A tumultuous 2021. The A-Leagues crowned new champions, the Matildas broke records, a new era of Australian football began and the Socceroos returned home for the first time in two years.
Welcome to the inaugural Kick360 Australian Football Awards, where Kick360 journalists have voted and chosen the best in Australian football from moments to teams all the way to players.
Melbourne City FC Men’s
A stuttering start to the 2021/22 season cannot take away from the sheer brilliance that was Patrick Kisnorbo’s Melbourne City team in 2021. On their day, they were simply unplayable, off it, and Jamie Maclaren & co. would still find a way to steal all three points. Fluid yet deadly attacking patterns bolstered by a resolute defensive unit were a winning recipe, summed up best by their demolition and humiliations of their city rivals Melbourne Victory. They were deserved A-League Premiers and Champions and having kept the bulk of their talent at the club, they’ll continue to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
Most remarkable however, is the development and growth of their young players that Kisnorbo trusted to supplement his team. In addition to the likes of Natty Atkinson and Connor Metcalfe, who had become starters after a successful 2020, Marco Tilio was able to showcase his considerable talents, most notably in a show-stopping Grand Final display.
– Cameron Wyper
BEST O/S AUSSIE + BEST AUSTRALIAN U23 PLAYER:
Harry Souttar, Stoke City
2021 was a break out season for young Australian defender, as he started to fulfil his enormous potential and blossom into one of the best defenders in the English second division.
With consistent game time and impressive performances week-in week-out for Stoke City in the EFL Championship, Souttar quickly found himself as one of the most coveted defenders in the league, with rumours of interest across Europe and the Premier League.
A towering figure at the back, he showed class and poise in the heart of the defence, as well as defensive intelligence beyond his years, with his expertise in reading attacking play helping him towards becoming a key player for his club and country.
Attacking wise, Souttar has really started to find his feet as he often beca,e a key link in the transition from defence to attack, but it is in the box where the 6’6 tall defender causes the most nightmares for defenders. His large stature allows him to wreck havoc in the final third.
Unfortunately for Souttar his 2021 was cut short with a serious knee injury, but still aged only 23 it appears the best is yet to come from the Scotland born Socceroo.
– Sha Nen
RISING STAR (WOMENS) – U20:
Mary Fowler, Montpellier HSC
In a mixed year for the Matildas, 18-year-old Mary Fowler has danced into the spotlight.Fowler’s quality and versatility has shone through the sparkle of her performances this calender year.With her ability to play on both wings in both inverted and wide positions, as a second striker and as an attacking midfielder, she has made 17 appearances for the Matildas since 2018, scoring five goals.
She is a unique Australian player, in her all rounded ability to shoot and pass powerfully with both feet, and to carry the ball in between the lines and from wide areas.Her decision making has also been impressive, while goals from her right and left foot, as well as from the head have shown her finishing ability once more.When combined with her playmaking, movement off the ball and clever pressing, we’re witnessing the development of a very special Matilda.
– Jack George
RISING STAR (MENS) – U21:
Marco Tilio, Melbourne City
Marco Tilio experienced a breakout year at Melbourne City. Initially making a series of cameo appearances off the bench, he began to see more involvement in the side after scoring the winning goal in a 3-2 success over the Wellington Phoenix and bagging two assists in a 7-0 demolition of rivals Melbourne Victory.
He began to start more games as the season wore on, but it was his contribution in City’s finals campaign that truly cemented his status as one to watch. He put in a match-winning performance in their semi-final win over Macarthur, scoring one and assisting the other in a 2-0 win, and his dribbling trickery and dynamism helped City to a maiden A-League championship.
His play was rewarded with a late call-up to the Olyroos Olympic squad, and he did not disappoint, netting a goal with almost his first touch to give Australia a 2-0 win over Argentina. There is no doubt that he will continue being a menace for opposition defenders this season and beyond.
– Patrick Brischetto
MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
Olyroos win vs Argentina at Tokyo 2020
Alongside the over-age Mitch Duke, 21 of Australia’s brightest young talents set out to conquer the world at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The journey began with an unforgettable victory against South American giants Argentina which sent the entire country into raptures and placed football on the back pages.
The country that produced Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi were – for the most part – unable to match the physicality, desire and work-rate of a team primarily comprised of players who had been produced or were still playing at A-League level. After an early goal from Lachie Wales, a special finish by Marco Tilio from outside the box sealed the 2-0 victory for Australia in what represented the best example of what young players developed in the A-League can produce when given the opportunity.
While the Olyroos ultimately fell at the final hurdle of the competition’s group stage, the match against Argentina will be remembered for it sparking a short epoch where it felt like anything was possible in Australian football.
– Tom Williams
BEST NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUES TEAM:
Avondale FC, NPL Victoria
PLAYER OF THE YEAR (WOMENS):
Sam Kerr, Chelsea FC
The statistics alone make Sam Kerr an easy choice for the best Australian player of 2021.
She has 23 goals in the FAWSL for the calendar year for Chelsea, completed a domestic treble and scored twice in the F.A Cup final including a brilliant chip on the run against Arsenal. For Australia, She has seven goals in 16 games and created 22 chances. Six of those goals came in the Olympics.
With the English season still at the midway point she averages 1.6 goals per 90 minute and a goal for every four attempts. These are incredible, unprecedented numbers but beyond that her impact is remarkable. Despite going five friendly games without scoring for The Matildas, Kerr was unfazed. When the big moments arrived, she delivered for her country as she did for her club. Her last-minute equaliser and result sealing extra-time goal against Team GB in Tokyo was a spectacular yet typical display from the skipper.
Chelsea coach, Emma Hayes described Kerr as “a credit to Australia.” Kerr is both a Ballon D’or nominee and FIFA player of the year contender. She is the best striker in the world, and we’re pretty lucky she happens to be Aussie.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR (MENS):
Jamie Maclaren, Melbourne City
Following an impressive 2020, Jamie Maclaren followed it up in 2021 with one of the most prolific seasons in A-League Men’s history.
A driving force in City’s attack, Maclaren had little trouble finding the net having scored 28 goals throughout the calendar year while also taking out back-to-back A-League Golden Boot awards.
His best performance of the year came in the Melbourne Derby in April. Having been part of the City side that demolished the Victory 6-0 earlier in the year, Maclaren was instrumental in another Victory drubbing scoring five goals to guide City to a 7-0 victory.
He’d match Archie Thompson’s record for most goals scored by one player in a single A-League match. Maclaren is one of Australia’s most devastating strikers going round at the moment and having extended his contract till the end of the 2023-24 season, there’s still more to come.
– Giacomo Bruno
Finally, a thank you to the readers! Thank you for supporting this new platform for Australian football stories, news and more!
The Kick360 team cannot wait for another massive year of Australian football in 2022!
Image Supplied: APL