Six players made the jump across Australia’s NPL competitions into the A-League this season.
Not only have they impressed on arrival but have given hope to thousands of NPL players across Australia as the gap between the game’s professional and grassroots continues to decrease.
Special moments include Kaine Sheppard, Elvis Kamsoba and Kenny Athiu all sharing the pitch at the same time – as well as seeing the emergence of Matt Millar at the Central Coast Mariners.
Take a look at how the six have performed after making the jump to the professional ranks.
Elvis Kamsoba (Melbourne Victory)
Recruited from: Avondale FC
NPL Victoria fans were in awe of Kamsoba’s capabilities last season where – alongside Kaine Sheppard – he led the club to a Grand Final.
His skills and goalscoring prowess caught the attention of Melbourne Victory and despite not finding the back of the net as of yet – he has caused plenty of havoc in the penalty area.
Despite only being 164 centimetres, he remains one of the league’s most awkward match-ups, with defenders often struggling to combat his speed.
After an impressive debut away to Adelaide United – where he was one of Victory’s best – his form has continued to improve and is set to feature in some capacity in Victory’s remaining Asian Champions League matches.
Jordan Murray (Central Coast Mariners)
Recruited from: APIA Leichardt
It was only a matter of time before NPL NSW’s most dangerous striker would sign for an A-League outfit.
In 64 appearances, Murray scored 43 goals and has continued to impress having made the step up to the professional ranks.
The 23-year-old has scored three goals for the Central Coast Mariners in a tumultuous season for the club – providing a rare positive for the side which has struggled in front of goal.
It has been somewhat of a baptism of fire for Murray – often relied on to be the main man up front – but he has responded in the best possible way and can only improve further.
Kaine Sheppard (Newcastle Jets)
Recruited from: Avondale FC
The second Avondale to be recruited into the A-League – Sheppard has been a key contributor for the Newcastle Jets in his first season.
Like Murray, Sheppard has scored three A-League goals and has often been the focal point for the Jets – who were at times without a striker in Roy O’Donovan’s absence.
In addition to his three league goals – the former NPL striker also scored three FFA Cup goals – scoring in important matches such as Newcastle’s win 1-0 over the Mariners and in a 2-0 victory over the Brisbane Roar.
His finishing and ability to find space inside a congested penalty area makes him a dangerous forward option alongside O’Donovan and Joey Champness.
Image: Newcastle Herald
Dylan Wenzel-Halls (Brisbane Roar)
Recruited from: Western Pride
In less than two seasons Dylan Wenzel-Halls scored 40 goals in 29 appearances for Western Pride in Queensland’s NPL competition.
His 89th minute goal against Moreton Bay United won the match for Western Pride in the final and before long the local hero would sign for the Brisbane Roar.
Since then the 21-year-old has scored four goals for the Roar and has started every game since scoring his debut goal in his first start.
Wenzel-Halls has scored four goals in his last seven matches – including a contender for goal of the season against the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Matt Millar (Central Coast Mariners)
Recruited from: South Melbourne
He may be young but Matt Millar has made a significant impact at every club he has signed for.
In his first season at the Mariners, Millar is shaping up as a favourite to win the club’s best-and-fairest award.
He won the hearts of many fans and while he will be swapping the Mariners yellow for the blue and red of the Newcastle Jets – he has been a standout after making the jump to the professional game.
Starting his career as a 17-year-old at Dandenong Thunder, Millar would go on to have a brief period at Melbourne City’s NPL side before settling at South Melbourne.
There, Millar became an integral part of the line-up and offered himself as a goalscoring option – despite playing at right-back – converting 18 goals in 69 appearances.
Max Burgess (Wellington Phoenix)
Recruited from: Sydney Olympic
Burgess joined the Phoenix after a successful season at Sydney Olympic where he scored seven goals in 23 appearances from midfield.
The 24-year-old joined the Phoenix at the start of the season as part of Mark Rudan’s new-look side.
He has made valuable contributions for the side in his 19 appearances – adding to Wellington’s depth.
Prior to the Phoenix, Burgess had stints at the Newcastle Jets and Sydney FC but only managed a combination of seven appearances across the two clubs.
Now settled at the Phoenix, Burgess is set for a big few weeks and will no doubt be called upon as the finals series approach.