Graphic: Wayne Unwin // Photo: Cindy Nitsos
It’s almost unfathomable to think that reigning Golden Boot winner and two-time W-League Champion Melina Ayres is still just a week shy of her 18th birthday.
Moving into her four full season in the NPLW, the South Melbourne forward is enjoying her best start yet to a Victorian season, which has seen her hit a senior career 50 goal mark as well as stringing together a remarkable goal scoring run to start this campaign.
Her debut season came for Ashburton in 2014 under the stewardship of Sinisa Cohadzic, where she featured as a 14-year-old, playing 18 games and scoring five times in a breakout season.
As she grew more accustomed to the rigours of top-flight Victorian football, Ayres hit her goal scoring straps with a 19 goal return in 2015, followed by a Golden Boot winning 23-goal haul from 23 games at Alamein in 2016.
This season has seen her move away from her former mentor Cohadzic for the first time at senior level, but under the guidance of Socrates Nicolaidis, she has found a new lease of life as an out-and-out striker.
Although she went goalless in her first game of the season, Ayres has since hit the back of the net every week to find herself on a league-high nine goals.
Ayres’ start to the season saw the forward also embark on a stunning run of four consecutive braces, in which her impact proved match winning in every fixture, with South nine points better off because of her goals.
Although her finishing prowess often speaks for itself, Ayres has also worked hard on honing her ability outside of the penalty box to become a more accomplished, multi-faceted player.
Ayres will get the opportunity to continue learning from the best, re-uniting with legendary Matildas forward Lisa De Vanna this season after her signing was announced last night during South Melbourne’s jersey presentation night.
It’s scary to think that Ayres is still years away from reaching her peak, and who knows what awaits should she continue her current trajectory.