16. Josh Brillante
At 21, the boy from Bundaberg was a constant presence for Newcastle United last season, switching handily between central midfield and right back. Positionally disciplined and with a thunderous shot, he won Newcastle’s Player of the Year gong at the end of last season, and his progress saw him selected in the Under-20 World Cup squad. Brillante had a fine time at the Tournament, despite Australia finishing bottom of their group. He grabbed a headline or two while there, scoring a smashing goal in Australia’s 2-1 loss to El Salvador. He was then selected in the extended 30 man squad for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, though he didn’t quite make the final cut. As is still the current footballing mindset in our country, the dream is to move abroad to a big European league, and Brillante did just that in July of this year, to Serie A, when Fiorentina secured him for a fee of around €1,000,000.
He started out very well indeed, scoring another fizzing long-range goal against Peruvian club Universitario during Fiorentina’s pre-season tour of the Americas. Everything was going swimmingly for Brillante; brimming with potential and hunger, he was impressing at one of Italy’s biggest clubs. However, things took a marked turn for the worse when Brillante made his Serie A debut. His European baptism could hardly have been more infernal, against giants Roma, and he endured a torrid first appearance. Giving the ball away in his own half, Brillante’s mistake led directly to Roma’s opening goal. He was substituted in the 35th minute, and his manager, Vincenzo Montella, was forced to defend the Australian after the match, which ended as a 2-0 Roma victory. “"I think criticism is exaggerated,“ he said. He has since played only a further 4 minutes this season for Fiorentina.
Still, with the Asian Cup fast approaching (for which he is likely to be selected) and with youth well on his side, Brillante is well equipped to follow the likes of Marco Bresciano and Vinnie Grella and forge a successful career in Italy.
15. James Troisi
Whilst some might see getting loaned out from a Serie A side back to the A-League as a demotion, James Troisi took it as an opportunity.
After receiving inconsistent game time since leaving the Turkish Super Lig for Italy’s Atalanta, Troisi headed back to Melbourne where Ange Postecoglou gave the then 25 year old a chance to play week in, week out for the A-League powerhouse.
It was a chance that the speedy winger/striker was grateful for, starting from the the opening league game of the season and finishing with 35 appearances across both the A-League and the Asian Champions League, scoring 15 goals in the navy blue.
Originally hailing from Adelaide, Troisi joined the Newcastle United youth academy in 2005, but despite impressing at u18s level and in preseason fixtures, couldn’t manage a full senior appearance for the Georgie club. Released in 2008, he then moved onto Turkey with successful Super Lig stints at Gençlerbirliği in and Kayserispor, making 97 appearances across all Turkish competitions, scoring 17 goals and nabbing 16 assists. In 2012, Troisi was signed by Italian giants Juventus, but under a strange agreement, 50% of his contract was bought by Atalanta, for whom he could only muster 6 appearances for the 2012/13 season, before being snapped up on loan by Ange Postecoglou.
As it turned out, Postecoglou didn’t get to see out the 2013/14 season at Melbourne Victory, stepping up to take the role of Socceroos coach for the 2014 World Cup only a month after Troisi’s arrival. However, a string of impressive performances saw the connection rekindled, with Troisi being brought back into the Socceroo fold by his former Victory boss for the first time since 2011. He went on to make the final 23-man squad for Brazil, coming off the bench to play good minutes against Chile and Spain.
Those appearances were a just reward for an excellent domestic season, in which he finished as Melbourne Victory’s Player’s Player and Golden Boot award winner.
Troisi now finds himself in Belgium’s top flight, plying his trade in the no. 10 jersey for Zulte Waregem, where he has made quite the early impression. Already scoring 4 goals in 11 matches, one of which includes a long-range chipped effort from inside the centre circle, sailing over the head of compatriot and Club Brugge custodian Mat Ryan.
Undoubtedly laden with talent and a healthy dose of x-factor, Troisi will only continue to build on his growing reputation, especially if he continues to improve at his current trajectory.
Words by Evan Morgan & Nick Leggatt