The 2023-24 A-League season has ushered in a new era defined by thrilling young talent rising to stardom across the competition. Brisbane Roar’s revival under Ross Aloisi is the latest feel-good story, built on the back of teen sensations like Thomas Waddingham.
With one of the youngest squads in the league, Brisbane Roar’s early season success is no fluke. Guided by Aloisi’s steadying hand, the next generation is flourishing at the rebuilt club.
18-year-old striker Thomas Waddingham has burst onto the scene with fearless displays, using his explosive pace and aerial presence to terrify defences. Creative wizard Henry Hore provides the polish in midfield, while 16-year-old substitute Rylan Brownlee impressed with his vision and composure against Perth.
This blend of youth and experience has the Roar sitting pretty in fourth spot ahead of a Friday night blockbuster with league leaders Western Sydney. With starlets like Waddingham leading Brisbane’s revival, their future looks blindingly bright.
If the A-League had an award for most frustrating side, Western United would be runaway winners. Their slump hit a new low after four straight defeats, failing to score in any of those losses.
Despite creating a raft of chances every week, John Aloisi’s men simply cannot convert them. Only rock-bottom Central Coast have scored fewer goals this term as the goals dry up alarmingly for United’s strike force.
Yet unlike the Mariners, chances are coming thick and fast each game. Milestone man Lachie Wales – who plays game 150 this weekend – has created 16 scoring chances this season which is the most of any player who is yet to provide an assist this campaign.
This showcases that they are getting the opportunities in-front of goal, but simply just can’t finish.
Despite their poor run of form, Wales went in to bat for his coach Aloisi this week, saying it’s on the players to turn things around.
“I don’t think he should be under pressure,” Wales said on Thursday, regarding Aloisi.
“I think he’s done a magnificent job here to turn the club around; to set a culture, to make it an enjoyable workplace.
“All the players love playing under John and he’s a great coach. You don’t go from winning something and then become a bad coach overnight. So it’s nothing to do with him and and the performances have been good.
“It’s putting a bit more responsibility on ourselves as players to step up in those big moments. Because when you have that many chances in a game of football, you can’t blame the coach or the information you’re getting. It’s up to the players to finish them.”
Until United’s players start taking these golden opportunities, their frustrating winless run seems set to continue.
The match of the round pits the in-form Brisbane Roar against table-topping Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium. The Roar have won three straight under Ross Aloisi to climb to fourth, playing an eye-catching brand of attacking football led by teenager Thomas Waddingham. The visitors are unbeaten in five with a watertight defence but lose key man Brandon Borrello to injury. With both teams in red-hot form, this is a tight clash between the Roar’s free-flowing attack and the Wanderers’ stubborn backline. Expect Jay O’Shea and Henry Hore to pose WSW problems, while Keanu Baccus will look to run the midfield. But something’s got to give – a draw could be on the cards.
Two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum meet as struggling Western United host high-flying Wellington. United are in a dreadful rut, having lost four straight without scoring despite creating numerous chances. Wellington is undefeated in five under Giancarlo Italiano, buoyed by the goals of Oskar Zawada. United need to start converting opportunities, while the Phoenix will back themselves to outscore the hosts. Reno Piscopo and Davila could have a field day supplying Zawada if United’s defence lapses again. But expect the desperate hosts to come out firing.
Sunday’s opener is a classic case of inconsistent challengers against consistent contenders. Resurgent Central Coast broke their duck last week and want consecutive wins when Melbourne Victory visit. In contrast, Victory seems incapable of anything except 1-1 draws lately but remains hard to beat. Mariners’ striker Michael Ruhs will be full of confidence after his match-winner last round and could expose Victory’s makeshift defence. But Victory always lifts against the Mariners, and with Adama Traore suspended, wonderkid Franco Lino may get his chance to unlock Tony Popovic’s first win in four.
In Sunday’s closer, out-of-sorts Newcastle Jets play host to struggling Melbourne City in desperate need of a confidence boost. The Jets only have one win in five games and face a City side equally hungry for maximum points to arrest their away-day hoodoo. City are winless in seven games outside Victoria, including three straight defeats. Which struggling giant will take the chance to reboot their seasons? Newcastle’s leaky defence faces a tough test from Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout, but the visitor’s injuries could open the door for Apostolos Stamatelopoulos to add to his four goals.
Monday’s match between the league’s two remaining undefeated teams promises to be a cracker. High-flying Macarthur and Adelaide enter Round 6 with impressive unbeaten streaks and won’t want to surrender that record lightly. The Bulls have drawn three straight and must improve on their late-game lapses if super-sub Craig Noone is to win it late again. Adelaide looked sharp last week, and captain Isaías’ laser set pieces could expose Macarthur’s weakness in defending crosses. With Ulises Dávila and Ben Halloran matched up, too, expect end-to-end entertainment to wrap up the round.
Brisbane Roar v Western Sydney Wanderers (Tip: Brisbane Roar)
Western United v Wellington Phoenix (Tip: Wellington Phoenix)
Sydney FC v Perth Glory (Tip: Sydney FC)
Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne Victory (Tip: Draw)
Newcastle Jets v Melbourne City (Tip: Melbourne City)
Macarthur FC v Adelaide United (Tip: Draw)