PS4 NPL success stories in the Hyundai A-League

Blake Powell’s stunning four-goal haul against Western Sydney Wanderers has cemented his position as the PS4 National Premier Leagues’ (NPL) success story of the 2015-16 Hyundai A-League season.

Of the 12 players who have joined A-League clubs this term from those in the NPL, Powell has played the most games, and he produced his best performance of the season in Wellington Phoenix’s shock 5-2 triumph over the Wanderers on Sunday.

It hasn’t always been easy with the Phoenix – Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Wanderers was Wellington’s first in 10 matches. 

But Powell has made the most of his second chance in the A-League, having previously played for Sydney FC from 2012 to 2014.

After leaving the Sky Blues, Powell joined APIA Leichhardt in the PS4 NPL NSW, scoring 28 goals in 31 matches across two seasons.

It earned the 24-year-old striker a contract at Wellington and Powell is making the most of his second stint in the A-League. 

And it served as a stark reminder to A-League clubs that there are talented players in Australia’s second tier, who have been overlooked so far or deserve a second chance.

Speaking after the Phoenix’s shock win on Sunday, Wellington coach Ernie Merrick hailed Powell’s persistence.

“He’s improving every week he plays and at training he’s very dedicated and does a lot of work with goal-scoring in extra sessions with [assistant coach and former striker] Chris Greenacre,” Merrick said.

“It’s just great to see him do so well. I think his family was here as well so we’re going to fly his family around the country from now on.”

The Scotland-born coach added: “He’s [Powell] getting more and more confidence because he’s getting more and more game time.

Wellington celebrate one of Blake Powell's three first-half goals against the Wanderers on Sunday.

“He was at Sydney FC and when you’re at a big club it’s very hard to give inexperienced players a run but when you give them an extended run you sometimes get a real surprise.”

Powell produced a perfect hat-trick – scoring with both feet and with his head – in the first half at Pirtek Stadium, and gave Western Sydney left-back Scott Jamieson a torrid time throughout the match.

In the fourth minute, Powell sent a diving header past Wanderers goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne from Tom Doyle’s cross, with the forward bursting into the box on the blindside of Jamieson.

Powell’s second was a bullet from his left boot into the top corner in the 20th minute, while he completed his treble just after the half-hour mark with a brilliant right-footed chip that floated over Redmayne and inside the far post.

As the home side worked frantically to get back into the contest, Powell struck again with 19 minutes remaining, again ghosting in behind Jamieson to head Michael McGlinchey’s cross home at the far post.

Wellington celebrate one of Blake Powell's three first-half goals against the Wanderers on Sunday.

It was a sublime performance from the Sydney-born striker.

As the Phoenix’s ex-NPL marksman made a mockery of the Wanderers’ defence, the home side’s marquee striker – a former La Liga-based striker – was not even in Tony Popovic’s squad.

Federico Piovaccari has been left out of Western Sydney’s squad for the past four matches and has managed just two goals in his 12 appearances this term.

While it would be far too simplistic to argue Popovic would have been better off signing Powell, Piovaccari’s struggles again underline the hit-and-miss nature of Hyundai A-League imports.