A-League scouting is in the spotlight after the Sydney Morning Herald revealed an NPL4 player is on an extended trial with Premier League outfit Newcastle United.
Former Saint Etienne player Florent Indalecio trialled at NSW NPL1 clubs during his time in Australia, working as a brickie's labourer in Sydney, but couldn't be signed due to strict regulations on foreign players in the second tier.
He was searching for opportunities to play football and stay in Australia, which led him to play a brief spell in NPL4 with Fraser Park FC, before a close friend - Newcastle United player Allan Saint-Maximin - secured him a trial at Newcastle United.
Indalecio has since been offered an extended trial and is courting favour across Europe, but he could have been playing in the A-League next season had scouts attended lower division NPL matches.
It shines a light on the lack of opportunities at every level of the Australian football pyramid, not just the A-League, which is particularly resonant given current debates over whether a national second division should have age and foreign player regulations.
It also bodes the question, how many foreign and native players are plying their trade - often while working hard manual labour - in the lesser NPL divisions and how many are playing in competitions in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, with only one small scouting network for the entire region.
As the A-League transitions towards a developmental style next season due to COVID and Fox Sports cutbacks, the quality of those scouting networks will be more important than ever, and yet will likely be the first to face cuts as clubs lose up to 75% of their revenue.
While Indalecio's story shows Sydney faces obvious challenges, with two professional teams for over five million people, former Melbourne Heart and current Heidelberg United star Adrian Zahra previously told FTBL the problem is even worse in Victoria - where NPL1 players aren't even offered trials.
“We probably have the best team outside the A-League in Australia and I think we’ve proven that in the last two seasons,” Zahra told FTBL.
“Collectively we’ve been really well balanced and everyone has contributed, so it’s been a good year across the whole board.
“I’m actually quite surprised players like Alex Schiavo, Andrew Cartanos and Josh Wilkins in particular haven’t had a sniff or even a trial. This year we’ve had no player get called up to trial with an A-League club.
“It’s sort of a bit of an injustice for our players and I definitely think we have some talent that could step up to the next level and should get an opportunity.
“A lot of NPL players get noticed more in New South Wales as opposed to Melbourne because there are more teams there.
“All those things get frustrating where you have to wait until the FFA Cup to get noticed and there’s all that recycling happens as opposed to giving an opportunity to new talent.”