Canberra A-League bid: Debunking the player depth myth for expansion

The Canberra A-League bid will submit its final proposal on Friday and much of the focus will be on debunking the myth the capital region couldn't sustain a successful team.

Football Federation Australia and critics have said Canberra doesn't have the population – and therefore the juniors and fans – to fuel and service a competitive A-League side.

Canberra export Tom Rogic in action for the Socceroos at the 2018 World Cup.

Canberra export Tom Rogic in action for the Socceroos at the 2018 World Cup.

But bid leader Michael Caggiano is adamant the region is the largest untapped talent pool in the country and believes a team wouldn't just compete, but thrive.

Caggiano insists the ACT bats well above its average in producing football talent and said players often have to leave to realise their potential.

“There’s tens of thousands of players in the region. As [former Socceroos coach] Ron Smith said last week, they need something to aspire to," Caggiano said.

"Motivation pushes players to the next level. We absolutely believe there is the talent here to build a club.

"It’s not just about talent to be discovered, but the talent that already exists. There is talent in our local competition, proven talent that have made runs in the FFA Cup.

"Every day it feels like there’s another story of a regional boy moving directly to Europe to get his shot."

Canberra has produced 15 Socceroos and there is evidence to back up Caggiano's claim that the next generation is already here.

YOUNG GUNS

Canberra United are preparing for their second season in the National Youth League and the team will be littered with up-and-coming stars this summer.

Belconnen United rising star Daniel Fabrizio (left) missed this season with a knee injury but is expected to make his comeback in the NYL.

Belconnen United rising star Daniel Fabrizio (left) missed this season with a knee injury but is expected to make his comeback in the NYL.

The side struggled in their inaugural season but new coach and reigning Canberra premier league winner Dean Ugrinic is confident the talent exists to turn things around.

Belconnen United goalkeeper Finn Jurak will get opportunities and his club teammate Daniel Fabrizio is expected to feature after missing last season with a knee injury.

Gungahlin United striker Zac Barbatano showed plenty of promise in his debut premier league season, while Tuggeranong United defender Matt King and Monaro Panthers midfielder Michael Piccolo are special talents.

READY NOW

Canberra Olympic boss Frank Cachia is one of the most experienced coaches in the region and he believes there are five premier league players ready for the A-League.

Canberra FC star strikers Thomas James and Kofi Danning dominated en route to the league title this season and Olympic talisman Stephen Domenici scored five goals in seven games after returning mid-year.

Cooma Tigers Argentine import Nicolas Villafane won the golden boot alongside James with 17 goals, while Olympic midfielder Daniel Colbertaldo has been superb.

Cachia has one of the best eyes in the business for spotting the real deal, and he didn't mince his words assessing the quintet.

Canberra FC striker Kofi Danning has played in the A-League before.

Canberra FC striker Kofi Danning has played in the A-League before.

"In a full-time environment those boys would match it with most players in the A-League," Cachia said.

"A lot of it comes down to being exposed to that environment day in, day out and naturally you have to improve, but they all have the ability of a lot of the A-League boys. Given an opportunity I'm confident they could hold their own at that level.

"But the other thing people need to realise is, picking an A-League team, you need to pick the best team you can, which might not be players in your back yard."

NEXT GENERATION

A host of Canberrans have already left the capital to get their opportunity, with Leo Mazis and George Timotheou leading the charge at European clubs Celtic FC and Schalke 04.

Marko Milutinovic is playing in Serbia and Anton Barasic just earned his spot at La Liga club Levante in Spain, Ben Carling is currently trialling at the same club.

Canberra teenager Leo Mazis had to leave the capital to get his chance.

Canberra teenager Leo Mazis had to leave the capital to get his chance.

Nick Faust and Mikey Katsoulis have signed with the Central Coast Mariners, while Josh Gulevski linked with the Western Sydney Wanderers, all this year.

ESTABLISHED STARS

Celtic FC superstar Tom Rogic is Canberra’s most established player, with the Socceroos midfielder featuring at his first World Cup in June.

Rogic faced former Woden goalkeeper Evan Alexandrow-Ridley when Celtic drew with Lithuanian club FK Suduva in the Europa League last week.

Melbourne Victory skipper Carl Valeri and Newcastle Jets star Nikolai Topor-Stanley squared-off in the A-League grand final in May.

Steven Lustica left the Wanderers last summer to play in the Croatian top flight with Inter Zapresic, while Jason Geria won a title with Victory and now plays in Japan.

“There’s real evidence that talent exists in this region that can play at the elite level," Caggiano said.

"The obvious example is Tom Rogic and others venturing to European Leagues, and there’s plenty more who have graced the A League.

"One is Kaz Patafta, who Ange Postecoglu once said was ‘The most technically gifted player I've coached’. Even players like Daniel Arzani, the Socceroos next big thing, spent years in Canberra."

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