Ahead of his group’s first game of the season against Brisbane Roar in Saturday afternoon, Y-League head coach Joe Palatsides has said he is enthusiastic about getting to expose his latest batch of exciting prospects to Australia’s premier junior competition.
Palatsides’ on Monday named a strong squad for the upcoming Y-League season in which his group will look to go one better than they did in 2017/18 - where they lost the Grand Final to Western Sydney Wanderers - and instead repeat the heroics of 2016/17 - where they captured the Y-League crown with a win over Sydney FC.
The named squad features a bevy of Australian junior internationals mixing it up with some of the brightest young talents that have come up through City’s U18 and U20 squads in NPL Victoria and it’s a bunch that has Palatsides thrilled.
“We always see this time of year as pretty exciting,” Palatsides said
“There are good young players, a new talent crop we haven’t seen yet on this stage.
“We’ve got a host of exciting young talent in the Y-League squad and around the Y-League squad as train-on players.
“Over the years it’s not just contracted players that play Y-League, it’s also these train-on players that get an opportunity if one arises.
“Obviously, we’ve got our Joeys who are all 02 born players. And they’re the new bunch that have come in this year.
“There’s Luke Duzel, who’s one of the most exciting prospects and there’s something to look forward to there.
“There’s Josh Varga, another player in the Australian U17 team, Jordan Bos likewise and Ahmed Taleb likewise.
“And in and around that we’ve got the 03 [born] boys who were also involved in national team camp, not all selected but were a big part of the interest played by Trevor Morgan. Idrus Abdulahi who was on the bench against Melbourne Victory is a 03 born and there are others such as Lucas Burns, Yaya Dukuly and Raphael Borges Rodrigues and Tommy Lambiris.
“It’s exciting times for Melbourne City and these young players coming through because there’s a whole host of them that we're excited about.”
This crop of exciting young talent will be reinforced by six Young Socceroos that Palatsides has to call on this upcoming season.
Connor Metcalfe, Dylan Pierias, Josh Cavallo, Ramy Najjarine, Moudi Najjar and goalkeeper James Delianov were all – alongside A-League star Nathaniel Atkinson – a part of Ante Milicic’s side for the recent AFC U19 Championships and Palatsides says they bring a real edge to his side.
“They’re [The Young Socceroos] always the X-factor in terms of dominating against players their own age group,” Palatsides explained
“But they have a dual role, one to further their chances of A-League selection by playing well in the youth league but also to be the leaders amongst our next crop of young players.
“These young boys that need to know the culture that is set, the standard that is set and these boys [The Young Socceroos] take a great deal of pride in establishing that throughout the year.”
The Y-League season, which commenced last week, will run for ten weeks, with each, five-team conference playing a home-and-away fixture against each other before the winners of each conference meet in a Grand Final to decide the overall champion.
Palatsides explained how he, and the rest of the City staff at both a youth and senior level, approached the league.
“We have it as a… one it’s a tool for the A-League team,” he elucidated
“It’s only eight games and there are not many opportunities – whether they’re young or old – for minutes outside the A-League.
“Let’s say for example Osama Malik is coming back from injury and may be required to play a few games. That’s an A-League tool for whenever Warren Joyce and the sports science staff need it.
“We [The Youth staff] use the Y-League as mainly a stepping stone for the younger boys to bump up their intensity in training and play against much better quality then they have in the past.
“For example, all the 03 boys and the 02 boys may have been playing NPL U18s and U20s before, now all of a sudden they’re with the elite players of their age group.
“It’s a great learning tool for them and that usually holds them in good stead for the NPL season when they’re going to have to play against men [in the senior NPL side].
“It’s a learning curve, it’s a great tool to increase the intensity and quality of their training, which is then a platform for them to jump into the NPL team and eventually the A-League team.”