Four players who would benefit from an NPL loan in 2023
An under-utilised option for A-League clubs is loaning their younger players to NPL clubs for more game time or accelerating development. Whilst all clubs have youth teams that participate in either NPL1, NPL2, or NPL3 leagues, their youngsters must get as many minutes playing in an environment that is as close to A-League Men standards as possible.
Last month, the Newcastle Jets decided to loan out young forward Rory Jordan to APIA Leichhardt for the 2023 NPL NSW season. Hopefully, this move starts a new trend of clubs choosing to utilise domestic loans for players who need game time.
Australian football has the added benefit of its second-tier competition not being played simultaneously with the A-League Men. This scheduling will allow clubs to loan out their young players whilst still having them back and available when the 2023/24 season commences. Many suitable players could benefit from a loan. Below are our four players that could benefit most from an NPL loan this season.
During the 2021/22 A-League Men season, Macklin Freke started as Brisbane Roar’s first-choice goalkeeper but was usurped by Jordan Holmes in the second half of the season. Before being dropped, Freke conceded 22 goals in just 13 games, with a save percentage of 64%.
In the 2022/23 season, Freke has been a backup to Holmes. However, it is not all doom and gloom for the 24-year-old. Goalkeepers tend to take longer to develop than outfield teammates and can often reach their prime in their early thirties.
Goalkeeping is a position that is reliant on a player's confidence and rhythm. Brisbane has the perfect opportunity to try to help Freke regain some confidence by finding him an NPL club in 2023.
Freke should work on his shot-stopping ability and distribution to reach his full potential as an A-League Men quality goalkeeper. But most importantly, Freke needs to gain some confidence by spending more time on the pitch playing competitive matches.
Freke distributing a pass for Brisbane. (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Before this A-League Men season, Adrian Segecic signed a long-term contract to keep him in Sydney FC’s sky blue until 2025. The 18-year-old has already spent time training with the academies of some top European clubs, such as Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City.
The attacking midfielder is also getting media attention from some of Europe’s top sports journalism publications. For instance, The Athletic started documenting his journey to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in December.
With that being said, due to Sydney’s below-par performances this season, Segecic has not had many minutes to go out and show off his skills. At almost 19 years old, Segecic must start getting consistent minutes so he can develop to the high standards he has set for himself.
Going on loan to an NPL club would give Segecic more experience playing against opponents that are bigger and stronger than him. Segecic is 5ft 5in, so he will constantly be going up against physically superior defenders. He could play more for Sydney FC’s youth side, but going into a different club's setup would be more beneficial due to the more senior environment of playing alongside grown men.
Should Segecic end up spending time in the NPL, he should focus on developing his awareness and strength on the ball, particularly to combat defenders that will look to impose themselves against him physically.
Segecic receives a pass for Sydney FC. (Matt Blyth/Getty Images)
Panashe Madanha broke into Adelaide United's first team at just 18 years of age. Another product of the famed Reds academy. Although he is naturally a winger, Carl Veart has been deploying Madanha as a backup at right-back to Javi Lopez, as star player Craig Goodwin and the usually reliable Ben Halloran have the wing positions locked down.
With Lopez now 37 years old, Veart has to start looking towards the future in this position. Madanha already has the required skills to be an efficient A-League Men player. But, as he is only 18, he needs many more minutes to reach his full potential. Like Segecic, Madanha could drop down and play for United's youth side, with the NPL SA season commencing this week. But a loan to another club in South Australia, or even interstate, could help him return to the A-League Men next season as a much-improved player and significant asset for the Reds. Again, as mentioned above with Segecic, going out to a different and more senior environment would have more substantial long-term benefits.
Madanha has the electric pace that allows him to get up and down the right side and stay close to his opposite number when defending. But he can also start counterattacks when he wins the ball in transition.
Should Madanha spend time in the NPL, he should focus on developing his defensive positioning and crossing. It seems that Veart sees Madanha as a future right-back rather than a winger.
Madanha on the ball against Melbourne Victory. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Nishan Velupillay is in his third professional football season but has yet to make considerable headway at Melbourne Victory, despite winning their Young Player of the Year award last season. In Velupillay’s 43-game career, he has only started for Melbourne Victory five times, scoring just three goals. At 21 years of age, Velupillay must be consistently playing should Victory want him to be a valuable asset to their club.
Even though Velupillay is starting to get more game time due to the departure of Nick D’Agostino and the season-ending injury to Luis Nani, Victory should still consider loaning him out to fast-track his development. They've also brought in Bruce Kamau, and Tony Popovic is likely to reinstate Chris Ikonomidis once Velupillay's recent form slows down. The situation seems too precarious for regular game time, with Velupillay too far down the pecking order once Victory has all their wingers fit and firing. He is also in the ideal development window and requires as many match minutes as possible at his age.
Velupillay should focus on working on his composure at an NPL level. He is struggling to score goals at an A-League Men level, having scored only three in his career. Yesterday's magnificent solo run and finish against the Jets was a window into the ceiling he could reach consistently in this area. Velupillay also needs to improve his passing and crossing, with only one assist this season, albeit on minimal playing time.
Velupillay celebrates for Victory. (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Ultimately, the thesis of this piece is that A-League clubs need to be better at using the pathways available to them to help their youngsters reach their full potential. An apparent reason why clubs need to be better at developing players is to have more talented players to work with now and in the future. But an added benefit is that developing young players can bring in an additional revenue stream for the club. Still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, A-League clubs need any extra revenue they can find. Developing and then selling off young, talented, and A-League experienced footballers to clubs overseas is an option they should utilise more often.
Statistics sourced from FBref and FotMob.
Want to read more about some of the young talents in the A-League Men? Click here to check out our 'Youth In Focus' report on Callan Elliot.