Aussie 17yo who trialled at one of Europe’s top clubs explodes with a hat-trick: Wonderkid Watch

Welcome to Wonderkid Watch: A weekly piece that keeps you up to date with the players and stories emerging from A-Leagues clubs playing at NPL level in Australia.

*There were no matches played in Victoria or Queensland over the Easter break, while Sydney FC were away competing at the prestigious Under-19 Champions Trophy in Germany.

Meet Newcastle’s teen sensation likened to a former Argentina star

Alex Nunes – remember the name. The Newcastle Jets teenager had a weekend to remember after scoring a hat-trick.

The 17-year-old playmaker scored twice inside the opening 23 minutes before completing his treble 13 minutes from the end as unbeaten Newcastle humbled Bankstown United 6-0 in Football NSW’s League Two – the state’s third tier.

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It equalled the Jets’ biggest victory of the 2024 campaign, with the league leaders the only undefeated team remaining through eight rounds (W6 D2).

For Nunes, it was a breakout match for a talented Newcastle youngster likened to former Argentina, Valencia and Benfica star Pablo Aimar by his former Jets youth coach Ric Marchioli, who said he is a “classic number 10”.

The left-footed teenage sensation has been with Newcastle’s academy since Under-9s, having relocated to NSW from Darwin.

He has graduated through the ranks and even trialled at Portuguese giants Benfica two years ago.

“Alex is a very talent and technical player who has great game awareness,” Pete McGuiness – Newcastle’s academy coach at the time – said.

“I’m excited that he’s off to one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and probably the biggest in Portugal. It’s his technical skill, and ‘game smarts’ that will give him every chance of being successful there.”

Nunes, then aged 15, said at the time: “I was nominated by the coaching staff at the 2022 Coerver Asia Pacific International Performance Camp to represent them at the program.

“I’ll be living and breathing football, and will live with other participants, and attend training games and language courses.

“I’m hoping to come out a better player. I will receive a player report at the end of the camp which will help me identify areas for improvement…I’ll then bring this experience back to my team to share what I’ve learnt.”

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Nunes was also on the cusp of the Joeys squad, selected as a shadow player for the 2022 AFF Under-16 Youth Championship.

In League One, Abdelelah Faisal scored a hat-trick for Bulls FC Academy in their 6-1 rout of Canterbury Bankstown.

Can anyone stop the Wanderers?

Western Sydney Wanderers are top of the table and still the team to beat in NPLM NSW.

Zachary Sapsford wore the captain’s armband and was at the double as the high-flying Wanderers retained top spot with a 4-2 win over St George FC on Saturday.

Sapsford scored a first-half brace after Alexander Badolato‘s “freak goal” restored parity for the Wanderers in the sixth minute.

Nathanael Blair struck 10 minutes into the second half for his eighth goal in just five appearances.

“I think we weren’t at our best tonight, but super pleasing to see again a response to going a goal down,” Wanderers head coach Andrew Christiansen said via NPL NSW.

“I trust in their ability, and I’m pleased to see a maturity and ability to deal with when things aren’t going your way.

“Really happy with the start of the season. The boys are immensely talented, so I’m happy for the group and they deserve the start they’ve had.”

It has been a significant season for Sapsford, who crossed the divide to join the Wanderers from Sydney FC in 2022-23.

He made his Isuzu UTE A-League debut last season and scored nine goals at NPL level as Western Sydney preserved their top-flight status, but this term saw the 21-year-old score his first A-Leagues goal.

It was no ordinary goal as it settled November’s Sydney Derby at Allianz Stadium.

“I don’t think I could feel any better. It’s quite surreal to be honest. Looking around when I scored that goal was the best feeling in the world to be honest,” he said after his derby heroics.

Elsewhere in NPLM NSW, Central Coast Mariners were beaten 2-0 by Marconi Stallions.

In NPLW NSW, there was chaos between Sydney Olympic and Bulls FC Academy.

Second-placed Sydney Olympic prevailed 7-4 against the previously unbeaten Bulls, who were third, in Round 5.

Tamires Souza opened the scoring for the Bulls before Olympic piled on four unanswered goals, though Amber Luchtmeijer reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time.

Olympic scored a further two goals by the 67th minute and while Luchtmeijer and Alyssa Rose helped to make it 6-4 11 minutes from the end, the home side had the final say in a wild contest.

Emerging Jets, meanwhile, were beaten 5-0 by Northern Tigers.

‘Sky’s the limit’ for new-look Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix Reserves kicked off their 2024 Central League campaign on a losing note, but there is plenty of optimism around the youth team.

Wellington were no match for Miramar Rangers 4-0 in their season opener, however, this is a new-look Phoenix side.

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Of the team that finished second last season, 15 regulars have moved on, including captain Isaac Hughes, Lukas Kelly-Heald, Fin Conchie, Luke Supyk, Matt Sheridan and Alby Kelly-Heald, who have all graduated up to Giancarlo Italiano’s senior side.

A new and exciting crop of players are coming through, with Chris Greenacre’s side boasting 10 players that were involved in New Zealand’s 2023 Under-17 FIFA World Cup campaign.

That includes Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues, who became the youngest Phoenix player in Isuzu UTE A-League history after coming off the bench for the league leaders recently.

“The sky’s the limit for them and hopefully I don’t hold on to many of them for too long and they make the step up,” Greenacre said prior to the opening round.

“The main thing is they need to try and play as many minutes as they can and that comes from training at their best day-in, day-out and showing that they’ve got a professional’s mentality.

“That will hold them in good stead so when they do step up it is more of a smooth transition into senior football.”

In NPLM WA, Perth Glory played out a 2-2 draw at Balcatta Etna after rescuing a point.

The Glory are fourth and four points off the pace after three matches.

Over in NPLM SA, Adelaide United were swept aside 4-0 by MetroStars.