When the national team squad gets back together in March 2017, will Ange Postecoglou look at form players in the Hyundai A-League? He knows the league's quality, so here are 10 names we think could come into the selection conversation.
Josh Brillante (Sydney FC)
The 23-year-old’s exceptional form with the Sky Blues in the Hyundai A-League this season is a reminder of the quality and technical ability Brillante possesses. Endured a couple of tough seasons abroad in Italy but looks to have learned from the experience and is a far better-rounded midfielder now.
Has been on the fringes of the national team in the past – just missing the cut for the 2014 FIFA World Cup - but now he could be ready to step up into the Caltex Socceroos’ midfield holding role. Can play right back, too.
Michael Zullo (Sydney FC)
After cutting his teeth at Brisbane Roar then spending five seasons at FC Utrecht in the Netherlands, Zullo returned to the Hyundai A-League last year and now looks to have found the perfect fit at Sydney FC.
Looks supremely fit under the guidance of Graham Arnold and Andrew Clark, has lightning speed and versatility, equal comfortable at left-back or on the wing. Now 28, Zullo is at the peak of his powers.
Mitch Nichols (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Has been a consistent performer in the Hyundai A-League for the last 18 months. Nichols’ talent has never been in question but has benefitted greatly from working under strict disciplinarian Tony Popovic, getting himself in tip-top shape.
Can score goals from midfield – an area the Caltex Socceroos can be better in – and is the type of player Ange likes (and knows from his Roar days). Nichols could be back in the Caltex Socceroos set-up for the first time since 2014.
Neil Kilkenny (Melbourne City)
Never short of midfield options for the Caltex Socceroos, Kilkenny has thrown his hat into the ring after a brilliant start to his Hyundai A-League career. Has experience from more than a decade playing in England and you get the sense would he settle right back into the national team despite his last appearance coming more than four years ago.
If Ange is searching for depth in the holding midfield role, Kilkenny looms as a viable option.
Bruce Kamau (Melbourne City)
The type of player that excited and gets fans out of their seats. Has a unique style but it works for him, with pace to burn, excellent dribbling skills and maturity for a 21 year-old Has gone to a new level alongside Fornaroli and Cahill at City, with the latter even putting the Kenyan-born winger’s name down for higher honours.
And Kamau will only get better as he continues to fine-tune his game between now and next March.
Alex Wilkinson (Sydney FC)
It’s no surprise that Sydney FC has the best defence in the Hyundai A-League since “Wilko” came to the club for the 2016/17 Season. He brings experience, a cool head, great organisational skills and communication to any side he’s involved with.
While he’s now 32, Wilkinson is still at the top of his game and has never let anyone down in his previous outings for the national team.
James Troisi (Melbourne Victory)
Another benefitting from a return to the Hyundai A-League with Victory, this could be the perfect time for Troisi to return to the national fold. The 28-year-old can play anywhere across the frontline, is good with both feet and always brings loads of pace and energy to the team.
If he gets a good run of games from now, he could well be on the radar.
Luke DeVere (Brisbane Roar)
After an injury plagued 12 months, were again seeing the quality in the powerfully-built 27-year-old defender. A regular under John Aloisi at Roar, DeVere has played for Australia at both under-20 and 23 level, as well as one cap for the Caltex Socceroos – against no less than the might of world champions Germany – in 2015.
If he continues the form he has shown so far in the 2016/17 season, it won’t be long until we see DeVere back in the green and gold.
Steven Ugarkovic (Newcastle Jets)
The young midfielder has been in excellent form in the Hyundai A-League since moving to the Hunter midway through last season. While the 22-year-old has always been earmarked as a star of the future, he has gone to another level on the back of week in, week out first-team football since his return to Australia.
Ugarkovic loves to get on the ball and always looks to be positive and play forward, just the way Ange likes it. While the Socceroos aren’t short of midfield options, he could push for an opportunity if he continues to develop.
Rhys Williams (Perth Glory)
If it wasn’t for a wretched run of injuries over the last few seasons, Williams would have a lot more than 14 international caps to his name. Still only 28, Williams has enjoyed an excellent start to his Glory career and – most encouragingly – hasn’t has any issues with his fitness. Equally comfortable in central defence, right back or the heart of midfield, Williams has all the attributes to thrive in this Caltex Socceroos side.
He’s technically excellent, has great engines, is strong in the air and fierce in the tackle. 2017 could be the year he explodes back onto the international scene.