‘Plan’ to turbocharge Aussie ‘hotbed’ explained, 20yo arrives with debut 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.

Table-topping Wanderers all part of Rudan’s ‘plan’

There is no stopping Western Sydney Wanderers in NPLM NSW this season.

The Wanderers are seven points clear at the top of the table after recording their 10th win of 2024 thanks to a 3-0 win over heavyweights Blacktown City on Sunday.

Nathanael Blair scored a first-half brace, while Aydan Hammond was also on target for the Premiership contenders.

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Blair, who has made three Isuzu UTE A-League appearances this season, is NPLM NSW’s leading goalscorer with 12 goals in 11 matches.

The 20-year-old is among the Western Sydney youngsters to have either signed a scholarship contract on Marko Rudan’s watch as head coach of the senior side or featured in the A-Leagues, along with the likes of Marcus Younis, Aydan Hammond and Oscar Priestman.

With the Wanderers seven points clear at the NPL summit, Rudan discussed how he overhauled the club’s youth system almost three years ago.

“The first thing I did when I came here was re-structure the academy. We got (head of academy coaches) Jason Culina in there, (head of youth development) Corey Gameiro is doing a fantastic job. Eddy Bosnar is taking a hold of that on that as well,” Rudan told reporters after last week’s 2-1 Isuzu UTE A-League loss to Melbourne City.

“We were in the second division when we first got there and in the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here, we’ve gone from second division to topping the NPL. That’s not an easy feat. There’s a lot of work that goes into that but that’s part of my plan.

“You have an area that’s been a hotbed for talent, girls and boys and I wanted to tap into that and fix that. They’ve done phenomenal job in the last two-and-a-half years the people involved, not to mention the coaches and everything else.

“I place a huge importance on that built this is their first year as A-League players. A lot of them got debuts and match minutes. They’re going to be so much better going forward. That’s what excites me.

“When I see the young ones in every morning, I always tell them: ‘put a smile on your face, you’re doing the best job in the world’. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, you’re great, you’re good. Just work to get better.

“Every time they go out there, the last thing I always say is enjoy it. They should enjoy it.

“I’m really proud of everyone that’s worked so hard in that academy and NPL space because that was all part of the plan when I first came.

“Not enough gets mentioned because I know what my job is that is with the first team but for me it’s all encompassing. It’s the ALW side, we’re going to have a girl’s academy. This is a big club but it takes time.

“Sometimes head coaches like myself don’t have time but while I’m here, it’s certainly something that’s important for me. I’m really glad just how well the young ones are going.

“I think 10 out of the starting XI have a scholarship with me and have been with me for the last 12-18 months. I love watching them every week and seeing them going about their way and get better and better. It’s a big difference from where they were to where they are now.”

Elsewhere in the competition, Sydney FC went down 3-2 to Wollongong Wolves after a late fightback.

The Sky Blues overturned a two-goal deficit courtesy of Mitchell Glasson and Bailey Callaghan but they succumbed to an 89th-minute strike.

“I think on today a draw would have been a fair result. There was probably an equal number of chances both ways,” said head coach Jimmy van Weeren said via NPL NSW.

“We’re our own worst enemy at the moment, we just seem to be giving goals to the opposition which is really hurting us.

“There were enough positives there today to say that we’re going to be ok.”

Sydney are third from bottom with eight points, though they have a game in hand.

Central Coast Mariners are at the foot of the table following a 2-0 loss to St George City.

The Mariners have lost six straight games, while they are eight matches without a win.

In League One, Luca Pecora scored but Bulls FC lost 2-1 at SD Raiders, while goals from Will Dobson and Janni Rafty led League Two leaders Newcastle Jets past Granville Rage 2-1.

In NPLW NSW, Bulls FC were upstaged 3-0 by Illawarra Stingrays while Emerging Jets lost 5-0 at Football NSW Institute.

Roar talent announces himself with memorable hat-trick

Ivan Ozzi. Remember the name.

Ozzi starred for Brisbane Roar over the weekend, capping his full NPLM QLD debut for the club with a hat-trick in the 5-1 demolition of Rochedale Rovers.

The 20-year-old joined the Roar in 2024 after scoring three goals in 19 games for Lions FC last season.

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He put on a show for Brisbane over the weekend, opening the scoring in the 10th minute which showcased his speed, strength and power before bagging his second on the stroke of half-time.

Ozzi completed his three-goal haul approaching the hour-mark, while Riley Gill and Zac Fowler also scored in the second half.

The Roar are seventh in the standings with nine points from eight matches – 12 points adrift of Scott McDonald’s defending champions Gold Coast Knights.

Meanwhile, Panashe Madanha scored a stunning goal for Adelaide United in their 2-1 win over South Adelaide in NPLM SA.

With Adelaide’s Isuzu UTE A-League clash with Central Coast postponed due to the Mariners facing flight cancellations from adverse weather conditions upon returning from their AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Play-Off Final first leg in Kyrgyzstan, it meant the Reds could field a full-strength squad at NPL level.

Adelaide’s line-up boasted Madanha, Luka Jovanovic, Musa Toure, Jonny Yull, Luke Duzel and Jay Barnett.

Duzel opened the scoring for the Reds after 34 minutes, though South Adelaide restored parity 10 minutes into the second half.

Madanha, however, settled the contest with a long-range strike 16 minutes from the end at ServiceFM Stadium.

Adelaide are eighth after seven rounds, seven points behind league-leading MetroStars.

In NPLM WA, Perth Glory suffered a 5-2 defeat against Bayswater City despite leading 2-1 courtesy of goals from Sebastian Despotovski and Sam Barry.

It was a rough week for Wellington Phoenix, who lost back-to-back games within three days in New Zealand’s Central League.

After a 1-0 loss to Western Suburbs, the Phoenix went down 6-1 to Napier City Rovers after Luke Supyk had put Wellington ahead.

Victory win top-of-the-table battle

Melbourne Victory preserved their unbeaten status in VPL1 over the weekend.

Victory scored two stoppage-time goals to conquer Langwarrin 3-1 in a top-of-the-table showdown in Victoria’s second tier.

Marc Petheriotis‘ brace and a goal from Jack Mihailidis guided the undefeated league leaders past Langwarrin.

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Both teams missed penalties in the first half though Petheriotis put Victory ahead in the 40th minute, only for the home side to equalise prior to the interval.

The deadlock was then broken by Mihailidis in stoppage time before Petheriotis sealed the points.

Victory are seven points clear at the summit with eight wins from 10 fixture. They have scored 24 goals in that period and conceded just five.

“We discussed it a bit beforehand,” head coach Joe Palatsides said about Victory when dealing with the big occasion.

“You never really know how the young lads are going to do. The next three or four weeks are going to really define our season and how we’re going to progress – this was the first test.

“Playing away from home against a really good team, I thought they stood up really well. Even those difficult moments we had, we were pretty resilient as a group.

“Then when the moment of quality needed to come, it came towards the end of the game.”

Luke Vickery scored for Western United, meanwhile, but they lost 2-1 at Brunswick City in a result that saw them miss the chance to climb up to second.

Western are now fifth and 10 points off the pace.

Meanwhile, Melbourne City lost 3-0 at home to Preston Lions.

In NPLW VIC, 2022 NPLW WA Gold Medal and Golden Boot winner Larissa Walsh scored a double to guide Calder United past Bentleigh Greens 2-1.