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  • Writer's pictureJack Twohill

Youth in focus: Sarah Hunter

With the A-League Women back again this week to fill your football appetite (as if there's any room left), Front Page Football looks towards Round 3 of the 2022/23 season. Another blockbuster week has come and gone in "The Dub", with new heroes seemingly coming to the fore week in, week out. The women's competition has many young prospects currently plying their trade amongst one of the most substantial talent pools for some time. The lack of travel during the pandemic and state WNPL seasons returning in full has played a part.

Hunter bought 185 tickets for her friends and family for last season's A-League Women decider against Melbourne Victory. (Sydney FC)

Almost a fortnight ago, Sydney FC's hearts were broken by another young gun in Emilia Murray as they were downed 1-0 by Adelaide United in an extraordinary fashion. However, such is the case with championship-level teams; the Sky Blues took no time to bounce back. Last week, they secured a 2-1 win against Melbourne Victory in the Big Blue and Grand Final rematch at Cromer Park. An impressive display by all involved, none more so than English-born Australian Sarah Hunter. Featuring recently for the Young Matildas at the U20 Women's World Cup, the youngster has certainly hit the ground running in 2022.

A product of the Football NSW system, Hunter began her career as a 16-year-old with the Western Sydney Wanderers. She impressed in her nine appearances in 2020/21, her debut season in professional football. Hunter made the cross-city trek to the eastern suburbs ahead of the 2021/22 season, becoming a permanent fixture in the Sky Blue midfield. They secured premiership success and a Grand Final berth, only to be defeated by their navy blue rivals. Hunter is no stranger to disappointment, as a horrible run of injuries forced her to miss much of her junior footballing career. Two hip surgeries, an ACL, and a broken ankle almost ended her career, one that is now starting to flourish. Described as fiercely competitive, Hunter has an appetite for success both individually and as a part of a team. Her superb technical and defensive talents solidify her status as one to watch.

Melbourne Victory's Elise Kellond-Knight challenges Hunter during last week's Big Blue at Cromer Park. (May Bailey/Getty Images)

Hunter's start to the new A-League Women's season should come as no surprise to those who followed the NSW WNPL season earlier this year. Hunter was crucial to APIA Leichhardt's success by making 11 appearances and contributing a goal in the Sydney-based competition. They secured a semi-final berth, only denied a trip to the big dance by Beth Gordon and the Macarthur Rams in added time. Playing every minute of Sydney FC's campaign thus far in 2022/2023, Hunter has been a lock at number six. Her game is predicated on a hard-working defensive mentality, with the technical ability to transition play from defence to attack. In this sense, she is reminiscent of talented box-to-box midfielders of Matildas pedigree, such as Chloe Logarzo and Katrina Gorry.

In particular, her ability to turn her marker is supreme, especially against a high press applied by sides such as Victory. With a solid frame, Hunter uses her body very well for someone so young and raw. She can drop a shoulder and progress the ball with an incredible and expansive passing range. Hunter is also not afraid to get forward herself, often seen striding down the wing in counter-attacking scenarios. She contributed a shot against Victory that was unfortunately off-target last week. However, she could become world-class with improved composure in attack and defence. Current Matildas' midfielders, such as Kellond-Knight and van Egmond, are approaching mature ages. Being in top form is integral to international football. It won't be long before we see Hunter make her Matildas debut.

A Chelsea fan since childhood, she will be hoping to keep her sublime run of form to catch the London giants' eye. With a World Cup on the horizon, Sarah Hunter won't be short of motivation, even if she's not in current Matildas conversations. Such is the mentality of this rising star, whose injury setbacks have hardened her mindset, unlike any 19-year-old I've seen. Like many talented youth prospects, Hunter is chasing a dream, and I, for one, will enjoy watching her chase it.

Click here to read last week's 'Youth In Focus' on another young A-League Women star, Emilia Murray.


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