite player to play with at South Cardiff. He is just a great player and bloke, but Matt Thompson is the best player I have played with technically. He just reads the game so well.
Which player is the hardest to play against? And why?
I’d say Josh Piddington from Magic is the hardest. He’s just so strong, athletic and goes in too hard for my liking
What was the reasoning behind the move to come back home to Newcastle and to play for Maitland?
Reece Thompson was the biggest factor for me returning. He is a great clubman, businessman and best friend. Plus I also came for my family as I missed a large part of growing up with them due to following my dream.
How important and meaningful is to the club to qualify for the FFA Cup Round of 32?
Qualifying for the 32 was huge for the Maitland. To come from where they were, to here is a testament to the committee and sponsors. To see grown men cry in happiness really made it sink in just how proud Maitland are of their club and this achievement We aren’t done yet either.
What’s the thoughts about taking on an Hyundai A-League club in Central Coast Mariners? We’re you happy with the draw or did you wish for another NPL club?
We all wanted the away trip to Darwin to be honest (#PartyPies) but we are happy with to draw an A-League team in front of a home crowd – it doesn’t get better than that. The boys are pumped and there is a strong belief we will beat them. I have to give big credit to Mick Bolch and his support staff for what he they’ve done with the team. It’s probably the strongest team I have played in and the boys are all great mates.
What’s the most memorable moment(s) of your career so far?
Most memorable was playing AC Milan Primevera team (Youth team) and scoring a hat-trick which got me my contract in Genoa. That or signing my first professional contract for Craovia as that was pretty special.
Who’s the most influential person in your career?
The most influential people would have to be my parents to be honest. Dennis and Sonja. They’ve always believed and supported me and went without a lot to try help me succeed.
What are you hoping to achieve for this year’s season? Individually and as a team.
ASs a team we want to win the premiership and be Grand Final Winners as well as progress to the Round of 16 or further. While as individual, my goal is to keep fit and play my role for the team.
What’s your plans for the future of your career? Where are you hoping to progress?
My future plans are to just help Maitland stay on top. Either that or for Laurie McKinna to finally give my A-League contract that he always promised!