Albion Park coach Jeff Allport rates Shohei Okuno as the best player he has ever seen in the Illawarra Premier League.
In his debut season at the White Eagles, the Japanese star has been a nothing short of a revelation around Terry Reserve.
Known affectionately by his teammates as ‘Sho-Time’, Okuno scored 15 goals during the regular season and has maintained his rampant form on Park’s run to this Sunday’s decider against Kemblawarra.
He added a brace in the title contender’s 3-2 qualifying final against Bulli and scored the winner in the club’s 1-0 major semi final win over the Fury a fortnight ago.
The performances come as no surprise to Allport, who has been impressed by Okuno from the moment he arrived.
“He is the ultimate professional,” the coach said.
“His first session with us I had five guys come up to me and say we have to sign this bloke. Every session him – as well as Riku [Iwauchi] and Kotaro [Higashi] – there on time and working on their game.
“Even though he is the most skilful player I have ever seen, he also has a terrific work rate. And he fits in with us.
“He is just a nice guy outside of the fact that he is the best player I have ever seen in this league.”
Okuno arrived in Australia following three seasons in Europe where he played professionally.
The 26-year-old first played with FK Auda in Latvia in 2013 before linking up with FK Sloboda Užice in Serbia (2013-14) and most recently Pogoń Szczecin in Poland.
He arrived in Australia looking for more opportunities and was fortunate enough to wind up in the Illawarra despite interest elsewhere.
“I love Australia,” Okuno said of the move.
“It has been a very nice season here and I have enjoyed the football.”
Okuno’s partnership with fellow VISA players, Iwauchi and Higashi, has been a one key element to his success.
“It’s made it easier playing with them,” Okuno said.
“We understand how each other play when we are on the pitch. I also feel that coach [Allport] and team have accepted us in.”