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Ultimate A-League FC: Wing Backs

Over the space of ten days, we’ll be formalising a team of the best footballers (and non-footballers) to grace the A-League over the last ten years. These footballers will make up ‘Ultimate A-League FC’, our club of champions of the last decade. Kristian Dwyer will take you on this waltz down memory lane.

Today we take a look at the men that burn up the wings in the Hyundai A-League and select our left and right backs of choice…

Left Backs

5.  Scott Jamieson – Adelaide United, Sydney FC, Perth Glory 

Scott Jamieson combines everything you look for in a left back – pace, precision and stamina – to dominate the wings and give your side the edge over your opponent, and at every club the 25 year old has played at, he’s provided just that. Starting his career with Adelaide in 2008-09, Jamieson set the league alight in his debut season, collecting the NAB Rising Star award for his exploits.

It wasn’t long before A-League heavyweights Sydney FC came knocking and the speedster headed back east to play for the then-reigning premiers. Two years on, and Jamieson has headed west where he’s not only garnered a fan favouritism from his performances but his reputation as a larrikin off the field too. All in all, the Sydney-born left back has amassed 127 appearances in his A-League career, and despite a season ending injury last year, is sure to procure many more in the upcoming A-League season.

4. Shane Stefanutto – North Quensland Fury, Brisbane Roar

In 2009-10, Shane Stefanutto returned home to play a part in the inaugural season of the ill-fated North Queensland Fury franchise. Stefanutto would have his first season in the Hyundai A-League curtailed with injury, however, managing just seven appearances, dashing his chances as a bolter for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Despite his injury, Stefanutto has still achieved 105 A-League games in a career that has spanned five years thus far in the A-League.

The 2010-11 season saw Stefanutto sign with the Brisbane Roar and prove the left back to be a vital missing cog in delivering the Orange part of Queensland their first championship. Strong performances in the last four years have seen Stefanutto rise to the rank of Vice-Captain and he has been crucial to the three championships the Roar have won in the past four years.

3. Manny Muscat – Wellington Phoenix

Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Muscat symbolises everything that is good about the Wellington Phoenix and the drive and desire to achieve goals in the Hyundai A-League. Signing on as an injury replacement player for Vince Lia in 2008-09, Muscat took his opportunity with both hands signing on as a key player of the Phoenix team for 2010-11.

The very next year, Muscat was on a plane to Europe to represent the country of his descent, Malta, in the UEFA Euro 2012 qualification tournament and has since collected 8 caps. If there ever was a player who deserved a position on this list for hardwork, it’s this persistent left back from accross the Tasman, who in six years has managed to pick up 143 career games and only trails Adam D’Apuzzo as the most capped left-back in the league.

2. Adama Traore – Gold Coast Utd, Melbourne Victory – UAL FC Substitute Left Back

24-year-old Traore started his footballing career in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) before making his way to the shores of Australia with a dream to ‘play club football internationally’, and signed for the star studded Gold Coast United team in the Hyundai A-League in 2009-10. Since then, the now-naturalised Australian has come on in leaps and bounds and clocked up 117 games, as well as 4 goals. During his time in the A-League he also made a successful move to Melbourne Victory, shoring up a persistently leaky defence.

Last season was arguably the young man’s best as he took home Melbourne Victory’s highest honour – the Victory Medal – and was rewarded by securing a multi-year deal abroad, with Vitória de Guimarães in Portugal. Sadly, due to playing for Côte d’Ivoire youth teams, Traore is unable to achieve his ambitions of playing for Australia.

1. Cassio – Adelaide United – UAL FC Left Back

There was never going to be a greater selection as our first choice left back than Brazilian maestro Cassio. At 34, Cassio personifies his relationship to the city of Adelaide and the Reds with his commitment to the club over the last seven years. With 124 matches under his belt, Cassio, a naturalised Australian, was also willing to put his hand up for Socceroos – a testament to his dedication to the Hyundai A-League. It all may not have been for the likeable Brazilian, with his signing only coming after the release of previous players in his position. Nonetheless, Cassio returned the faith that John Kosmina paid to him by helping the club deliver a Pre-Season Cup, and a berth in the Grand Final.

