When Australia took to the Kazan Arena against France on Saturday, it represented a watershed moment for the Hyundai A-League.
For the first time ever, all 11 players who started Australia's first match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ had come through the domestic club competition.
Nine of the eleven were handed their first professional debuts in the Hyundai A-League, with Aaron Mooy making his senior debut in the Scottish Premier League with St. Mirren, while Mark Milligan’s was in the National Soccer League with Northern Spirit.
Current club: Brighton and Hove Albion (England)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Central Coast Mariners
After making his debut against Sydney FC just four games into the 2010/11 season, Ryan would establish himself as the Hyundai A-League’s best goalkeeper in the ensuing three years. He made 94 appearances in total for the Central Coast Mariners, winning the Young Player of the Year award in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and clinching the Championship in 2012/13.
Ryan’s unflinching quest for personal improvement was forged in the Hyundai A-League under the likes of John Crawley and Graham Arnold, whom the young gloveman would constantly pester into allowing him to join outfield players in training sessions to develop what is a now a world-class distribution. Ryan has earned 45 Socceroos caps to date, and looks back at this time with the Mariners with fondness.
WATCH MATY RYAN'S HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS BELOW
"We had a really good group there [at the Mariners] – a group that not only created an environment to become better players but also better people as well and there was no better person than Graham Arnold to be at the helm,” Ryan told socceroos.com.au.
"Without that guidance there in the beginning from those sorts of guys I probably wouldn’t be where I am today."
Current club: Western Sydney Wanderers
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Perth Glory
Josh Risdon is among the newer members of the Socceroos XI that took on France and has been rewarded for his consistent performances in the Hyundai A-League with Perth Glory and Western Sydney Wanderers.
The Bunbury-born fullback would establish himself as a regular in the Glory line up at just 19 years of age following his debut in November 2010, going on to make 143 appearances in Western Australia before joining the Red and Black for the 2017/18 campaign.
Risdon has made nine appearances for the Socceroos following his debut against Bangladesh in 2015, and has established himself as one of the finest right backs in the Hyundai A-League.
Current club: Al Ahli (Saudi Arabia)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Sydney FC, Newcastle Jets, Melbourne Victory
Mark Milligan is the epitomise of a consummate professional and against France last Saturday the versatile veteran underlined his commitment to the cause no matter his position.
After starting his career at Northern Sprit and Blacktown City, the 32-year-old made his Hyundai A-League debut with Sydney FC against Melbourne Victory in August 2005 – later going on to lead Victory to silverware in 2014/15.
A place in the Hyundai A-League Team of the Decade was just reward, for Milligan, who has made 72 appearances for the national side.
Current club: Grasshopper Zurich (Switzerland)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Central Coast Mariners
The Thornlie-born defender has come a long way since his teething problems during his early Central Coast Mariners days. On Saturday against France, he had Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe in his pocket.
Sainsbury eventually broke into the Mariners first team, establishing an intimidating partnership with Patrick Zwaanswijk and clinched Hyundai A-League silverware in 2011/12 and 2012/13. The 26-year-old is now Australia’s vice-captain and was won 36 caps for the Socceroos.
Current club: Bursaspor (Turkey)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Heart
After impressing as captain of the youth side, Behich made his senior debut at Melbourne Victory in January 2010 and would go on to sign for rivals Melbourne Heart the following season. The rampaging left fullback made 92 appearances for Heart, winning his first Socceroos cap in 2012.
Behich is now a consistent outlet on the left hand side for Australia, having started all seven of the side’s most recent fixtures.
Current club: Aston Villa (England)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Central Coast Mariners
The current Socceroos' skipper spent three seasons in total with the Central Coast Mariners, helping the side to a Premiership triumph in the 2007/08 campaign.
After making a name for himself as a reputable defensive midfield presence in England, it's easy to forget Mile Jedinak enjoyed his best ever goalscoring season with the Gosford club - netting six in 2008/09.
Jedinak made his Socceroos debut against Singapore in that season, and has gone on to make 71 appearances for the green and gold since, captaining Australia in the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ and 2015 Asian Cup win on home soil.
Current club: Huddersfield Town (England)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Western Sydney Wanderers, Melbourne City
Aaron Mooy returned to Australia after several years on the books of St. Mirren, first plying his trade as one of three inaugural Western Sydney Wanderers players. The midfielder helped Tony Popovic's side claim the Premiership in their first season, before completing a move to Melbourne City in May 2014.
If Mooy had been an important, yet often overlooked presence in the Wanderers midfield, the 27-year-old was truly impossible to miss in his spell at Melbourne City. The Sydney-born midfielder simply improved his game to previously unthinkable heights in a more advanced midfield position and became one of the Hyundai A-League's standout players in his two campaigns in Melbourne.
Mooy cantered to back to back Player of the Year awards at City, scoring 18 goals and registering 14 assists in 53 matches. The midfielder won plaudits across the country for his tenure in Victoria, national team coach Ange Postecoglou labelling him the "best and most exciting player in the Hyundai A-League" at the time.
Current club: Celtic (Scotland)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory
Tom Rogic had never been part of a professional club before Graham Arnold snared the winner of NIke's The Chance talent quest in 2012.
But after the Futsalroo sensation made his Hyundai A-League debut against Adelaide United in January 2012 as a 19-year-old, it wasn't long before a long list of European clubs were queuing up for Rogic's services.
WATCH TOM ROGIC'S HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS BELOW
One of these were Celtic, who signed Rogic a year after making his Hyundai A-League debut following a massive impressively trial from the Canberra-born attacker.
Rogic has made 38 appearances for the Socceroos in total, scoring 7 goals.
Current club: VfL Bochum (Germany)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory
When Robbie Kruse marked his 19th birthday with a winner on debut for Brisbane Roar against Wellington Phoenix in October 2007, there were signs of something special in the making.
But the young attacker would initially struggle to unearth his abundance obvious potential in the coming two seasons, and scored three more times for the Queensland club before signing for Melbourne Victory in September 2009.
The move to Victoria proved to be a pivotal moment for the Brisbane-born attacker. Kruse won the club's Young Player of the Year awards back to back in 2009/10 and 2010/11, netting 16 goals in 47 appearances before earning a move to German outfit Fortuna Dusselforf.
Kruse has made 65 appearances for the Socceroos after his debut against United Arab Emirates in 2011, scoring 5 times and nailing down a position as one of the side's most valuable attacking assets.
Current club: Hertha Berlin (Germany)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Adelaide United
He might have spent the last seven season plying his trade in Germany, but many Hyundai A-League fans will recall the impact an explosive young Mat Leckie had on the competition.
At just 18, Leckie made his debut off the bench for Adelaide United against Melbourne Victory back in 2009 before scoring his first professional goal the next game.
Called off the bench in the 87th minute away to North Queensland Fury, Leckie took just three minutes to make every Adelaide and Aussie fan sit up and take notice – picking the ball up just over the halfway line and driving into the box before turning his defender inside and out to place his shot in the bottom corner.
It wouldn’t be long before Leckie’s direct, physical game attracted interest from Bundesliga giants Borussia Monchengladbach but not before he netted a total of eight goals in 35 games for the Reds.
Current club: Urawa Red Diamonds (Japan)
Past Hyundai A-League clubs: Melbourne Victory, Newcastle Jets
What a whirlwind 24 months it’s been for Nabbout, who had previously burst onto the scenes in the Hyundai A-League as a 19-year-old.
Then, playing for Melbourne Victory, Nabbout came off the bench away to bitter rivals Sydney FC to score 78and 91st minute goals to seal a come-from-behind 3-2 win.
WATCH ANDREW NABBOUT'S HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS BELOW
The versatile and powerful attacker then struggled to bed down regular first team football with Victory, playing a combined 369 minutes across two seasons from 2013 to 2015.
From there, the fairytale began. Nabbout tried his luck in Malaysia, scored a bagful of goals but was then released and returned to Newcastle Jets to try his luck again in the Hyundai A-League.
With the Jets, he netted 18 times in 45 starts, helped the club in their incredible run to second in the 2017/18 Regular Season, sealed a big money transfer to Japanese giants Urawa Red Diamonds and booked a ticket to the FIFA World Cup™.
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