Football Federation Australia has announced Melbourne Heart FC’s Eli Babalj as the sixth nominee for the 2011/12 NAB Young Footballer of the Year award.
Football Federation Australia has announced Melbourne Heart FC-s Eli Babalj as the sixth nominee for the 2011/12 NAB Young Footballer of the Year award.
Babalj, 20, was voted the most outstanding U/21 player in the Hyundai A-League throughout March following a series of pivotal displays which helped guide Heart to a debut Finals Series appearance.
The angular striker scored three goals in four matches to cement his status as one of the leading young attackers in Australian football, drawing praise for his technique and clinical finishing.
A particular highlight was Babalj-s slalom effort against Adelaide United during Week 25, collecting the ball from deep before using his deceptive pace to sear past two opponents and apply a classy finish just inside the 18 yard box.
Babalj expressed his delight in having his form recognised with a nomination, joining the likes of 2010/11 winner Matthew Ryan, Mustafa Amini and Bernie Ibini-Isei as finalists for the award.
“It-s always nice to be acknowledged and it-s a good honour, but I wouldn-t have achieved this without the help of my teammates,” he said.
“All in all, this season has been good as an individual and as a collective. It was our objective and we achieved that, although it was disappointing to be knocked out in the first round, so hopefully we can build on that next season.”
Netting nine times in just 17 starts this season, Babalj was Heart-s top marksman and the leading scorer among all U/21 players in the Hyundai A-League, building upon his growing reputation.
Babalj signed a contract extension late last year to ensure he will remain with Melbourne Heart FC next season as the side looks to improve upon its breakthrough 2011/12 campaign.
The overall winner, to be announced at the Hyundai A-League / Westfield W-League Awards on Tuesday April 10, will receive a $10,000 personal investment portfolio, a NAB Private Client Manager to assist with a range of banking and financial services, and the NAB Young Footballer of the Year Award.
To aid the development of future football stars NAB have generously donated a $3,000 equipment pack that will go to Babalj-s chosen junior football institution, Heidelberg Stars SC.