Western Pride footballer Harry Sawyer celebrates one of his recent goals.
Western Pride footballer Harry Sawyer celebrates one of his recent goals. Chris Simpson

Pride's goal-scoring ace signed by Philippines club

WESTERN Pride's star striker Harrison Sawyer signed for Philippines professional football club Davao Aguilas over the weekend.

Sawyer returned to Pride earlier in May after making his A-League debut for the Newcastle Jets.

Sawyer, 20, made an instant impact for Pride, scoring 15 goals in seven games, including hat-tricks against Redlands, Brisbane City, Moreton Bay, and former club Brisbane Roar.

Sawyer's form was soon noticed by professional clubs like Davao Aguilas, coached by former Brisbane Strikers NSL-winning midfielder Gary Phillips who moved quickly to secure the marksman.

Pride coach Graham Harvey said Sawyer's opportunity came from hard work and a self-drive to return to professional football.

"Everything Harry has done since he returned has been of A-League standard - his preparation for games, his prehab work and his extras after training," Harvey said.

"He came with a real focus to return to professional football and I am pleased that we as a club could assist him."

Harvey praised Sawyer's decision to return to Pride rather than head to the wealthier leagues down south.

"Harry recognised that an environment for him to achieve his personal goals was more important than remuneration," Harvey said.

"Western Pride have invested heavily in giving younger players an environ- ment to learn the game in a competitive league."

Pride's decision to spend the last two-and-a-half years developing a young squad of players, which originally included Sawyer, is paying dividends with a chance of finals' football.

A run of five consecutive games has seen the Ipswich-based club two points outside the finals with four games remaining.

Pride were unaffected by the loss of Sawyer on Saturday with a 5-1 victory away to Northern Fury.

Dylan Wenzel-Halls grabbed a brace against the Townsville-based club to continue his good form after scoring six goals during Sawyer's stint at Pride.

Mitchell Bird celebrated returning to the starting line-up in place of Sawyer by grabbing two goals of his own.

Harvey said the recent involvement of Sawyer and remaining A-League recruit Cameron Crestani has brought a higher level of professionalism, standards and confidence to Pride's young squad.

"Both Harry and Cam gained wonderful experience from their A-league club," Harvey said.

"Raising these standards was exactly why we wanted to bring them to Pride and they have had a very positive impact on our players."

Harvey hoped more young players released by A-League clubs would see Pride as an avenue back to professional football.

"Dealing with the disappointment of rejection in professional football is the hardest thing young footballers can deal with," Harvey said.

"Pride has created a positive but realistic culture to give these players the chance to continue their learning and play in a first team environment to address perceived deficiencies in their game.

"At their age, it is not about playing for money. It is about achieving their potential."

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