Down at Mereweather Beach no two waves are the same. Each offers a different crest, different traffic from fellow surfers, different break point. Finding the perfect wave involves waiting, testing, learning. Then, sometimes by accident, those powerful strokes of the arm and kick of the feet put you up on the board. You aren’t just riding a wave. You are riding your wave.
Antonee Burke-Gilroy grew up in Newcastle, New South Wales surfing Mereweather and other beaches down under. He has attempted several roles in Tacoma. In his first season-and-a-half, finding that perfect wave was difficult. He played as a 10, a 6, an 8, a forward, and on both wings. He was decent at several of them.
In 2019’s midseason, the team needed a right back. Antonee took the chance and rose to the occasion. Strong with his feet he showed well until a hand injury required surgery. The promise he showed in his eight games at right back demonstrated that his style was the perfect match for the rushing waters on the right flank.
Right back is where Antonee fits. In the Sounders organization a fullback touches the ball frequently, often initiates scoring opportunities, runs from endline to endline, and defends. Burke-Gilroy did all of that and more. In 2020 he has the chance to show that he’s capable of doing so over a full season for an organization with ambitious goals.
Antonee likes things underfoot – board or ball. That is part of why the shift to right back makes so much sense. Within the organization, he will get more touches in his new role than he did in the attacking band.
As an above average dribbler, passer, and crosser he is able to contribute in many attacking roles. Now coming from deeper positions, his crossing will become a greater focus. As a central midfielder his ability to interchange in tight spaces is something that the organization will enjoy from the right back. When carrying the ball forward, his role is to ask questions of the defense rather than answer them.
An effective player at forcing the opposition to stop their rush forward, Burke-Gilroy wins 74% of his tackles. In 2019 he limited his fouling, improving the timing and appropriateness of his challenges. He also willingly threw his body in the way of shots. After blocking zero attempts on goal in 2018, Antonee blocked 7 shots in 2019.
Now locked in at right back, he will be asked to force players wide rather than channeling them into high traffic areas.
Familiar with the power of crashing waves, Burke-Gilroy is willing to dive into hard challenges. He’s a sneaky fast player with good endurance. One who will always put forward effort towards the cause. When tested he may fail, but he’s always willing to find the next wave and ride it.
18 starts | 4 sub appearances | 1,560 minutes | 0 goals | 0 assists | 5 shots | 15 key passes
Off the Pitch
The Australian has turned Puget Sound into home. There may not be the surf that the Newcastle, New South Wales ex-pat prefers, but he searches for, and finds, warm water in Washington summers. Antonee also volunteered for story time with early readers at Curious Bear Toys during the season.
Looking to 2020
ABG is going to be the right back in 2020. His defense will be tested as he faces some of the West’s best talents. His ability to crash forward from deep spaces and dribble through traffic should lead to goals for Defiance in the coming season.
Now entering his third season with Tacoma and his fifth pro year overall, the 22-year-old is ready to ride the wave. Whether that wave crashes along the shores of Commencement or Elliot Bay by the end of the year will be determined by his play on the field.
For more on Antonee Burke-Gilroy and your 2020 Tacoma Defiance roster: