Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson has urged Australia’s emerging talent to make the most their chance to play in the revamped A-League.
Football Federation Australia on Thursday announced the new A-League and W-League seasons would both start on December 27.
The 12-team A-League, which will include NSW expansion outfit Macarthur FC, will be played over 23 weeks, with the grand final to take place in June.
The shorter W-League season will conclude with an April grand final.
A-League teams will operate with a reduced salary cap of $2.1 million, which has led to a host of Australian and foreign players leaving the competition to ply their trade overseas.
They include star English marksman Adam Le Fondre, who has been loaned out for the final year of his Sydney FC deal to Indian Super League club Mumbai City.
While the prolific Le Fondre will be missed by the Sky Blues, Wilkinson said the departure of such players from the competition presented opportunities to Australian youngsters bound to enjoy more game time.
“We’ve seen with the effects of COVID a few players have already left and there might be more to go,” the veteran defender said. “But there’ll also be players to come and it’ll also be a great chance for the youth of Australia to get their chance.
“We talk about it all the time that there’s not enough opportunities for young players coming through the system.
“It’s taken something like this possibly, a pandemic, to give those players a bit more of an opportunity because if more senior players and established players have moved on, then it opens up spots for younger players to stake their claim.
“We’ve seen it in a number of teams in the A-League in the last few years that with young players, the more you play them, the more confidence they get, the more they grow and turn into fantastic players.
“I’m sure we’re going to see many more stories like that in the next year as well, which is a good thing.”
Despite Le Fondre’s departure, Sydney have maintained the majority of their squad in their bid to become the first club to win a hat-trick of A-League championships.
“No team’s managed to do that, so that’s a huge motivation for us to go three in a row,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s going to be exciting as well with the new team in Sydney was well which will add another derby, which is great, and it’s good to see a new team coming in because it means more opportunities for players and more jobs for players.”
The fixture schedule and broadcast details for the A-League and the W-League will be released next month.