NAB young footballer of the year nominee: Thomas Deng
STORY OF THE SEASON
The elegant 21-year-old was impressive and composed when given his chance as a teenager by Kevin Muscat in the Hyundai A-League 2015/16 season and returned to Victory after a spell in the Netherlands.
Apart from his time away with the Australian side at the AFC U-23 Championship, Deng has been a fixture in the side, looking composed and assured in the heart of Victory’s defence, while confidently starting attacks with precise long and short passes.
In the round 25 win over Western Sydney, Deng also scored a goal-of-the-season contender, volleying home a ferocious strike, leaving one of the best goalkeepers in the competition helpless.
BY THE NUMBERS
Deng made 83 clearances during the regular season, 28 more than any other under-23 player.
He won 73% of his tackles, the highest of any Victory defender and also made 37 interceptions, with only Ben Garuccio (59) and Ivan Vujica (43) making more among under-23 players in the Hyundai A-League.
WHY HE SHOULD WIN
It’s sometimes easier for an attacking player to stand out in a game of football, but Deng has been extremely prominent in the back half of the field.
Coach Kevin Muscat entrusted the age-group international with major responsibility this season in the absence of James Donachie and he delivered superbly.
While he’s performed consistently right throughout the season, Deng has grown markedly in the last six months and been an integral member of Victory’s squad as they secured their sixth consecutive Hyundai A-League Finals Series berth.