From youngsters hoping to make their mark in top grade, to forgotten men taking the nation by storm – there’s always a group of players who make waves in the Hyundai A-League each year with a breakout season.
With the season getting underway in next to no time, we’ve pulled out the crystal ball and assessed who might be ready to put their name up in lights in the Hyundai A-League 2018/19 season.
Adelaide United – Baba Diawara
Senegalese front man Baba Diawara hasn’t quite reached his potential for Adelaide that saw him snapped up by La Liga giants Sevilla in 2012.
But this season, the 30-year-old looks ready to show his true ability for Marco Kurz’s men and might just be the figure to lead their Hyundai A-League title assault.
Injury problems have restricted Diawara to just 19 appearances in two seasons for Adelaide but the striker has fronted the line impressively in two FFA Cup starts for the Reds and has looked a man who means business.
If he can stay healthy for the upcoming season, he’s got all the ability to emerge from the background and become the clinical finisher Adelaide have been crying out for.
Brisbane Roar – Eric Bautheac
Brisbane’s inconsistent 2017/18 campaign and fitness issues made Eric Bautheac’s maiden season in Australia a transitional one at best.
Even he admitted he was only operating at 50% – but now, the 31-year-old Frenchman looks ready to take the competition by storm.
Bautheac has been scoring for fun during Roar’s pre-season, in which he has clearly emerged as the go-to attacking weapon for John Aloisi’s side.
With a revamped Roar frontline firing on all cylinders around him, Bautheac is surely destined for huge things in 2018/19.
Central Coast Mariners – Jordan Murray
The transition from National Premier Leagues football to the Hyundai A-League has often proved an unforgiving road for young strikers.
But if there’s one who could rise to the challenge, it’s Wollongong product Jordan Murray.
Murray might find himself behind Scottish marksman Ross McCormack in the Mariners pecking order, but the 23-year-old will be eager to impress when handed the opportunity.
A natural goal poacher, the former APIA Leichhardt talent scored a record-breaking 23 goals in the NPL NSW last season.
Melbourne City – Nathaniel Atkinson
Launceston local Nathaniel Atkinson has impressed City coach Warren Joyce from day one.
It’s clear to see why the 53-year-old was quickly enamoured with the 19-year-old. Atkinson took his first-team opportunity last season brilliantly, even returning straight to the first team after recovering from an ankle injury in January.
Atkinson’s energy and attacking instincts thrilled the City faithful, and with Joyce hinting at a central role for new signing Ritchie De Laet, Atkinson might just make the right full-back spot his own.
Melbourne Victory – Josh Hope
Another Tasmanian-born talent could be set to make waves in Victoria this season.
The big-name acquisitions of Keisuke Honda and Ola Toivonen have stolen the attention in Melbourne, but 20-year-old Josh Hope provides Victory with another cause for optimism ahead of the new campaign.
Hope has slotted into Kevin Muscat’s midfield with impressive aplomb during pre-season, and will be looking to build on a string of good performances during pre-season and in the FFA Cup.
Newcastle Jets – Angus Thurgate
Angus Thurgate has courted huge praise from Newcastle coach Ernie Merrick during the Jets’ pre-season.
Merrick had enough faith in the Port Macquarie starlet to snap him up for a three-year contract at the Hunter Valley in August after some sensational pre-season cameos.
The Jets boss has been singing the striker’s praises consistently during the build up to the new campaign, and after seven substitute appearances for the Jets in 2017/18, the 18-year-old Young Socceroo will be one to watch when he receives a chance to impress on the Hyundai A-League stage.
Perth Glory – Tomislav Mrcela
At 28 years old, Tomislav Mrcela will be among the Hyundai A-League’s latest bloomers this season.
The towering centre half has spent the majority of his career in Croatia and, most recently, with Korean outfit Jeonnam Dragons after leaving Australia as a child.
The former Caltex Socceroo call-up arrives back down under this season eager to demonstrate what Australian fans have missed during his absence.
He’ll be part of a formidable defensive cohort assembled by Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic, and is set for a lead role in reinforcing Glory’s soft-centre.
Sydney FC – Trent Buhagiar
The off-season produced big name arrivals of Adam Le Fondre and Siem de Jong, but so far it’s been 20-year-old Gosford boy Trent Buhagiar leading the Steve Corica revolution in the Harbour City.
Buhagiar showcased a clean pair of heels for the Mariner last season, but few knew of the finishing ability that has seen the youngster score goals for fun during pre-season.
The attacker has looked every inch a first team regular for Corica’s side, and has arguably pressed a strong claim for FFA Cup 2018 player of the tournament after his fantastic displays.
Wellington Phoenix – Sarpreet Singh
You could argue that Wellington young gun Sarpreet Singh has already made his Hyundai A-League breakthrough after his sensational run of matches for Phoenix last season.
But the 19-year-old looks set to take his game to new levels under the guidance of Mark Rudan.
Singh scored four goals in 11 appearances during the 2017/18 campaign and could turn into one of the side’s most important attacking players for years to come.
Western Sydney Wanderers – Kostandinos Grozos
There have been huge wraps on Western Sydney Wanders midfielder Kosta Grozos simmering in Sydney’s west for some time now.
With Markus Babbel now at the helm, the 18-year-old may finally get his chance in the top flight.
A technically gifted midfielder mature beyond his teenage years, Grozos already looks a pivotal part of Babbel’s midfield plans.