If Graham Arnold was looking for a new warrior then the Socceroos boss might have found one in the shape of towering Ipswich defender Cameron Burgess.
The 27-year-old hadn’t been sighted in Australian colours since playing for the Olyroos in 2016, but has won his maiden senior call-up for Sunday’s (AEDT) friendly against Mexico at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
The Perth-raised defender has been on a journey through England’s lower leagues before landing at Ipswich and striking up a dialogue with Arnold on the way to winning promotion to the English Championship earlier this year.
But Burgess’s hopes of donning the green and gold have taken its fair share of setbacks along the way, most notably last year when he was involved in a sickening on-field collision that left him requiring facial surgery.
“I couldn't tell you the amount of fractures, it was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and not one that was made up,” Burgess said.
“I want to say there’s high 30s (in the number of) bolts and screws still in my face. The pictures (of scans) paint a thousand words.
“It was a case of waiting for the bones to heal to the right spots and the surgeon was happy for me to go ahead.
“I had to wear a mask … there was a game where I forgot to put it on one day and from then on it was good to go.”
Burgess was born in Aberdeen and speaks with a Scottish twang but says he never considered switching his allegiance to his birth country when Socceroos calls passed him by.
“As soon as I heard about a potential call-up for Australia, that's exactly where I wanted to be,” the uncapped defender said.
“That was also something that was a dream of mine since I was back playing in the Olyroos camp.
"It’s taken time since my last trip away but it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Given Harry Souttar's lack of minutes and Gianni Stensness's long-term injury, Burgess's return to the international scene is a defence boost for Arnold ahead of January's Asian Cup.
Arnold watched Burgess on a recent scouting trip to the UK alongside fellow Ipswich teammate Massimo Luongo, who hasn’t played for the Socceroos since 2019.
The Socceroos boss said he had been impressed with Luongo’s form since joining Ipswich in January and Burgess hopes it’s not too long before they can take their club form into the international arena together.
“Since he came in, Mass has been unbelievable for us, I don’t want to jinx his record but it’s pretty impressive when he wears the Ipswich shirt,” Burgess said.
“I enjoy having him play in front of me.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him and what he’s done and I know he’s desperate to get back involved in this team.”