There are five stellar candidates, but only one can claim the title of the A-League’s Young Footballer of the Year award for 2021.
Melbourne City loanee Ramy Najjarine earned the January nomination for his bright start to life as a Newcastle Jets player. Central Coast Mariners forward Alou Kuol took the nod in February and Nathaniel Atkinson starred for City through March to put his name in contention.
Ben Waine was selected as April’s candidate after scoring four goals in four games for Wellington Phoenix, and Joel King excelled at left-back for Sydney FC through May/June to clinch the final nomination for this year’s award.
Voting opens on Thursday, June 17 at 9.00am AEST, ending on Sunday, June 20 at 11.00pm AEST, with the award to be announced at the Dolan Warren Awards in the midweek leading up to the highly-anticipated A-League Grand Final.
Cast your vote HERE and have YOUR say on which bright talent should earn the honour of Young Footballer of the Year for 2021!
January nominee – Ramy Najjarine (Newcastle Jets)
Ramy Najjarine made the most of his loan move from Melbourne City to Newcastle Jets in 2020/21, taking quickly to the Novocastrian life to earn the Young Footballer of the Year nod for January, 2021.
Najjarine’s eye-catching dribbling, pinpoint-accurate crosses and penchant for creating chances made the then-20-year-old one of the brightest sparks of the early season.
Najjarine featured five times for the Jets throughout January, creating 12 chances, taking seven shots and recording two assists throughout the month. His two best performances of the month came against Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar. Against the Wanderers Najjarine notched an assist and created five chances from 70 touches. He followed up that impressive showing by assisting Valentino Yuel against the Roar, enjoying a 92.9% passing accuracy and creating four chances.
February Nominee – Alou Kuol (Central Coast Mariners)
Three goals and an assist in four substitute appearance throughout February made the league sit up and take notice of Central Coast Mariners young gun Alou Kuol.
Kuol took 51 touches in just 111 minutes of game time in four games throughout the month, showing efficiency to score or assist in an average of just under 13 touches, or 28 minutes of time on the park.
The teenager assisted Daniel De Silva’s winner in a remarkable 3-2 comeback over eventual Premiers Melbourne City, before coming off the bench to score twice in a similarly outstanding 3-2 comeback win over Western United.
Kuol’s third goal came of the month came in a 3-2 loss to Adelaide United. The memorable month helped Kuol earn the adoration of Mariners fans and neutrals league-wide as the German-bound striker announced himself as a rising star of world football.
VOTE NOW: Have YOUR say on which bright talent should earn the honour of Young Footballer of the Year for 2021!
March nominee – Nathaniel Atkinson (Melbourne City)
Melbourne City full-back Nathaniel Atkinson earned the March nomination for Young Footballer of the Year after notching five wins and three clean sheets from five appearances throughout the month.
Playing on the right side of City’s defence, Atkinson’s link-up with right-sided attacker Andrew Nabbout was an eye-catching aspect of play for Patrick Kisnorbo’s side, who charged ahead in the race for the Premiers Plate in March.
Atkinson touched the ball more than 90 times in every game in the month. He created a total of six chances, claiming an assist in consecutive games against Melbourne Victory and Macarthur FC.
Atkinson starred against the Mariners in a 2-0 win at AAMI Park, keeping a clean sheet, winning 100% of his tackles, adding 96 touches and 74 passes to his goalscoring display.
April nominee – Ben Waine (Wellington Phoenix)
The ‘Waine train’ left the station in April as the Phoenix forward scored four games running to become the youngest Wellington Phoenix player to score five times in a single A-League season.
Phoenix boss Ufuk Talay called on Waine for four consecutive starts in April after the young striker came off the bench in his first appearance of the month. Waine helped the ‘Nix go undefeated throughout those four games (W2, D2), scoring his first goal of the month in the dying stages of a 3-2 win over Western United. He scored for the second time in a 3-1 win over Perth Glory away from home, before feasting on the Green and Black once more with the opening goal in a 1-1 draw on April 22.
The Phoenix returned to action on ANZAC Day, April 25, when Waine drew his side level at 1-1 with Adelaide United before Tomer Hemed found a late winner for the in-form side.
— Isuzu UTE A-League (@aleaguemen) April 23, 2021
May/June nominee – Joel King (Sydney FC)
Sydney FC full-back Joel King earns the final nomination for Young Footballer of the Year after ending his consistent A-League campaign in fine form.
King, 20, has made 53 A-League appearances to date across three seasons, featuring 26 times in Sky Blue in both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns.
From May to June 2021 King made seven appearances for Sydney, helping to keep four clean sheets as his side backed up a loss and a draw with five wins on the bounce to fly toward the Finals Series.
King has refined his craft amongst a star-studded defensive unit including goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, central defenders Alex Wilkinson and Ryan McGowan and right-back Rhyan Grant. With three of those four (excluding Wilkinson) absent on Socceroos duty, King’s importance to the team has only risen ahead of the Finals Series.
The young full-back will need to carry the exceptional form he displayed throughout May and the start of June into the post-season as his side chase a third-consecutive A-League title.