A-League Men clubs can’t continue to ignore NPL talent

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For too long A-League Men clubs have brushed off signing NPL stars in favour of international transfers that scarcely recoup their ill-fated investment.

We’ve reached a time in the year where the ALM is only a few games away from its finals series, while the state-based National Premier League (NPL) competitions have only just played their opening rounds.

This scheduling divide is arguably the best representation of how disconnected Australia’s top-two tiers of football are.

It does not explain, however, why A-League Men clubs continue to overlook the wealth of talent available to them in the NPL.

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Over the last three seasons, there has been a total of 21 players transferred from an NPL side to the ALM.

This is a small number considering the 183 players transferred in and out of the competition in 2021/22 alone.

Admittedly, a lot of these players were transferred between A-League Men clubs.

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This doesn’t excuse the fact that only five NPL players were handed professional contracts in 2021/22.

Undoubtedly the biggest signing of the 2021/22 season was Daniel Sturridge joining Perth Glory.

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Since landing in Australia, Sturridge has mustered a poultry 93 minutes through five substitute appearances, failing to find the back of the net in that time, while earning a massive $375,000 in wages.

Perth have all but confirmed the first wooden spoon in the club’s history registering only three wins through 2021/22 so far.

This should paint a very clear picture to other ALM clubs that while a ‘big’ international name will bring hype and fanfare, the results on the pitch are what matter most.

If players who are tearing up the NPL like Andy Pengelly were given the same chance as Sturridge there is little doubt that they would provide greater effect than the Englishman and at a fraction of the cost.

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While there is a steep learning curve between the ALM and NPL given time to prove themselves players who make the jump rarely go back.

If more A-League men teams were willing to take on and grow the NPL talent that is staring them in the face, the discrepancy between our semi-pro and pro leagues would shrink as players move between the two.

As Football Australia moves closer to its national second-tier competition, hopefully we will see a rise in homegrown talent being rewarded with ALM call-ups.

Feature image credit: Football NSW

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Bill Hedley
Journalism under graduate at the University of Queensland. I have been a die-hard football player and fan for the past 16 years and am now a passionate multimedia Journalist, covering Brisbane Roar for the 2021/22 A-League season.

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