News filtered through this week that Danny Choi had finally picked up an A-League contract – the Blacktown City winger is moving to Adelaide as an injury replacement for Marcelo Carrusca.
Choi shot to prominence with his 70-yard goal against Sydney United 58 in the FFA Cup, and scored a wonderful goal against the same opposition in the NPL NSW grand final.
He’s also a lovely guy who deserves this opportunity.
But is an injury replacement gig really the best the A-League had to offer him?
The FFA Cup has put some of these clubs back on the map, and the players in the shop window. But shouldn’t they be there anyway?
If our A-League coaches and scouts aren’t looking at the local talent throughout the various state leagues, then where are they looking? (Click to Tweet)
The NSW NPL is littered with players who didn’t quite make it, or weren’t given a second chance.
Joe Gibbs made his A-League debut in the 2010 grand final for Sydney FC, while Chris Payne started that game, but neither has had a serious look in at A-League level, despite scoring goals at an alarming rate in the state-based competitions.
Blake Powell never got a fair crack of the whip as a youngster at Sydney FC, but 21 goals in 15 games for APIA Leichhardt in 2015 earned him a very rare thing indeed – a second chance at the top level.
Injuries opened the door at the Wellington Phoenix, and his stunning four-goal haul against Western Sydney Wanderers helped see him win the Nix’s golden boot award, netting nine for the season.
But opportunities like his are a rare beast.
Just ask Panni Nikas.
The Sydney United 58 midfielder won the National Youth League player of the season award in 2010 with the Central Coast Mariners, and was promptly released.
He earned another go with the ill-fated North Queensland Fury, playing 18 games before they folded. Since then, he scored 39 goals in three years at Sutherland, and another 26 in two years at Sydney United 58.
But the phone hasn’t rung.
In the last month alone, Nikas scored a hat-trick in the NPL quarter-final against Adelaide City, a brace in the semi-final against Brisbane Strikers, and a single goal in the final against Edgeworth Eagles.
But he can’t get a run.
There are similar hard-luck stories around the country.
In Victoria, Alastair Bray shot to prominence with the Bentleigh Greens in their original FFA Cup fairytale run. The goalkeeper had played in the NYL for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart before playing the house down for Bentleigh.
He surfaced briefly at the Mariners last season, playing one game on the Paul Izzo, Tom Heward-Belle, Liam Reddy (remember him?) merry-go-round, before it was announced he wouldn’t be signing a contract.
The 23-year-old is now back at Victory, the door opened by Danny Vukovic’s move to Sydney, but his one-year contract offers little with Laurence Thomas standing in his way.
Meanwhile, 35-year-old Reddy is at his seventh (you read that correctly, seventh) A-League club, Perth Glory, after failing to earn the gloves at Western Sydney Wanderers last season, after he was kicked out the Mariners.
Up the M1, the Mariners, who let Bray go, have 36-year-old Ivan Necevski between the sticks – he of 47 appearances in 11 A-League seasons and without a national league game since 2012-13.
Why are clubs recycling instead of fostering and nurturing genuine talent?
Your guess is as good as mine.