NAB Young Footballer of the Year nominee – Thomas Deng (Melbourne Victory)

Despite being only 22 years of age, Thomas Deng already feels like a rear-guard stalwart for Melbourne Victory.

And in 2018/19, the formidably versatile defender continued his progression into one of Kevin Muscat’s chief lieutenants.

Deng is one of six nominees for this year’s NAB Young Footballer of the Year award – and here’s why.

NAB Young Footballer of the Year: Sarpreet Singh (Wellington Phoenix)
NAB Young Footballer of the Year: Chris Ikonomidis (Perth Glory)
NAB Young Footballer of the Year: Lachlan Wales (Melbourne City)
NAB Young Footballer of the Year: Keanu Baccus (Western Sydney Wanderers)
NAB Young Footballer of the Year: 
Riley McGree (Melbourne City)

CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR YOUR NAB YOUNG FOOTBALLER OF THE YEAR 

Deng's campaign in Opta stats

Opta Widget: ALeague

Story of the Season

After commencing their title defence with back-to-back defeats, it’s probably no coincidence Victory went the next nine matches unbeaten with Deng re-installed as a starter in Muscat’s back four.

It is a big marker of Deng’s stature as an increasingly accomplished defender that Victory have a more settled-looking defence with his presence at the heart of it.

This was the case in a vital 2-1 win away at Sydney FC in November, in which the former PSV starlet was commanding; so too in the consecutive clean sheets against Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United which followed that Big Blue success.

Honda's composure and Deng's measured performance helped Victory to a standout 2-1 win in November's Big Blue

Deng’s excellence on the domestic stage was rewarded with a Caltex Socceroos call-up against Kuwait in October, in which he made his debut alongside fellow South Sudanese refugee and childhood friend Awer Mabil.

He went on to again represent Australia with distinction earlier this year, captaining Graham Arnold’s Australia side in the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship Qualification stages in Kuala Lumpur.

Thomas Deng; Awer Mabil
Living the dream: Deng (left) and childhood friend Awer Mabil on duty with Australia

Why he is a good shout to be NAB Young Footballer of the Year

In a mark of his versatility, Deng played the final four rounds of the regular season at right back, having been deployed in the centre for the majority of the campaign.

A player who has always operated with minimum fuss, the Victory man has grown in maturity again this campaign, making him a strong candidate to earn NAB Young Footballer of the Year honours.

Thomas Deng and Craig Goodwin
Thomas Deng: a strong candidate for honours