It’s a famous line, one that sticks with football fans all around the world. This is something that must have been engraved into the way of Australian football, particularly during the height of older-than-most marquee players in the league. The 2016/17 season boasted mature squads, with Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City all averaging above the average age of 28.
However, the tides seem to be changing. As of round 4 of the A-League’s current season, newcomers Macarthur Bulls sit pretty at the top of the table, joined by Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City in the top 3. While Macarthur have the third oldest squad at 26.86 average age, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne City claim the youngest squads of the season at 24.26 and 24.34 respectively.
While the pandemic has been a tragedy, it has in a way reinvigorated the A-League’s stance on utilising younger players other than the next half-retired marquee to boot. We have been shocked by Nieuwenhof’s thunderbolt, Lachie Rose’s deft touch and Metcalfe’s barnstorming runs just to name a few. Already, the reduction of the salary cap has sparked a move away from older marquees. Don’t get me wrong, those huge players such as Del Piero, David Villa and Alessandro Diamanti offer a substantial benefit in quality and certainly bring in the crowds, but what else do they offer? Not much in the way of improving quality of Australian youngsters.
In Melbourne City’s win against Western United, Patrick Kisnorbo fielded a team with an average age of 23 – 9 of which were 21 or under. The substitutions made in the late stages of the game proved to be cause of the game-winning Maclaren goal, as the youngsters burst onto the scene, with Colakovski providing the assist.
With the A-League looking to continue with their reduced salary cap, Melbourne City building a new ‘Centre of Excellence’ and Sydney FC with a similar announcement immanent, the future is looking bright for these budding superstars. Who knows, maybe teams around the globe will be itching to sign a 35 year old Stefan Colakovski – rather than us hosting the later years.