Football fans were served up a treat this year. Berthed with a thrilling World Cup, an exciting return of the A-League and a short but sweet visit from Señora David Villa; 2014 has shown us a glimpse of Australian football’s potential.
The beginning of a new Postecogolu-lead Socceroos era has exposed raw new talent, whilst respectfully farewelling legends of Socceroos past. An overseas trip to South America featuring dates with Chile, Holland and Spain allowed Tim Cahill to do what he does best and inspire a new generation of young footballers in the process.
Australia’s domestic game only continues to grow stronger. Manchester City’s investment along with the Western Sydney Wanderers becoming Champions of Asia, are reassuring boosts for the A-League’s current direction.
There’s a lot to be proud of in Australian Football over the past 12 months, but even more to look forward to in the next year. At The TURF we wanted to acknowledge the efforts of 20 Australian footballers who we believe have had significant impact on the field for either their club or Australia. We’ve been thinking, drafting and changing this list to a point which we now accurately reflects each players efforts this year.
We want you to get involved and tell us what you think about our selections. Love them? Hate them? Tell us by tweeting us @theturfau and using the hashtag #TURF20.
So to begin the list at no. 20 is Ryan McGowan. Enjoy.
20. Ryan McGowan
It’s fair to say that 2014 was an eventful year for Ryan McGowan.
Moving into just his second season with Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng Taishan after 8 years in Scotland with Heart of Midlothian, McGowan settled quickly at the heart of Shandong’s defence, earning himself a place in Ange Postecoglou’s squad bound for Brazil.
He looked set to spend the majority of the tournament on the pine, until Ivan Franjic’s unfortunately hamstring injury opened the door for McGowan at right back as a substitute against Chile, an opportunity which he took with both hands.
In the following game against the Dutch in Porto Alegre, the Adelaide-born defender found himself in space and famously whipped in a long ball from near the halfway line, where his childhood idol Tim Cahill met the cross with his left boot, dispatching with aplomb.
During that same game, McGowan was captured by the TV cameras holding up his hands in a ‘5-1’ gesture – a nod to his days at Hearts and the scoreline in their celebrated 2012 Scottish Cup final over arch-rivals Hibernians, a game in which McGowan scored.
“He [Mat Ryan] wanted 6 in the wall, so I was gesturing to him. It was not something running through my mind all game thinking ‘I need to get a 5-1 up’. I could see myself on the screen, and I thought ‘I will just keep my hands there and if they notice it then they do’.”
That gesture only went on to enhance McGowan’s reputation as a cult hero back in Edinburgh, or at least to the Hearts fans, who were quick to catch on and spread his “banter” on social media, which he said was “for the Hearts fans for the support they have shown even now I have left the club.“
Since then, he has also gone on to endear himself to the faithful of Shandong Luneng, scoring a 95th minute diving header just last month to clinch the pivotal away goal in the second leg of their Chinese FA Cup final win over Jiangsu Sainty.
From being sold by Hearts as they plummeted into administration in 2013, to representing Australia in 3 World Cup games, marking some of the world’s best including Sanchez, Van Persie and David Villa, to being the stoppage time hero in a Cup Final, 2014 has certainly delivered for this young 25 year old, who with European club football beckoning once again, still has his best years ahead of him.
19. Bernie Ibini
A change of loan clubs begun a new era for Bernie Ibini who after a successful loan to the Central Coast Mariners from Shanghai South East decided to follow Graham Arnold across to Sydney FC to continue on his killer form in Australia.
Ibini’s presence earlier in the year saw the Mariners only lose a single game, a combination of 5 goals over 8 games lead to Central Coast establishing their place in the finals. Bernie’s scoring run continued when he delivered the decisive goal in the 67th minute to defeat Adelaide United and progress the Mariners into the Semi-Finals of the 2013/14 A-League season.
However, his recent performance over the past two months has seen Ibini quickly become one of Australia’s hottest up-and-coming forwards. His speed and ball control up-front has contributed to the Sky Blues only dropping a single game this season. And who could forget an absolutely stunning goal in the Sydney Derby.
Bernie’s impressive domestic form has recently been acknowledged by receiving his first Socceroos call-up against the United Arab Emirates and being named in the Socceroos Preliminary Asian Cup squad. Keep an eye out for Bernie Ibini who will defiantly be one to watch over the next year.
Words by Nick Leggatt & Jacob Arnott