It's been said many times that the best teams have a blend of experience and youth. With many Hyundai A-League clubs searching for the stars of the future to supplement their experienced pros, we look at seven young Hyundai A-League signings aiming to make their mark in senior squads in 2018-19.
Louis D’Arrigo – Adelaide United
A shining star of the Foxtel Y-League in 2017/18, D’Arrigo was signed on a youth scholarship contract with the Reds in July, and has since stepped up to join Marco Kurz’s first team squad for pre-season.
The 16-year-old was handed the number 27 jersey for the upcoming season, where he aims to break through to make his Hyundai A-League debut.
“Louis’ addition to Marco’s senior team is testament to the quality of the Club’s youth programme and how we’ve been able to nurture our young talent,” said United’s General Manager of Football, Ante Kovacevic.
After making a big impression at West Torrens Birkalla and developing his game at the Australian Institute of Sport, D’Arrigo is poised to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Strain, another academy product who has established his spot in the Reds' senior ranks.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls – Brisbane Roar
After being released by the Roar in 2016, Wenzel-Halls had a point to prove. The newly signed Western Pride striker did just that by going goal crazy in NPL Queensland.
The 20-year-old slammed in 17 goals from 18 games to lead the Pride to their first state-league title, and followed that up with a staggering 23 strikes in only 11 games in his second campaign, including scoring seven goals in a 15-1 humiliation of the Sunshine Coast.
It was reported that the Ipswich speedster was approach by the Central Coast Mariners, but Roar scrambled to secure his signature and bring the exciting attacker into coach John Aloisi’s camp.
Wenzel-Halls said: "I'm just grateful Brisbane Roar and the boss have given me the opportunity to play for their club. I'm looking to repay their faith in me."
Joe Gauci – Central Coast Mariners
The Central Coast Mariners were scouring the nation’s state leagues for their next young shot-stopper and they have potentially found their man in the Adelaide NPL.
Gauci was turning heads with his performances for West Torrens Birkalla SC as a 17-year-old dominating his goal against senior players, and the Mariners didn’t hesitate to offer him his first professional deal.
With veteran goalkeeper Ben Kennedy entrenched between the sticks at Central Coast Stadium, Gauci will challenge 21-year-old Adam Pearce for the back-up spot. “He’s a great attacking goalkeeper which is what I like to see and he has maturity beyond his years,” said goalkeeping coach Matt Nash.
Gauci said: “At such a young age to get this opportunity in the A-League is fantastic for me, my family and everyone else who has supported me along the journey.”
Peter Kekeris – Central Coast Mariners
Pace seems to be a priority in the Hunter as Mike Mulvey seeks to build a Central Coast Mariners team to shoot up the Hyundai A-League ladder. This 19-year-old could be a key part of his plans.
The lightning-quick wide man made his Hyundai A-League bow in Round 26 last season against Melbourne City at AAMI Park, but only signed his first professional deal in July of this year.
The former Australia Under-17 rep shows the raw attributes Mulvey desires, but it’s his development which has impressed the boss the most. “He earned this contract through hard work and his ability to listen and evolve his game,” Mulvey said.
“It shows that all of the hard work that I’ve put in and sacrifices I’ve made have paid off,” said Kekeris.
Jordan Murray – Central Coast Mariners
After the 20-year-old striker spent last season tearing up the NSW state league record books, the Central Coast Mariners swooped in to land the Bulli junior on a one-year deal.
The APIA Leichhardt Tigers were launched into NSW NPL title contention thanks to Murray’s 23 goals in 19 games after his move from the Illawarra Premier League. Murray is determined to transfer his fire-power to the Hyundai A-League.
“My goal is to give my all to the club, my all to my teammates and my all to the coaching staff,” said Murray.
"Goals are the number one currency in football," Mulvey said. "Jordan has a proven track record for a couple of years. He has demonstrated a knack for being in the right place at the right time; and long may that continue.”
Josh Macdonald – Central Coast Mariners
A fourth young prospect to be added to the Mariners senior roster for the 2018-19 Hyundai A-League season, Macdonald is determined to take his opportunity after being handed a second chance.
The 22-year-old progressed through Sydney FC’s youth academy and spent time with Nottingham Forest in England, before switching to Western Sydney Wanderers and featuring twice in the Hyundai A-League.
After not making the grade, the Australia Under-20 international returned to his hometown Wollongong Wolves. After shining in the NPL for three seasons, he returns to the big time to relaunch his career.
Macdonald said: “There’s a lot of talent in the NPL and I think it’s fantastic that Mike Mulvey has provided an opportunity for players from the NPL to come in and trial.”
Tass Mourdoukoutas – Western Sydney Wanderers
The 19-year-old defender wasted no time in making his mark in West Sydney after joining the Wanderers academy in 2017.
In a little over a year and a half, the former Football NSW Institute prospect and Sydney Olympic youth player had featured in the club’s NPL2 side and title-winning Foxtel Y-League team.
But the Young Socceroo's ascent to stardom didn’t end there, Mourdoukoutas was handed his Hyundai A-League debut in Round 16 of the 2017/18 season as a substitute in a 1-1 draw.
After penning a two-year senior contract in June, the centre-back said “Like any other young player, I’d really like to set myself up in the club’s Hyundai A-League team and really make my mark.”