Photo: Tom Pollock
With the Confederations Cup in Russia less than two months away, local interest will not be restricted to just the Socceroos in Russia. New Zealand’s success at the OFC Nations Cup in Papua New Guinea last year earned Anthony Hudson’s men selection to the tournament, with the All Whites set to open the event when they take on hosts Russia at the newly-built 68,000 seater Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 17. TCF casts an eye on some of the NPL’s best Kiwi talent ahead of June while also profiling other players of note from across the Tasman who have called the top flight of Victorian football home in the last ten years.
Luke Adams (South Melbourne), 22, Caps: 5 Goals: 1
Now into his third season at Lakeside Stadium, the tall centre-back will turn 23 next month and will put himself on the market for a European or Asian move should he earn selection and see minutes in Russia. The Melbourne-born defender was playing for the Derby County reserves before returning home and spending a season at the Wellington Phoenix. Featured in the All Whites OFC Nations Cup squad last year and scored a crucial winner in a World Cup qualifier against the Solomon Islands.
Moses Dyer (Northcote City), 20, Caps: 4 Goals: 0
The youngster joined the 2013 VPL Champions last week and may make his starting debut in City colours in this Friday night’s top of the table clash with East front-runners Dandenong City. A senior All White days after his 18th birthday, the highly-rated midfielder was called up to the Kiwis most recent World Cup qualifiers against Fiji and is in line to also feature for the 20s World Cup in Korea this year – the country which was the hosts of his maiden senior international cap two years ago.
Michael Eagar (South Melbourne), 27, Caps: 0 Goals: 0
A Kiwi youth international, the 27-year-old former South captain made his 100th VPL/NPL appearance in Monday’s 2-0 win over the Melbourne Knights. The ex-Team Wellington centre-back is one of the state’s most successful players having tasted Championship glory three times in the last four years dating back to his Northcote success in 2013. Largely ignored at a senior level, could 2017 be the year the versatile defender finally earns a senior All Whites selection birth.
Jason Hicks (Melbourne Knights), 27, Caps: 1 Goals: 0
A member of New Zealand’s U17 World Cup squad a decade ago, he faced off against the likes of Victor Moses, Alex Teixeira and Danny Welbeck there. The English-born midfielder spent two years in the A-League with the Wellington Phoenix, making a total of 30 league appearances which included 2 goals. Uncapped since 2014, he joined the Melbourne Knights via South Melbourne last year and rejected a professional contract in the Bulgarian top tier to remain at Somers Street.
Luka Prelevic (Pascoe Vale), 21, Caps: 3 Goals: 0
The 2015 NPL2 Rising Star of the Year winner may not have found his best form at Paco this term but remains one of the competition’s more talented players. Australian-born, he earned selection for the Kiwis Olympic squad in 2015 alongside Adams and Dyer. The attacker began his senior career with Port Melbourne in 2013 before moving to Melbourne City Youth two years later and was also a member of the All Whites successful OFC Nations Cup side of last year.
The five international hopefuls are just some of the many players from across the ditch to have tried their luck in Victorian football over the past decade or so. 21 former Kiwi senior and youth internationals have called clubs from across Melbourne home in that time period with Jeff Fleming undoubtedly the most successful while the likes of Louis Fenton, Jai Ingham and Ben Sigmund have used the state top flight as a springboard to further their career.
Former All Whites striker Campbell Banks featured for both Green Gully and Sunshine George Cross at the turn of the decade. Current All Whites defender Michael Boxall joined the Oakleigh Cannons on loan from the Wellington Phoenix in 2013. Fringe senior international winger Sam Burfoot called Gardiners Creek Reserve home last year after spending the first half of the year at the Eastern Lions. Midfielder Aaron Clapham was a part of Dandenong Thunder’s Premiership winning side of 2009 before becoming the only non-professional player at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The All Whites all-time leading goalscorer Vaughan Coveny completed a century of goals for South Melbourne during the 2009 VPL season (over numerous stints) before taking over the managerial role at Hellas the following year.Brunswick City’s Michael Cunningham represented New Zealand in a World Cup at youth level and was a part of Heidelberg’s promotion back into the top tier in 2013. Auckland City speedster Ryan de Vries enjoyed four separate stints with the Bentleigh Greens beginning in 2012 before his unceremonious exit from Kingston Heath Soccer Complex nearly two years ago.
Current Wellington Phoenix utility Louis Fenton was a standout in two underwhelming campaigns for the St Albans Saints and Melbourne Knights in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Marksman Brent Fisher won two VPL Championships with Green Gully at the start of the decade and last featured for the Port Melbourne Sharks in 2015. Alongside him was Avondale veteran Jeff Fleming who made his last international appearance over a decade ago and since become one of the most decorated midfielder’s in Victorian football having won numerous honours with Green Gully.
Altona Magic captain Jason Hayne was Fleming’s teammate at Green Gully Reserve during the last two league triumphs and won a State League One Championship with the five-time VPL Champions last year. Full-back Liam Higgins has one international cap to his name and spent the first half of last season at Richmond before joining State League One side South Springvale where he remains.
Melbourne Victory winger Jai Ingham made his debut for the All Whites last month having made his name in the NPL with Hume City in 2015. Ex-Kiwi youth international goalkeeper Rhyss Keane spent large periods of the 2012 VPL season as Green Gully’s first-choice shot-stopper ahead of Nikola Roganovic. Striker Sean Lovemore was a mid-season signing at Oakleigh last term and played his part in the Cannons run to the Grand Final with the former Phoenix frontman reportedly keen to return to Melbourne.
Ex-Kiwi youth international wide forward Dakota Lucas joined Hume alongside Higgins in 2013 before turning out for third tier Noble Park United and Manningham United respectively. Former Wellington Phoenix defender James Musa was an integral part of South Melbourne’s inaugural NPL Championship-winning success of 2014.
Phoenix legend Ben Sigmund played under Luciano Trani at the Fawkner Blues ten years ago before spending eight years at Westpac Stadium while also earning selection for the All Whites World Cup squad in 2010. North Sunshine Eagles brother pairing Stjepan and Tomislav Trbuhovic having both featured for New Zealand at youth level while also playing in the NPL for the North Geelong Warriors two years ago. Finally, forward Kayne Vincent was one of the Melbourne Knight’s shining lights during the 2011 VPL season before embarking on a successful career in South-East Asia which ultimately saw him earn international selection at a senior level.