Brisbane Roar’s 18yo sensation holds an Aussie record after modelling his game on a global star

Thomas Waddingham has enjoyed a meteoric rise at Brisbane Roar. The teenager speaks to about dealing with it all, how he got here and meeting Zinedine Zidane!

One minute Thomas Waddingham was playing NPL football. The next he was making history in the Australia Cup final.

Waddingham scored four goals in as many games, including finding the back of the net in October’s decider against Sydney FC, becoming the youngest cup final scorer since the tournament recommenced in 2014.

It has been a rapid rise for the teenager, who has gone on to score four goals in the Isuzu UTE A-League, including three in his past two appearances.


“It was an amazing feeling. A couple of months before that, you’re just playing NPL,” the 18-year-old told heading into Friday night’s date with Western United.

“Then it’s kind of surreal that you’re in the Australia Cup scoring almost a goal a game. It felt really good.

“It helped with the squad just being so together. A very good team camarederie.”

Waddingham’s emergence has encapsulated the work of a club reverting to what they have done best previously – produce their own players.

The teenager was born in Cairns, but the Roar are a team close to his heart.

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With family in Brisbane, there were regular trips to watch Besart Berisha and Co.

There is also a match that stands out from the rest for Waddingham.

“Definitely the 2015 Liverpool v Brisbane Roar. That was one of the best moments for me,” he said.

“Liverpool are my favourite team too, so just watching my two favourite teams against each other.”

Waddingham has continued to take a lot away from his Brisbane visits; it has helped mould him into the player he is today.

“I definitely watch a lot of games and players, and try to get stuff from everywhere,” said the Queenslander, who has also taken inspiration from all-time leading Isuzu UTE A-League goalscorer Jamie Maclaren and former Liverpool star Luis Suarez.

“You’d go from (Besart) Berisha, he’d press a lot. So you’d make your game off that. Then a player now like (Erling) Haaland, who is a big body and scores heaps of goals.

“That’s what you also look to mould your game into. A combination of everything really.”

There was also a memorable trip to Spain in October for the Marbella Week of Football Tournament with the Young Socceroos.

Waddingham scored two goals as Australia finished unbeaten following penalty shootout wins over powerhouses France, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

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He scored against a Dutch side featuring Dean Huijsen, who is currently playing for Serie A giants Roma in their first team on loan from Juventus.

“It was good to be involved in that team. That was my first time there. The players were very welcoming,” he recalled.

“We had some tough fixtures. Scoring in a couple of them was very good because you saw the line-ups and could see the big names in there.

“One of the centre-backs for the Netherlands is playing for Roma right now. To score against them is definitely a good confidence booster.”

He also met legendary footballer and former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

“Surreal. I didn’t think it was real, Zidane right there,” said Waddingham.

“I remember he just walked straight behind me like it was nothing and just sat behind.”

All of that has held him in good stead for his rookie A-Leagues season.

In Round 3, Waddingham scored the winning goal against defending champions Central Coast Mariners. Then, after 10 games without a goal, he scored a stunning double in the 5-1 dismantling of reigning premiers Melbourne City earlier this month.

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He also found the back of the net away to Perth Glory in Round 17.

So, what has he learnt so far?

“Being consistent. Every week having that hunger to go every single week at a very high level,” Waddingham replied.

“I guess as young people it can be hard to do but it’s a learning thing. That’s something I’m learning.”

Waddingham is also a player that has attracted interest previously.

After a trip to the UK with the Australian Schoolboys team, Blackpool were reportedly keen following a trial, while the likes of Swindon Town, QPR and Norwich City were also believed to have been eyeing the youngster.

But Waddingham is happy where he is, honing his craft in Australia.

“It was a tough decision. Either going to the UK now or coming into Brisbane Roar,” Waddingham reflected. “The decision helped when I was getting more minutes in the A-Leagues. I thought as long as I’m getting more minutes, I’m definitely happy to stay longer.

“I definitely thought getting more match minutes and getting an opportunity in the A-League will definitely help me in the future as a pathway to Europe.”