National Youth League

Football Federation Australia announced in March that it had moved to secure the future of talented young players with the introduction of the National Youth League in conjunction with the Hyundai A-League season.

Football Federation Australia announced in March that it had moved to secure the future of talented young players with the introduction of the National Youth League in conjunction with the Hyundai A-League season.

The National Youth League will comprise seven teams, one from each of the Hyundai A-League-s current Australian clubs, which is very similar to development models used throughout European and English football competitions.

FFA National Technical Director Rob Baan described the National Youth League as being of “paramount importance” to the future technical development of football players in Australia.

The National Youth League aims to provide players aged between 16-21 years of age a clear pathway from youth leagues to senior level and then on to professional level.

Melbourne Victory took a major step in the development of its inaugural National Youth League team in May, appointing former Qantas Socceroo Mehmet Durakovic as Coach and current Victory Goalkeeping Coach Steve Mautone as Assistant Coach.

Victory Football Operations Manager Gary Cole recently discussed a host of issues regarding the club-s National Youth League team with melbournevictory.com.au, describing the new competition as an exciting time and one that the club hopes will be very successful.

Mehmet Durakovic

“Mehmet Durakovic is a legend in Victorian football.

“He played 64 games for Australia and was a fantastic player at a time when he was competing for his spot against European-based players as well, so to rattle up 64 appearances is no mean feat.

“He was honoured with a PJK Award in Malaysia because he played in Malaysia for sometime after playing for South Melbourne, Footscray and Brunswick Juventus in the old National Soccer League, where he won a couple of championships.

“He was a wonderful player and he-s been Assistant Coach to Ian Greener at the Victorian Institute of Sport for the three years.

“He-s been part of their youth development and understands very well the football development program here in Victoria.

“We recognise the great job that the VIS does with its talent identification program and we don-t need to reinvent the wheel because we-ve actually got a fantastic development model over there, and Mehmet comes on board to head that up.

“Mehmet-s very excited to be in football full time.

“He was a great player, he-s got great experience as Head Coach at Port Melbourne and now at the VIS, he-s just completed his International Asia ‘A- Coaching Licence, which gives him a great background and we-re sure he-s going to do a fantastic job for us.

Steve Mautone

“Mehmet comes on board in a full time role and to support him we-ve got Steve Mautone, who-s currently our Goalkeeping Coach and has also got a terrific background.

“Steve-s got his International Asia ‘B- Coaching Licence and has started work on his ‘A- Licence.

“He came back to Melbourne after a successful professional football career as a goalkeeper in the UK, where he played with West Ham, Reading and a number of Championship clubs there as well.

“Steve now has three roles within the one, he-s still the club-s Goalkeeping Coach and he-s also got a part time recruiting role assisting Ernie and I.

“As well as that, he-s Assistant Coach of the club-s National Youth League team and will be heavily involved with Mehmed in the recruiting of players for the National Youth League, which well and truly adds up to a full time job.”

Player recruitment and management

“Mehmet-s already got a large list of names.

“The reality is we can have ten to 12 players to top up the Hyundai A-League squad and we-ll probably have a few train-on players as well.

“It-s an amateur competition, so these are not players that will come onboard and make money from a professional contract.

“A number of these kids will have jobs, be at university or they might have school, so this will be a program that operates in the late afternoon and early evening.

“The program-s got to be built from the ground up, but again we followed the model that was very successful for us for the Hyundai A-League team and the first thing we wanted to was appoint coaches and we-ve done that with Mehmet and Steve.

“Part of what we can offer Victorian kids now is coaches that have been through all of the development programs as players.

“They-ve represented Victoria at a range of different ages and they-ve gone through and followed that pathway.

“We can offer the kids not only good coaches, but players that have represented Australia and have walked the path that most of these kids are going to want to follow.

“How we measure the success of this program, well ultimately it-s a development program, so it will be about how many players we can we help through that pathway into Hyundai A-League contracts.”

Links with the Victorian Institute of Sport

“The club-s had a strong link with the VIS because of geography, because of history with Ernie Merrick, Aaron Healey, Anita Pedrana, Adam Basil and a range of our other staff who have been through the VIS.

“However, there-s been a gap between athletes finishing their scholarship at the VIS and being in a position where they can get a contract with a Hyundai A-League club and the National Youth League helps fill that void.

“That doesn-t mean VIS kids are guaranteed a contract with us, but there-s a natural progression now and they-ve got an opportunity to move from a scholarship at the VIS, hopefully into Melbourne Victory-s National Youth League team and even more hopefully they-ll end up with a professional football contact.”

Overage players and Hyundai A-League team players

“As part of the new player contract regulations, all Hyundai A-League squads are required to have three Under 20 players.

“We-ve currently got five - Mitchell Langerak, Nathan Elasi, Sebastian Ryall, Evan Berger and Leigh Broxham - so even though they-re in the Hyundai A-League team, they can play with no restriction in the National Youth League.

“Each Under 20 player must play at least 30 minutes if they-re in a National Youth League team for any particular game.

“Regardless of if it-s a curtain raiser to a Hyundai A-League game or played the following day, which is what we-re looking at, if they-re involved in the 15-man squad and they-re an Under 20 player, it-s compulsory that they play a minimum 30 minutes.

“And each week, in the first year, you can have up to four overage players play in the competition.

“The good thing for the overage players is if they-re not in the Hyundai A-League squad then we can give them a game.”