A Set small text size A Set the default text size A Set large text size Back in October 2019 as a new A-League season was just coming to life, I penned an article for The Roar entitled Six young Australians ready for an A-League explosion. Frankly, the majority of the players named were no brainers. Al Hassan Toure had already set Australian football on fire during Adelaide United’s run to the final of that edition of the FFA Cup, Sydney FC’s Luke Ivanovic continues to develop and should do further in a season where he appears likely to receive more playing minutes from Steve Corica and Angus Thurgate is lighting up McDonald Jones Stadium each time he takes to it. Sadly, things have not worked out quite so well for two others whom I predicted would begin to make a significant impact on the league. Sebastian Pasquali has just nine A-League starts to his name and looks unlikely to become an integral part of Mark Rudan’s midfield this season, while Samuel Silvera is living an Australian footballer abroad’s all too common nightmare – not playing while on loan with Casa Pia in the Portuguese second division. The sixth name for whom I predicted big things may have surprised many A-League fans at the time, particularly in Queensland. However, just 16 months after making the prediction, the player in question has now taken the domestic scene by storm. Here is what I wrote on Oct 7 2019. “Judging Dylan Wenzel-Halls’ A-League performances entirely on the Brisbane Roar’s disastrous season of 2018-19 is contextually unfair. “Despite a campaign that brought just four wins and conceded 71 goals for the men in orange, the 21-year-old managed 20 creditable appearances and scored five goals. “At times he looked the most frustrated man on the pitch, such is his energetic competitiveness and desire. I predict that the Ipswich-born attacker will be playing overseas within five years, so talented he is. “With a re-energised Roar under Robbie Fowler and some impressive early results, Wenzel-Halls could well show the league just what he capable of in 2019-20.” Dylan Wenzel-Halls (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images) With Brisbane currently sitting second on the A-League ladder and knocking in more than two and a half goals per game, the now 23-year-old striker leads the Golden Boot race and has electrified the Roar with a goal in all bar one of its five matches. Whilst my prediction failed to materialise in the interrupted season that was 2019-20, it has become obviously apparent over the course of the opening rounds that Wenzel-Halls is indeed a serious threat and a star of the future. He is also a rare gem; with a supposed dearth of Australian strikers proving the basis of much debate in recent years. However, Adam Taggart headed abroad after a similar start to the season in 2018-19 and become top scorer in Korea, Jamie Maclaren looks destined to again score heavily at Melbourne City this season and Nick D’Agostino and Valentino Yuel could well do the same at Perth Glory and Newcastle Jets respectively. Along with a host of young Australians flourishing amidst increased opportunity in the A-League this season, it appears there may well be a new generation of talented strikers developing in the front third; pushing for Olyroo and Socceroo selection. Of them all, Wenzel-Halls in making the most noise right now and there is evidence in his play to suggest that there will be much more to come. Now backed by his manager Warren Moon and not left stranded on the pine all too often as he was last season, the Ipswich Knights junior is buzzing in attack; running relentlessly and striking instinctively. As much as I always believed in Wenzel-Halls, his play previously seemed tinged with hesitation and a belief that an instant goal was required to keep him in the starting team. That is never healthy for players at the arrowhead, with so much of their success dependent upon others behind them. Previous manager Fowler did little for Wenzel-Halls, while Moon appears to have liberated him and discovered what always laid behind those intense and playful eyes; a serious talent with a huge engine and a man more than capable of becoming a leading A-League striker. The story of the season thus far has been the explosion of youth, open football and competitive parity that makes tipping winners on a daily basis near impossible. I’d suggest that from an individual point of view there is no bigger story than that of Dylan Wenzel-Halls; a player that I still think will be heading abroad in the near future.
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