In a matter of weeks the women’s World Cup kicks off. It’s a tournament that’s been around for less than 30 years, but with the growth of women’s football, it’s now very much a must-watch event around the world for any sport fan.
The team of the week for Round 21 contains players from just five clubs, the most narrow representation for the entire season thus far.
However, with the debacle of the Mariners in Gosford and a disappointing Brisbane Roar, Perth Glory and Adelaide United, there appeared less stand-out performers in this split round than weeks prior.
These were the men that caught my eye in Round 21.
1. Andrew Redmayne (Sydney FC)
Whilst his recent collection of clean sheets is the numerical proof of an in form goalkeeper, it is the Sydney shop-stopper’s confidence and poise that is catching the eye.
Once maligned, Redmayne has continued to work hard on his game and the end result has him now performing as consistently as any keeper in the league.
2. Rhyan Grant (Sydney FC)
Coming off a long rehabilitation and a wasted 2017-18, Grant played well right from the start of the season.
It was a sign of things to come and as his fitness levels increased and the confidence in his game steadily returned, the slow rebuild from serious injury has seen the 28 year-old now reclaim the mantle of the best right wing man in the league.
3. Brendan Hamill (Western Sydney Wanderers)
One of the key factors in the Western Sydney revival and their unbeaten run of four matches has been Brendan Hamill.
It was another polished performance from the 26 year-old after the home side had struck early via a long distance Dylan Wenzel-Halls goal.
From that point on the Wanderers controlled the fixture and whilst Hamill may not be the most flashy A-League player around, he certainly is developing into one of the most reliable.
4. Nikolai Topor-Stanley (Newcastle Jets)
Amidst a barrage of attacking waves, the tall central defender made a series of prudent decisions and decisive clearances to defy the star-studded attack of Victory.
Glen Moss made a few terrific saves yet the application of the men in front of him was even more impressive, as the Victory through everything bar the kitchen sink at the Jets’ goalmouth.
It has been one of Topor-Stanley’s best seasons in the league and a return to the form that saw him become one of the most respected and consistent defenders in the country whilst at Western Sydney.
5. Ben Warland (Sydney FC)
Up against his previous employer the 22-year-old played one of his best games for the Sky Blues against Adelaide and will probably receive considerable game time in the coming weeks, as Sydney FC continue their Asian Champions League adventure.
Another young player with vast potential, Warland is learning from the best on the shoulder of Alex Wilkinson.
Adelaide have troubled Sydney in recent times yet Warland and company were alert and diligent at the back in another clean sheet performance.
6. Keanu Baccus (Western Sydney Wanderers)
The 20-year-old is growing with confidence as each and every match passes and Markus Babbel was enraptured with his performance against the Roar on Friday night.
Baccus is a typical example of the developmental nature of the A-League and the sometimes unfair criticism and expectations that fans and pundits place on men whose age they appear to have forgotten.
If the steady curve on which Baccus is currently travelling continues, we could be looking at a heck of a 25-year-old in a few short years.
7. Keisuke Honda (Melbourne Victory)
If Honda stays healthy and replicates his first 45 minutes against the Jets in the remainder of the A-League season, Melbourne Victory will win the title.
The Japanese international was astonishing on the edge of the box yet strangely, after all the huff and puff the home side created, his efforts led to nought and the visitors struck twice to steal the points.
Honda was supreme in possession and more selfish with the ball that at any other time in his A-League journey. It was a bold performance where he took a direct approach in attack and the results were stunning.
8. Milos Ninkovic (Sydney FC)
After something of a slow burn season, it was about a month ago that the Serbian started to find the form that had led to him being rated as the best import in the league by many pundits.
The softness of his touches and dexterity of his passes were on full display against the Reds in Round 21.
The puppet master is back in top-notch form and it is no coincidence that Sydney FC have begun to apply some degree of pressure to the ladder leading Perth, with six weeks of football still remaining in the home and away season.
9. Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City)
Who needs a Bruno when you have a J-Mac? The notion of Melbourne City scoring in four consecutive matches was fanciful a few months back, let alone a single player achieving that feat.
But that is exactly what the Socceroos striker has brought to Australia’s sporting capital and the difference has been significant.
Put aside the fact that City managed the meltdown of all meltdowns to throw away what seemed certain victory against Perth.
If Maclaren had been there from day one of season 2018-19, people’s attitudes towards City would be far different from those born of an inconsistent and impotent start to the season.
10. Jair (Newcastle Jets)
It took him a while, but the Brazilian has finally made an impression on the A-League.
It is no coincidence that his improved play is mirroring the collective results of the team and the Jets have begun a run that could result in what, at one stage, did seem an unlikely appearance in the finals series.
Once again, Jair’s speed and agility provided a constant attacking weapon for the visitors and his improved communication with Roy O’Donovan and Dimi Petratos has been clearly evident over the last month.
11. Oriol Riera (Western Sydney Wanderers)
To this point, it has not been a season to remember fondly for the Spaniard, nor the Wanderers collectively.
However, things are looking up as the Red-and-Black creep ever closer to their new stadium and start to play a brand of football befitting their history and pride.
Riera scored his seventh and eighth goals against the Roar on Friday night, the seventh a cracking volley and the eighth an easier yet still tricky first time touch from an incisive cross.
Both goals were the exact reason the tall striker was brought to the A-League. It is a shame we haven’t seen a little more of his class through the course of the season.