Liberty Next Gen Tracker: Sydney defender climbs into contention but Mariners star holds lead

The latest batch of votes have been counted up for the Liberty Next Gen tracker as we keep tabs on the ones to watch aged 21 or under!

In both the Isuzu UTE A-League and Liberty A-League this year, we’re keeping tabs on the Next Gen Tracker, ranking the top five players who were 21 or under at the start of the season every month.

Here’s the five selections from the Isuzu UTE A-League for this month.

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER VOTE: Irankunda leads the way after flying start
DECEMBER VOTE: Farrell takes the lead after brilliant December

1 vote: Alex Bonetig (Western Sydney Wanderers)

Alex Bonetig is just 21 years old but has shown experience beyond his years as one of the most consistent performers for Western Sydney Wanderers.

The left-sided centre-back has been a rock at the back alongside captain Marcelo for Marko Rudan’s side.

Bonetig made five appearances for the Wanderers in January, keeping two clean sheets in 1-0 wins over Melbourne City and Western United.

Alex Bonetig.

2 votes: Miguel Di Pizio (Central Coast Mariners)

Part of the next generation of young Australian talents, 18-year-old Miguel Di Pizio is thriving under Central Coast Mariners head coach Mark Jackson this season.

The 18-year-old former Joeys captain scored his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal in January, helping the Mariners defeat Brisbane Roar 2-0 after coming off the bench in a slender win over Western Sydney Wanderers in the first of two appearances throughout the month.

3 votes: Jacob Farrell (Central Coast Mariners)

Central Coast Mariners full-back Jacob Farrell continued to dazzle in January as he enhanced his reputation as one of the best under-21 Australian players currently in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Farrell extended his lead at the top of the Liberty Next Gen Tracker Standings to four votes after January. He made four appearances throughout the month, keeping clean sheets in wins over the Wanderers and Brisbane as well as contributing to a 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory and 2-1 win over Melbourne City.

Jacob Farrell.

4 votes: Finn Surman (Wellington Phoenix)

One of the key contributors to Wellington Phoenix’s surge to the top of the table, 20-year-old academy product Finn Surman had a month to remember in January.

The centre-back made four appearances for Wellington throughout the month and helped his side go unbeaten, drawing with Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United and enjoying wins over Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets.

Surman started just one game last season, making four appearances, but has started each and every one of Wellington’s 19 games this season to date.

“When I first came, he played quite a lot of football, he got some decent game time and showed a lot of potential and promise,” Phoenix teammate Scott Wootton said of Surman recently. “Quite often players don’t always fulfil that but he’s exactly doing that.

“He’s been outstanding, one of our best players this season. He’s hardly put a foot wrong. He’s probably had one or two games where he’s dropped below par but that’s to be expected, it’s his first full season in full-time professional football as a starting player. It’s different.

“It comes with different pressures and expectations. He has so many good attributes. He is the perfect height, he is quick off the mark, he is very calm on the ball, he is good in the air. There’s not much he doesn’t have going for him.”

Finn Surman.

5 votes: Jake Girdwood-Reich (Sydney FC)

Jake Girdwood-Reich earns maximum votes in the January Liberty Next Gen Tracker polling having played a heavy hand in the Sky Blues’ turnaround after a tough start to the campaign.

The 19-year-old has shown versatility dropping out of midfield and into defence to cover the injured Jack Rodwell and has operated with class and confidence; Girdwood-Reich featured in two wins, one draw and one defeat in January and has since formed an unlikely yet uncompromising centre-back partnership with fellow Sydney youngster Hayden Matthews.

Jake Girdwood-Reich.

Liberty Next Gen Tracker: Season tally

  • 12 votes: Jacob Farrell (Central Coast Mariners)
  • 8 votes: Alex Paulsen (Wellington Phoenix)
  • 6 votes: Jake Girdwood-Reich (Sydney FC)
  • 5 votes: Nestory Irankunda (Adelaide United)
  • 5 votes: Clayton Taylor (Newcastle Jets)
  • 4 votes: Thomas Waddingham (Brisbane Roar)
  • 4 votes: Benjamin Mazzeo (Melbourne City)
  • 4 votes: Finn Surman (Wellington Phoenix)
  • 3 votes: Jaiden Kucharski (Sydney FC)
  • 2 votes: Raphael Borges Rodrigues (Macarthur FC)
  • 2 votes: Nicolas Milanovic (Western Sydney)
  • 2 votes: Ryan Teague (Melbourne Victory)
  • 2 votes: Miguel Di Pizio (Central Coast Mariners)
  • 1 vote: Alex Bonetig (Western Sydney)