Youth in focus: Sheridan Gallagher and Adrian Segecic
The new year brings about fresh starts, new beginnings, and renewed optimism for the future. As always, there's plenty to be excited about in the Australian football world, with fresh talent always getting a push at this time of year. In this vain, we look at Sydney's talented men and women, mainly two promising products in the Western Sydney Wanderers' Sheridan Gallagher and Sydney FC's Adrian Segecic.
The Western Sydney Wanderers is a vital pillar of Australian football in the modern landscape. However, that can't be said of their women's program. It has been a few years since the Wanderers challenged for an A-League Women's finals spot, with results hard to come by this season. Sitting in 10th place on one point, one place off last on goal difference, the Wanderers have had a horror season in the women's game. However, that doesn't mean that it is all doom and gloom. As is common in football, diamonds can be found in the rough. Talented forward Sheridan Gallagher is a prime example of this phenomenon. The 21-year-old has come into her own in recent weeks, becoming a shining light in an otherwise grey period in Wanderers' footballing history. Whilst her team is struggling, Gallagher's form could be the catalyst that turns the faltering Wanderers around in 2023.
Click here to hear more about the Western Sydney Wanderers' struggles, along with all your A-League Women news and views, on our latest Front Page Dub podcast episode!
Gallagher in action for the Young Matildas against Costa Rica at the U20 Women's World Cup. (Twitter: @wswanderesfc)
But we like to highlight the young talents that may not get the credit they deserve. Whilst Gallagher could be seen as an underrated commodity early in her career, she has undoubtedly been on the Australian football radar for a while now. Re-signing for the Wanderers at the beginning of the A-League Women's season, the Young Matildas' captain guided the national side through the group stages of the FIFA U20 World Cup in Costa Rica. She has been tipped to become a fully-fledged Matilda in the years to come. Tenacious, Gallagher is often seen covering more ground than the average forward. She provides her side with energy, defending from the front wherever possible, and even dropping into midfield to assist her teammates in defending against opposing attacks. Currently averaging one completed tackle per game, Gallagher's work rate has been noticeable this season since returning from the United States.
Gallagher is one of the few attacking outlets the Wanderers have been able to exploit defenders with this season. Whilst she has only scored one goal so far, she has only started twice with an average of 45 minutes per game. Furthermore, the Wanderers' attacking play has lacked real purpose this season, averaging only 0.5 goals per 90. In addition, Western Sydney has struggled to hold possession in the opposition half, averaging 57.7% pass accuracy when they venture forward. However, Gallagher has been a terrific outlet in the attacking phase for the Wanderers this season, with a 71% pass completion rate from 8.2 attempts per appearance. Gallagher has also attracted 1.8 fouls per game, demonstrating how difficult she is to keep quiet when in possession. She has also completed 33% of her dribbles so far this season. This statistic also shows her willingness to take on opposing defenders, attempting 0.4 dribbles per game from limited minutes. Whilst her discipline could be improved, already amassing three yellow cards in her minimal appearances, Gallagher will look to become Western Sydney's main attacking force as the season matures.
Gallagher shoots on goal during the Wanderers' clash against Wellington on Monday. (Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images)
2023 is undoubtedly a historic year for Australian football, with the national side bringing the world to the country to play for the most coveted prize in the women's game. Optimism is in the air for women's football, which has avoided much of the upheaval recently experienced in the men's game. Watching young players like Gallagher develop their game in Australia is fantastic. She probably plays for the most problematic A-League Women's side. But Gallagher's potential to become a Matilda in the coming years makes her a shining light in a dull program. We will be keeping a close eye on what she does next.
Sydney FC has always managed to build successful teams and has been in and around the top four for most of the A-League's existence. However, in most recent times, the Sky Blues have struggled, unlike any other period in their stellar history. With Steve Corica under significant pressure in the Harbour City, he has been encouraged and sometimes forced to look to his youthful reserves to plug holes in his inconsistent and injury-plagued squad. Sydney FC is known for overlooking young talent and, more often than not, opting for more experienced professionals when positions are in jeopardy. But the increased roles given to Patrick Yazbek and Aaron Gurd this season have been a welcomed change of pace for many Sydney fans and neutrals who follow the A-League Men. While Gurd and Yazbek are terrific prospects who have come through the club's academy, we instead turn our attention to attacking midfielder Adrian Segecic. His dynamic presence in the Sydney team this season, mainly from the bench, has garnered much attention from the wider footballing community.
Segecic is a Young Socceroo, having represented Australia at U20 level. (Twitter: @SydneyFC)
In a more prominent role than he would have expected in the Sydney FC squad this season, Segecic is quickly garnering attention domestically and globally. The Young Socceroo's game has quickly won the hearts of many A-League Men fans. Not afraid to take the ball in his stride and trouble defenders with his superb dribbling, Segecic is becoming an intimidating matchup for many of the competition's defenders. Only standing at 5'5", Segecic uses his low centre of gravity, quick first step, and game instinct when pressured by defenders, often leaving them in a tailspin. These measured movements have drawn an exciting comparison by The Athletic's Nancy Frostick. In an article titled "Adrian Segecic, My Football Journey", Frostick referred to perhaps the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi, when discussing Segecic's stature and style of play. Segecic's development is not at the level that "La Pulga" exhibited when he was 18. But the comparison is not that outlandish relative to the developmental conditions both players endured at tender ages. A shining light in a dismal Sydney FC season in 2021/2022, Segecic is showing no signs of slowing down in the current campaign.
Featuring primarily as an impact sub for the Sky Blues, Segecic has done himself no harm in the limited opportunity Corica has given him this season, scoring his first senior goal for the club against Macarthur back in round four. However, it's not Segecic's goals that are convincing many of his talents. Instead, it is his flair and ability to beat an opposing defender. When Sydney transitions from defence to attack, the Sky Blues' wingers are routinely isolated out wide. They have had to be creative at times to keep hold of the ball and put themselves and their teammates in a position to attack the opponent's goal. This scenario plays right into Segecic's wheelhouse, and he's currently completing 0.8 dribbles per game at a success rate of 47% from an average of only 24 minutes per match. Predominantly featuring as a winger for Sydney thus far in his career, Segecic is also a talented attacking midfielder, a role he played for the club's youth teams in the past. This positional versatility is demonstrated in his ability to bring his teammates into play, with a pass success rate of 74%, whilst averaging 0.6 key passes from limited minutes. His versatility, dynamic style, and impact in late-game scenarios (as evidenced in round four, where he scored the eventual winner) have turned many heads in the football community.
Segecic warming up ahead of Sydney's recent clash against Macarthur. (Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
Sydney FC is pushing for a return to the finals this season. However, injuries are ever-present amongst the more senior players at the club. Segecic will look forward to expanding his role in the Sky Blues dressing room. With experienced wingers like Joe Lolley and Robert Mak to learn a thing or two from, he may knock on the door for a starting role towards the end of this season. Segecic's ambition and talent are so far unbound as he grows more comfortable with every game at a senior level. Speaking to Frostick in her article mentioned above for The Athletic, his dreams of playing in the English Premier League may come true should he keep on his current career trajectory. He's already convincing many that he will be selected for the Socceroos' next World Cup squad in 2026. Should he stay fit, maintain his hunger for the game, and play with the creativity and flair that fans have grown accustomed to, his rapid rise to prominence in Australian football may result in a big-money move overseas sooner rather than later.
All statistics sourced from SofaScore.
Click here to read last week's 'Youth In Focus' on Wellington Phoenix forward Ava Pritchard and Adelaide United's potentially generational talent Nestory Irankunda.