By Jack George
The A-League has been nothing less than fantastic this season. It’s showcased goals, excitement and drama, making it a perfect league for the neutral. But the best part? It’s all been built off the foundation of the next generation of Australian footballers.
With Covid-19 forcing clubs to cut wages, the A-League has increasingly relied on their younger squad members, giving them consistent game time and starts.
And Western United is no exception. Despite their team being spearheaded by the quality and experience of Besart Berisha, Alessandro Diamanti and Victor Sanchez, their younger players have shown maturity, confidence and class beyond their years.
Aaron Calver has shown purpose in defence, using his strength to steer opponents off the ball. Pacey Dylan Pierias has been an inspiration from wing-back – currently their joint top scorer alongside Berisha with five to his name.
But alongside these two, Luke Duzel has been a standout in the heart of midfield. Having already played 235 minutes this season (compared to the 118 last season), he’s come into his own playing a composed, controlled brand of football.
His coolness on the ball matches his temperament off the field.
“I don’t really get nervous before games’, says Duzel.
“I treat every game the same, really. I’m pretty calm in those situations and my debut was just treated like any other game.”
His composure before games may come from the fact his father has been there and done it all before. Ivan Duzel played in the old National Soccer League as a footballer, after a quick stint with the St Albans Saints after moving from his home country Yugoslavia saw a move to Melbourne Croatia. Ivan Duzel appeared 51 times in the NSL before moving back to Europe after the 1990/91 season.
His son was quick to cite him as his major influence when asked about football players he looked up to.
“My main idol was my dad. He played in the old NSL back in the late 1980s and has taught me pretty much everything I know as a footballer, not only things I’m good at but things I need to improve. I’m pretty grateful to have someone like that in my life to help me get better.”
Luke Duzel is firmly fixated on the present, with the main goal of getting as minutes as possible.
“I’m pretty much focused on now, playing in the A-League, on improving daily and being the best I can be. I’m a firm believer that working hard now will determine the future.”
A natural central midfielder, he enjoys picking up the ball and playing progressive passes towards the goal. It’s evident already that he’s struck a good relationship with Alessandro Diamanti, as you can often see the two exchanging passes during games. Diamanti often receives the ball from the young midfielder in good positions with space and time to look forwards, just the way he likes it.
Duzel has a fantastic burst of acceleration and strong ball control, allowing him to often rush past his opponent and create an attacking opportunity for his side.
He enjoys creating chances, describing it as part of his playing style.
“I want to get on the ball, that’s the sort of player I am. Creating something out of nothing.”
He has demonstrated intelligence in his passing and positioning in his four starts so far but cites the defensive side of the game as his main area for improvement.
“I’m trying to improve more my game off the ball. Like the defensive side and trying to get the intensity up and becoming more consistent off the ball.”
Overall, Duzel seems a down to earth person. His confidence is evident but he appears to have deep respect for his teammates and remains humble despite his brilliant start to the season.
Luke Duzel is no stranger to the Australian national teams, having represented the Joeys. With his technical quality, composure and personality, it may not be too soon until we see him back in the famous green and gold jersey.