Tim Cahill of Melbourne City celebrates after scoring against the Victory.
Tim Cahill of Melbourne City celebrates after scoring against the Victory. JOE CASTRO

Cahill sets the benchmark for nation's athletes

IN every respect Tim Cahill delivered on his A-League debut for Melbourne City.

Of course there was his spectacular 40-metre goal - only Cahill could have done that - and there was his 66-minute performance, but for me what stood out most was his total commitment to his club, its supporters and the competition.

When Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop first mooted the idea of getting Cahill to play in Australia's top league, he would have been hoping the Socceroos superstar would be a hit.

But I doubt even Gallop would have expected such an early return on his gamble.

Cahill's first A-League game was what fairytales are made of, both on and off the field, and the man himself has to take a lot of credit for that.

The Socceroos' leading goalscorer is 37 in December and could have been forgiven for coming home and taking it easy as he looks towards a much-deserved retirement.

But Cahill, as we have seen throughout his storied career, is much better than that.

He is what all young sportsmen and sportswomen should aspire to.

Quite clearly the striker has nothing to prove. He has been there, done that and worn the T-shirt.

But his pride and passion will not let him take the easy way out.

Before and after the impressive 4-1 derby win over Melbourne Victory, Cahill set out his stall.

"I just let my football do the talking,” he said.

"Everyone wants to know if (I'm) gonna score or if (my) legs will last - this is what football is about.

"I've come home not to make up the numbers but to make a difference.”

And if his first game is anything to by then he will certainly do that.

We should not be surprised by Cahill's attitude because he has always behaved as an Australian sportsman or woman (or any sportsman or woman) should.

Just like the retiring Anna Meares or the archetypal Aussie battler Lleyton Hewitt, Cahill gives his all every time he steps into a sporting arena.

The other thing about Cahill is that it's not all about him.

He could have easily raved about his spectacular goal, but after conceding it had been one of his best, he soon turned the conversation away from his own personal achievements.

For Cahill it is all about the team ... and its fans.

After finishing his post-match on-field chat with a Fox Sports reporter, Cahill could have just gone off the ground without acknowledging the supporters.

But instead he made his teammates go back and do the wave to the fans again.

A class act from a class performer.

I just wonder how Nick Kyrgios would have behaved in the same scenario.

You can't imagine Cahill ever not trying in a match and then telling fans to like it or lump it when he didn't perform.

The two are arguably the most high-profile Australian sports stars on the planet but that is where the similarity ends.

We can only hope Kyrgios was watching Cahill's homecoming and learned how to behave with dignity and humility, but sadly I can't see it happening.

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