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  • Writer's pictureMatt Olsen

Local managers have another chance to prove themselves on the biggest stage in 2021/22

The 2020/21 season saw the breakthrough of Australian managers such as Warren Moon and Carl Veart, and local managerial products are slowly proving their worth down under.

But how much can they continue to go against the establishment of the Australian game and prove that its domestic product has come a long way in recent years?

With off-field dramas largely solved, a now independent A-Leagues and a fantastic broadcast deal to boot, we now look to the action on the pitch.

With an exciting array of talent across the board, it is fair to opine that this season will be notable for continuing local managers to prove their worth.

Namely NPL and state-based products such as Veart, Moon and Richard Garcia, with special mention to Asian journeyman Arthur Papas, who is taking charge of an A-League Men side for the first time in Newcastle.

To understand the importance of their successes in the upcoming campaign, we must look to their opponents.

Kisnorbo and Corica are primarily expected to be the front runners once again.

These two local products have certainly been raised to succeed as long-term managers of their clubs, nurtured to run for the toilet seat whilst their respective sides are in their prime.

Veterans such as Tony Popovic, John Aloisi, and Ante Milicic take charge of sides looking to progress on longer-term goals.

Their teams are either rebounding or taking the next step towards domestic success.

What divides the men in focus is that Moon and Veart - raised by their own states football scene - were both rookie managers last season and took underdog line-ups to the finals.

This overachievement ultimately proved that the Roar was right to recruit from the NPL Queensland.

Adelaide was also right to pick a South Australian following Dutchman Gertjan Verbeek’s disastrous tenure.

Warren Moon guided the Roar to 4th place and a home elimination final in his first season in charge. (AAP)

In a similar vein, Richard Garcia was appointed in the hope of progressing the game in WA.

However, he was up against it, with a COVID-19 ravaged season causing the Glory to have an uncomfortable travel schedule.

While this season poses the same challenge, a decent recruitment drive from Tony Sage and co. should reinvigorate that thirst for local success.

Most intriguingly, and on a separate note, Arthur Papas will draw from foreign experiences, adapting a different skillset to the Australian game.

If he can pull it off, it may raise the stocks of the Australian game within Asia and abroad.

But it could also put Papas in contention for the Socceroos job in a post-Graham Arnold world.

The navigation of an Asian style of play certainly does not harm in such a conversation.

Papas won the J-League as an assistant to Ange Postecoglou. (Getty Images)

Looking at the possible rewards and challenges for these men, examining what they have at their disposal becomes crucial.

For Adelaide and Veart, youthful legs reign supreme throughout the squad, having lost a talismanic veteran in Tomi Juric.

Familiar faces within the club are also the focal point.

George Blackwood returns from a stint in England, whilst Halloran and Goodwin will control the ball and provide pace on the flanks.

Warren Moon’s Brisbane wants to go one better and face a two-legged semi-final in 2022, mainly mixing veterans and youth.

Corey Brown and Scott Neville will provide the defensive resistance, whilst an emerging Alex Parsons looks to continue sublime form.

He has the quality to provide a mammoth breakout similar to that of former Phoenix star Sarpreet Singh.

Perhaps an unfair comparison to the All Whites international, especially with separate roles being adorned by the two, but Parsons should know that he has the potential.

If he lives up to it, the breakout is his for the taking.

Garcia has a similar approach to mix-in local products and youth, with A-League Men and foreign veterans helping along the way.

There’s no better example of that than Daniel Stynes, who will be paired on the flanks with Adrián Sardinero and look to create for Daniel Sturridge.

Of particular note is that all of those promoted within Garcia’s squad are Western Australian.

This strategy is coming from a club that let go of Jacob Italiano and Daniel De Silva far too soon in the eyes of many onlookers.

The idea to produce WA talent and keep a desire within to play for the club is paramount.

That is the anthesis of what these men are setting out to do.

All three have embodied an element of ensuring exposure for local products.

Their success is dictated by their ability to produce in a managerial sense or with the emerging young players.

These players need to show a passion for their clubs, doubling a more mature approach to heading abroad, which is vital to how the competition is viewed.

The development of young players is vital to a national program's success moving forward, so it’s not solely about short-term domestic success.

The knock-on effects, whilst obvious and fruitful, are also a substantial learning curve.

The all-out local approach may fail to pay off; we may yet see a period of struggle and self-actualisation within the clubs involved.

Possibly even within the state leagues with which they came.

For that reason, the 2021-22 season may also bear a decent wake-up call for the game.

Though staying on the optimistic side of affairs, these local products and the eager eye of the fans may yet be on the path to memorable and exciting campaigns.

I would employ all involved to keep a keen eye; it means more than just short-term success.


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