By Patrick Brischetto (@PatBrischetto)
After missing the finals for the first time since 2016, Sydney FC have turned to the youth, with five Academy players being offered scholarship or senior contracts with the first-team.
One such player is recently crowned NPL NSW player of the year Jaiden Kucharski. The forward, having risen through the ranks at the Sky Blues academy, scored 18 goals in 19 games and was rewarded with the NPL NSW player of the year award, and a scholarship contract in May.
Speaking to Kick 360 in pre-season, he said it was a dream come true.
“Obviously it’s what you dream of, your first professional contract as a young lad. I’ve working towards that for a few years now, especially in the NPL first-grade team.
“And then just being offered that contract, it’s great. And now I just can live as a professional athlete from now on.”
Beginning at local side Glenwood Redbacks at the age of five, he then played at multiple footballing academies such as FDA (Football Development Australia) and at the SAP programs at Football NSW. It was whilst playing for the FNSW Institute side that he was scouted by Sydney FC.
He feels that the exposure to a professional environment at Sydney helped develop him as a player.
“I think the main thing is, the main focus is football. So you have a big A-League club in front of you, and you will try and work yourself to the first team.
“You got all the older lads when you’re younger, you see them around training and stuff, so you try and aim to be like that. And just having Sydney FC as your badge, trying to represent that, you’re always trying to do the best you can.”
In his short time in the senior squad he has already made an impact. He made two substitute appearances in the Australia Cup, which included converting a penalty in a 3-1 penalty shoot-out success over the Central Coast Mariners.
“It’s unreal! I was working towards that for a few weeks, especially as we hadn’t made all our signings by then, so therefore [in the] Australia Cup just getting that opportunity to come off the bench and then making the difference being able to take a pen in the penalty shoot-out.
“It’s good, getting in that confidence right off the bat being able to score and having the pressure taken off you, all the boys and all the coaches believe you can take one of those.”
He has also made is A-League Men’s bow, appearing off the bench twice in the last two games, and he could be in the squad again as the team gears up for their first Sydney Derby at the rebuilt Allianz Stadium.
Sydney have made exciting additions to their forward ranks, with Joe Lolley and Robert Mak already rejuvenating an attack that failed to spark last season. Kucharski says even in training their quality is evident.
“You can see when they’re training, they’re just so natural. They know what they’ve done, they’ve proven themselves all over the world.
“Joey’s proved himself in the Championship, got promoted to the Premier League. And then obviously Robbie has been to the World Cup, he’s played against the best players in the world. You learn off them, learn all the stories and they help you on the pitch and tell us what they know.”
As well as firing Sydney back to the top of the table, Kucharski’s aims for the season ahead are clear.
“Just trying to get as many playing minutes as I can try to score a few goals.
“The pen [in the Australia Cup] is good and all but it’s not a full, proper goal. So to actually get my first professional debut goal from open play; and I’m going to try and push myself to keep trying hard to prove myself that I can get some spots off the bench, and it’s trying to get as many minutes as possible.”
Image Credit: Getty Images, Jason McCawley