We continue our countdown of the best defenders the Hyundai A-League has ever seen.
A couple of club captains get the nod in the top ten today, as we move towards who we believe is the very best the Hyundai A-League has ever seen.
8. Alex Wilkinson (Central Coast Mariners)
After seven seasons in the Hyundai A-League you could be excused for believing the Mariners captain is older than his 27 years, especially given the defeated look on his face, when his side bowed out of the finals at the hands of Perth Glory, but the fact remains he is still young enough to move further up this list.
The two-time Premiership- winning Mariner is one of the most respected defenders in the A-League and his current partnership with Patrick Zwaanswijk that is widely considered to be the best central defensive pairing in the league at the moment.
A true defender, Wilkinson doesn-t get up the field and score that many but his presence both on the ground and in the air at the back for the Mariners makes him one of the most uncompromising but fair players the league has seen.
If there is a weakness in his game it is that while he is a resolute defender he lacks the X-Factor that so many stars of the game have, but as a servant of the league and Central Coast, he has always been quality.
7. Michael Thwaite (Gold Coast United/Perth Glory)
Yet to make his debut for the Glory, the former Gold Coast United skipper has had a career full of highs and lows, and not just in the A-League.
Touted as a future Qantas Socceroos star after a dominant performance at Craven Cottage against Jamaica, things went pear-shaped for the lanky defender with his move to Romania and National Bucharest.
His nightmare spiralling out of control when in trying to block his move to Polish giants Wisla Krakow, the Romanian club failed to pay him, forced him to train in freezing conditions and finally took his passport off of him and held it for a week, the incident made national headlines in Australia.
Given the hostile political and social landscape that has existed in Romania in the 21st century, that experience would be an ordeal for anyone, and not just from a footballing perpective.
Is it any wonder then, that since returning home Thwaite has made every post a winner?
Initially loaned to the Victory for the 2008 season, it didn-t take long for Thwaite to make an impact at a national level, scoring in his very first game for the Victory (albeit in the pre-season) and becoming a part of the team that won a Premiership/Championship double.
From there it was off to the Gold Coast where he was named club captain by Clive Palmer and Miron Bleiberg and helped lift the team to a third placed finish in their debut season, which was followed by another finals series in the club-s second year where they made it all the way to the Preliminary Final with the third best defence in the league.
Of course 2011-12 was a disaster for the club, but without Thwaite-s leadership at the back, it would have been so much worse.
Often he was the last man standing at the heart of a young back three or four, and as always his timing of tackles and gut-running was a highlight, as is his ability to clear the lines and win challenges in the air.
Also a threat at the other end thanks to his height and what at times can be a powerful shot; Thwaite might get yet another title, this time with the Glory.
The views in this article are those of the author, and do not represent those of Football Federation Australia