Goalscorers through the ages

After round 12, the A-League's leading scorers table reveals a range of players with a variety of ages.

After round 12, the A-League's leading scorers table reveals a range of players with a variety of ages.

Young gun Adam Taggart's six-goal spree for the Jets in November makes him one the league's hottest young prospects, who has already made his playing and scoring debut for the Socceroos.

The recent return to Australia of James Troisi quickly paid dividends for the 25 year old Melbourne Victory striker, with five goals in his first five matches.

Brisbane's Beshart Berisha, age 28, is showing no signs of slowing his remarkable goalscoring run of previous seasons, also scoring five from his first five in 2013/14.

While the league's senior citizen Alessandro Del Piero continues his masterly ways for Sydney FC, netting at an economical rate of around one goal every two games.

The wide range of ages of the top four scorers so far this season - from 20 year old Taggart to 39 year old Del Piero - raises the question: what is the most efficient age for goal scoring?

One way of investigating this is by analysing the goalscoring careers of Australia's most prolific scorers at national league level. At what ages did our top ten perform their best goalscoring exploits?

Australia's number one national league goalscorer of all-time is Damian Mori, who notched a phenomenal 240 goals over his career. Despite debuting at 18 years old, Mori didn't really start scoring frequently until he moved up to a more attacking position in his early 20s. From then he just seemed to get better with age, with Adelaide City and then Perth Glory in the National Soccer League (NSL).

It was a different beginning for Mark Viduka, Australia's number two striker, who banged in 40 NSL goals for Melbourne Croatia while still a teenager. By age 28 he had scored almost 50 more goals than Mori at the same age. Viduka ultimately scored 202 national league goals, including 92 in England's top flight, before retiring at age 32. Who knows how many the V-bomber would have scored had he played on for a few more years.

The rest of Australia's top ten scorers in national leagues netted at more consistent rates throughout their playing careers, including two currently-active players Archie Thompson and Scott McDonald.

Graham Arnold (3rd all-time highest scorer with 169 goals) and Frank Farina (4th, 166 goals) played out similar careers. They were both prominent NSL scorers in the 1980s and spent most of the 90s abroad, before returning to the domestic competition, and later, prominent coaching roles.

One of the first goalscoring trailblazers abroad was Eddie Krncevic, who was the first Australian to top a European goalscorer's ladder which he did for Anderlecht in Belgium in 1988/89, aged 28. Krncevic is Australia's fifth-highest national league scorer with 144 goals.

Sixth-placed Ante Milicic (143 goals) spent the majority of his career in the NSL, and was particularly productive on the goalscoring front in his mid to late 20s, with Sydney United, Sydney Olympic and Parramatta Power.

Archie Thompson is currently seventh on the all-time national league goalscorer's ladder just four goals behind Milicic, but with no hint of nearing the end of his time the Melbourne Victory marksman should climb to a higher position before retirement.

Rod Brown (137 goals) was a goalscoring machine in the NSL throughout the 1980s with Marconi and Apia. After a mid-career slump, he rediscovered his goalscoring touch at Brisbane Strikers in the mid 1990s.

Of the current all-time leading Australian scorers, the most likely to rise higher quickest is Scott McDonald, with 135 national league career goals leading into 2014. Thirty-year-old McDonald, now playing with Millwall in England, needs just ten more goals to jump up to fifth place from his current ninth.

Rounding off the top ten is the NSL's first big-name goalscorer John Kosmina, with 133 goals. Co-incidentally Kosmina scored the first ever goal in Australia's national league, for West Adelaide in 1977.

If the careers of Australia's leading league goalscorers is any guide, then mid to late 20s is the most prolific ages for strikers, with peaks around age 25 and 29. Mori (the country's leading goalscorer), Viduka (2nd) and Farina (4th) peaked at ages 24-25, while Arnold (3rd), Krncevic (5th) and Milicic (6th) had their best years at ages 28-29.

So what does this mean for the A-League's leading strikers?

Fitness permitting, there may be no slowing down for Berisha (age 28) for a year or so yet.

As a longer-term prospect, 25 year old Troisi's move to the Victory may yet prove one of the shrewdest signings in recent A-League history.

While the world appears to be at the feet of Taggart, who at 20 years of age is one of Australia's brightest young scoring prospects.

Follow Andrew Howe-s Aussie football stats updates on Twitter @AndyHowe_statto