Jack Rodwell has been named in the 15 players selected by Dwight Yorke and the Australian coaching panel to join the A-League All Stars extended squad for their match against FC Barcelona.
The A-League’s top three scorers this season are all selected, led by Golden Boot winner Jamie Maclaren, plus the joint fourth and the fifth; feeding them will be the top assist creators in Daniel Penha and Jay O’Shea, plus several of those immediately behind them on that roll of honour.
This is a squad with box office appeal, featuring the likes of Jason Cummings, Milos Ninkovic, Craig Goodwin, Marco Tilio, Mathew Leckie and Reno Piscopo.
In fact, almost half the squad are players of either playmaking or goal scoring ability, ranging in age from 16 to 37. There’s a kid who has played 185 minutes of professional football (and another with 239), through to veterans with World Cups and Champions League experience on their CVs.
Under the formula for choosing this squad, 13 players came from a fan vote, 15 from Yorke and his Australian-based coaching panel, and two from A-Leagues Commissioner Greg O’Rourke. A maximum of seven players will qualify for the A-League grand final this weekend and so be given “non-playing status” – leaving a squad of 23 or 24 for the All Stars game next week.
O’Rourke’s choices were Garang Kuol – the Central Coast’s 17-year-old striker and the younger brother of Alou Kuol who lit up the competition in his debut season last year before earning a transfer to Germany – and Reno Piscopo, Wellington’s Olyroo No 10. Both are the sort of dashing young talent that the A-League has increasingly showcased over the past two years.
Similarly there’s a call-up for 16-year-old Nestory Irankunda, Adelaide United’s teenage winger with a penchant for scoring spectacular goals at vital moments, and Melbourne City forward Marco Tilio, one of the faces of the A-Leagues this season – both drafted in by Yorke and his team of Australian-based coaches.
“We want to show the world how much young talent we have in the A-Leagues, and both Garang and Reno have produced some extraordinary moments this season,” said O’Rourke.
“It’s important that as well as some of our decorated, experienced stars, we put the next generation in the spotlight – and to earn their places, both have shown fans what they can do this year.
“Last year we saw Alou Kuol take the A-League by storm, and now his brother is threatening to do the same, while Reno Piscopo is an Olyroo with great vision and ability.”
A quartet of veterans are flying the flag for experience: Macarthur centreback Adrian Mariappa, Western goalkeeper Jamie Young and Adelaide midfielder Isaias all selected on the back of influential seasons for their clubs, and Milos Ninkovic a sentimental choice for fans who have enjoyed the skills that have earned him two Johnny Warren Medals.
Special mention should be made of Ninkovic’s Sydney teammate Rhyan Grant, the only player to be chosen for the All Stars in 2013 or 2014 and now once more in 2022 – testament to the right back’s longevity.