Aussie rules for PNE defender

Bailey Wright hopes to make the Australia '23-man squad
Bailey Wright hopes to make the Australia '23-man squad
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Preston North End centre-half Bailey Wright has arrived in Australia to begin what he hopes is a countdown to his World Cup dream.

The uncapped Wright was the surprise inclusion in the Socceroos’ provisional 30-man squad for Brazil.

He flew Down Under following PNE’s play-off defeat to Rotherham last week.

But had the Lilywhites beaten the Millers to reach the final, it was likely that Wright would have missed the Wembley showpiece.

Players named in World Cup squads are not allowed to play for their clubs after May 18 – a cut-off date agreed with FIFA.

The exception is the Champions League final which takes place this Saturday.

It is understood that North End would have contacted Aussie officials about being allowed to keep hold of Wright had they qualified for Wembley.

But that conversation did not need to take place.

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou had been clear in his mind as to what would be happening with Wright.

Postecoglou said: “It’s actually pretty clear cut – if you’re selected for the World Cup, you can’t play after the 18th, unless you’re playing in the Champions League final…and he won’t be doing that.”

Wright’s progress at North End has been tracked closely by the Socceroos, with Postecoglou running the rule over him in January’s goalless draw at Bradford City.

His versatility in being able to play across the back line has gone in Wright’s favour.

Said Postecoglou: “We’ll have a look at him in camp but there are probably a couple in there who are fairly versatile and he is one of them.

“He’s definitely played as a left-sided stopper all year.

“I haven’t necessarily gone with a doubling-up in every position because there are players in the group that potentially can play a couple of different spots.”

The Australia squad is currently training in Terrigal in New South Wales.

They play a friendly against South Africa in Sydney on May 26, after which the squad will be trimmed down to 27. Australia then head to Brazil, and their final 23-man squad has to be with FIFA by June 2.

Wright said: “It is a massive step for me to get myself in and amongst the squad. I am thrilled to get in the 30 but I will be disappointed if I don’t get myself in the 23 now.

“I’ll go there and be myself, work hard and hopefully that can get me in the 23.”