Five breakout stars of 2023/24

Throughout the 2023/24 season, a number of young stars stepped up and made a name for themselves in the A-Leagues.

Here’s our top 5 in no particular order.

Hayden Matthews in the Sydney Derby

Hayden Matthews

With a centre back shortage halfway through the season, Ufuk Talay turned to 19-year-old Hayden Matthews from the Sydney FC Academy. Since that first match against the Newcastle Jets, he did not looked back.

Matthews came on as a second half sub against Western United the next weekend and following that, started every single match at the back bar one (midweek Perth trip managing his load). He set the league alight and became a certain name on the start list of Talay.

Matthews had an amazing block in the clash away against Newcastle Jets and won 65% of tackles across his 14 appearances.

He is signed on at the club for the next two seasons and will be looking to go even better with a full pre-season under his belt.

Maddie Caspers

There is not many players who have impacted the match as much as Maddie Caspers did on her debut at just 16 years of age. Away against the Newcastle Jets, she was starting midfielder and repaid the faith that Ante Juric paid in her as she played balls forward, tracked back and was all over the park.

Since that match, she went from strength to strength and began to match her amazing performances with goals, scoring her first against the Newcastle Jets before following on with strikes against Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory.

Caspers (right) celebrates her first ever goal

She was then selected for the Young Matildas and travelled to Uzbekistan for the AFC U20 Women’s Asian Cup where she was again instrumental for her country.

Upon returning, Caspers picked up a hairline fracture in her leg and she was unable to see out the rest of the campaign which could have been pivotal in the Premiers Plate race.

Having been a train on at the start of the 2023/24 season, Caspers will be aiming to hit the ground running by Round One next season.

Caspers on debut in Newcastle

Jake Girdwood-Reich

The teenager broke into the first team last season but found appearances hard to come by with a talented midfield in front of him. During pre-season, Girdwood-Reich was forced into centre back and since then, he never looked back.

An injury saw him take up that spot at the back and his game went to another level from there.

Girdwood-Reich celebrates his first goal with some players her grew up with in the Academy

He started 23 matches and only missed out on the rest due to injury or suspension. He formed a brilliant partnership with his school-mate Hayden Matthews and together they kept former Premier League player Jack Rodwell and Brazilian import Gabriel Lacerda out of the team.

Girdwood-Reich scored his first goal of his career away against Western United and he also was an instrumental part of the Australia Cup success.

Throughout the season he won 104 duels which puts him in the top 12% across the league and some experienced players in the team said that he is one of the best one on one defenders they have come up against.

Caley Tallon-Henniker

The young teenager from Wollongong grew up supporting Sydney FC and after injury to Fiona Worts midway through the campaign, Ante Juric turned to a train on in Caley.

The teenager is very quick and became quite the utility player for Juric off the bench. She made her debut in the abandoned Canberra United clash which fell on her 18th birthday and her redemption came two weeks later in the Sydney Derby.

Off the bench in the second half, Tallon-Henniker got on the end of a brilliant Cortnee Vine through ball and tucked it past the keeper one on one. What a way to announce yourself to the Sydney FC faithful and she joins a select group to score on debut in a Sydney Derby.

Tallon-Henniker scores on her debut

Tallon-Henniker was included in every matchday squad for the rest of the season and started and scored against Adelaide United at home, plus, she was on the bench for the Liberty A-League Grand Final.

Corey Hollman

One third of the Hollman siblings playing in the A-Leagues is Corey Hollman and he had such an impressive campaign.

Hollman made his debut as a 87th minute substitute back in 2021 and after injury ruled him out for the 2022/23 season, he started this campaign rejuvenated.

Corey Hollman in the midfield

Starting the first match in the cup, Hollman made 29 appearances in all competitions and while he may not score many goals, the midfielder does so much in the press and is solid defensively.

He recorded two assists and was a big loss in the second leg of the Semi Final against the Mariners and with his first full season of football under his belt, Corey will look to bounce back with Australia Cup, AFC Asian Champions League 2 and Isuzu UTE A-League all on the cards for 2024/25.

Taking home the U20 Player of the Year at the Sky Blue Ball, Hollman will be a talent to keep an eye on next season as he looks to continue his fine run of form.