Young Aussies Feature: Australian Institute of Sport

The Australian Institute of Sport is world famous for producing talent in a variety of disciplines

The Australian Institute of Sport is famous throughout the world for producing world class athletes in a huge range of sports. From swimmers to runners and everything in between, the AIS has top standards in recognising young talent and guiding them to the top of their game.

Their football coaching system is no different, proven by the fact that in the last 18 months, no fewer than 12 players have signed full-time deals with Hyundai A-League clubs. Players who have become established first team players include Mustafa Amini (Central Coast), Brendan Hamill(Melbourne Heart), Terry Antonis (Sydney) and Eli Babalj (Melbourne Heart) to mention a few.

Coach Jan Versleijen says the system works as they can identify talent at a young age and help them progress step by step.

“We first get to see them in their early teens at the Coffs Harbour tournament where we can take note of any promising youngsters. The state institutes then keep an eye on how they-re progressing and we get to see them in Canberra when all the state teams compete in the national finals.”

Versleijen also feels that lowering the squad age to 15, 16 and 17 also helps.

“We enable them to have a good base for their development. Over the last few years, it-s made a big difference. Prior to the last 10 years there were very few attacking, creative players that came out of the system.”

“Emphasis was on being strong, fit, disciplined players but not so much on skill. Now there-s an emphasis on going forward, being creative and giving them the opportunity to develop themselves”.

Aside from this, if a player is standing out, they-re invited to come to the AIS where they will train with the NYL squad and see how they get on. If they impress, they can be invited to play, if not then they go back to their state sides and have a chance to impress at later dates.

Once chosen, the players go on a 2year scholarship in Canberra where they-re given their chance to play in the National Youth League.

It-s an interesting system that differs from club side-s youth setups as they have the pick from all the state squads and it obviously seems to work, if Canberra ever have a Hyundai A-League team, they-ll be licking their lips with the youth setup already in place!

The current crop of youngsters has already had one player signed up before 10 weeks of the season have gone. Perth-s new boy Adam Taggart is a typical goal-scorer, good in the box and has an eye for goal. His two year deal means that we-re sure to see something of his this season.

His strike partner Jesse Makarounas is another name to look out for. Top scorer in U16 qualification in Uzbekistan, his goals propelled the national team to qualification for next year-s world cup tournament.

In defence, Curtis Good has the added bonus of being left footed. He epitomises the modern day centre half, good in the air but also confident and solid with the ball at his feet. Having already been training with Melbourne Heart-s first team this season, he-s expected to be snapped up before the end of this campaign.

Fellow defender (left back) Corey Brown also deserves a mention; he has all the right qualities for a defender, hard to beat, tough tackling and always well positioned. His coach also comments on how he likes to get forward too, proven by the fact that he-s scored already this season.

The list could go on with the squad here but midfielders Yianni Perkatis and Hernan Espindola are two others that will be knocking on the door of the Hyundai A-League clubs, come the end of the season.

The Australian Institute of Sport players are undoubtedly in good hands with Jan Versleijen in charge. He-s also the head coach of the Australia national U17 and U20 teams, who are performing extremely well on the international stage.

Keep an eye on this youth setup for years to come as Hyundai A-League and youth national side players keep coming off the conveyor belt that is the Australian Institute of Sport.