Sadly for Cassio, his last season was dogged with injury, but the flying winger should be back fit for the start of the 2014-15 season, with Adelaide eyeing up another top six berth this year.

Right Backs

5.  Storm Roux – Perth Glory, Central Coast Mariners

Undeniably, this selection will make waves, given the youngster’s relative proximity to the league over it’s last ten years. The imaginatively named Roux made his debut two seasons ago with the Perth Glory, however could not break into the first team permanently and was snapped up by Central Coast Mariners visionary Graham Arnold. Despite Arnold leaving early in the piece last season, Roux established himself as the key at right back for the Mariners and could not be dislodged all season in their march to the finals.

Starting 24 of his 25 games last season, Roux was also called up the All-Whites squad, and at just 21 years of age, could prove to be a vital piece of the puzzle at the back for the Central Coast Mariners this season.

4. Tarek Elrich – Newcastle United Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United

Tarek Elrich’s story is an inspirational one, when you consider the adversity he has had to overcome and the fact that he spent the majority of his career in the shadow of his brother, Socceroo Ahmad Elrich. The tragedy that drives Elrich’s career is that of his brother Adham Elrich, whom 20 years ago was hit by a car as a four-year-old and has lived in a semi-comatose state ever since. Ahmad has since left the A-League to help his family tend to Adham but little brother Tarek has continued on with his career, notching up 143 appearances in a career that has literally taken him from one side of the country to the other.

Elrich has made his intentions known that he’d love to represent his family’s home nation of Lebanon and as of 2013, has been cleared to do so if selected.

3. Matthew Kemp – Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory

Matthew Kemp may have started his career as a left back at Adelaide United but it was at Melbourne Victory that he made his name as a premier right back in the Hyundai A-League. Amassing 111 appearances over a seven year career, he formed part of a strong backline at the Victory with both Kevin Muscat and Adrian Leijer, leading to their 2008-09 championship-premiership double. Kemp also attained his first senior international cap for the Socceroos in 2010 in an AFC Asian Cup qualifying match versus Kuwait during his time with the Victory.

Retiring from professional football at the age of 31, Kemp now plies his trade in the NPL with West Adelaide, continuing his love affair with South Australian football.

2. Josh Risdon – Perth Glory, UAL FC Substitute Right Back

Despite injury ravaging his impressive start to his A-League career, country boy Joshua Risdon has cemented his place as not just Perth Glory’s first choice right back, but also as one of the hottest talents in the league to carve up the right flank. This culminated in a call up to the 2012-2013 A-League All-Star squad against Manchester United. Having played 68 games, Risdon has cemented his place in the squad after dislodging previous right back Scott Neville after his spell with injury.

Quick, clever on the ball with a good strong cross and with a few seasons under his belt, Risdon is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the coming seasons in the Hyundai A-League.

1. Ivan Franjic – Brisbane Roar, UAL FC Right Back

At age 21, Ivan Franjic was just a carpenter trying to play his way on weekends to a football career with the Oakleigh Cannons in the Victorian Premier League. It came to be that year that he would be scouted by the then under-performing Brisbane Roar as a replacement for A-League journeyman Andrew Packer. That was the beginning of his ascent to becoming the A-League’s finest right sided defender. In five years, Franjic would notch up 115 games, and during that time help secure three championships for the Brisbane Roar.

At 27, Franjic is now a Socceroo with ten caps, three A-League winners medals and the world at his feet as he paves his way with Torpedo Moscow in Russia. Without a doubt, Franjic is a testament to the A-League as a truly developing league.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow as we pick our two centre backs over the last decade for Ultimate A-League FC! Also, make sure you check out yesterday’s UAL FC Goalkeeper piece. Got any feedback? Hit us up at ualfc@ultimatealeague.com.

About the author

avatarKris is a freelance sports journalist, a two-time WA media guild award winner, and podcast host and writer for Ultimate A-League.

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  • Jason

    Franjic was the best right wing-back in the league by 100 miles. He will be missed at Brisbane but throughly deserves his chance in Europe.