Mallia headlines generation next

When 17-year-old Mitchell Mallia was introduced 81 minutes in to the Mariners’ 3-1 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday, he not only became the youngest ever player to represent the club in the Hyundai A-League, but also represented a large group of youngsters ready to step up, as the club begins preparing for 2010/11.

When 17-year-old Mitchell Mallia was introduced 81 minutes in to the Mariners- 3-1 loss to Perth Glory on Sunday, he not only became the youngest ever player to represent the club in the Hyundai A-League, but also represented a large group of youngsters ready to step up, as the club begins preparing for 2010/11.

Already, National Youth League captain Panny Nikas and teenager Matthew Lewis have tasted first team action this season, while Australian Institute of Sport prodigy Mustafa Amini has won a Hyundai A-League contract for next season.

More members of the top-of-the-table NYL squad are in line to be blooded into the senior team over the final two rounds of the season, and Mallia believes that is great for not only the players- development, but also to gain valuable experience which can be taken back to the youth side, for their tilt at the finals series.

"We-ve still got to focus on our finals, we have got our youth finals coming up soon and we-re going very well, but I-d love another chance to show what I can do in the first team, and I-m sure so would a lot of the other boys.

"It-s where you learn to play better. You learn from the older players, and you need to match them to stay in there so hopefully I can stay in there, and prove myself in the youth team," Mallia said.

The Australian Under 17-s representative had started just five matches for Tony Walmsley-s NYL side and introduced off the bench a further 10 times this season, before being told of Lawrie McKinna-s plans for him last week.

"I got the call up during the week, and I just stayed positive and got a bench spot. I was pretty nervous at first but the boys were tops, they helped me through it step by step and (when) I got on the pitch it was an amazing experience.

"It-s professional football. Everything is top class, the training and everything leading up to the match is spot on to get the best performance," Mallia said.

He admits he wasn-t expecting what he heard from McKinna, when he was told of his elevation at a training session at Sohier Park last week.

"No I didn-t. I was just focussing on the youth team and competing for my spot every week, but I did pretty well to make the squad for the first team.

"The gaffer showed faith in me, he told me to just go out and enjoy it. In front of a big crowd, with 10-thousand people hating me, it was a great experience," said Mallia.

A rite of passage for any first time traveller with the Mariners- first team is an impromptu performance, singing on their initiation, usually in front of a crowd.

For Mallia, it came in the form of a rendition of Bon Jovi-s "You Give Love a Bad Name" in front of fellow passengers waiting to collect their baggage, following the return flight from Perth. He says he-d trade that experience for another crack at the A-League any time.

"Yeah it was. Coming off (the field) in front of 10-thousand people to sing in front of 300 people, that was much more nerve racking!"

The Mariners- final home match of the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 season will be against Newcastle Jets on Saturday, 6 February. Kick-off is at 6:00pm. Tickets are available online here or by phoning 132 849.