The beauty of the Illawarra Premier League is the emergence of the next generation of talent.
The league boasts a number of senior stars such as former professionals like Justin Pasfield as well as plenty of experienced heads that have been there and done that such as Chris Price, Tynan Diaz and Peter Simonoski.
So who will be the next generation of players that we will be putting in that bracket in 15-20 years time?
The Mercury was there to witness every team play in the 2023 season. Here are the top five rookies to emerge from the year.
In a star-studded Olympic team that Matt Bailey has at his disposal, it becomes tough for that next crop of players to take the jersey off their senior counterparts.
Olympic were hit with a number of injuries and suspensions in 2023, paving the way for young Zapata to etch together some first team minutes.
It was a moment to remember for Gabriel Zapata in July against Corrimal, when the youngster came off the bench to score his first goal for the first team against the Rangers in a 4-0 rout.
Whilst he did not get consistent playing minutes in the beginning of the season, the youth grade captain made three appearances on the way to Olympic's Bert Bampton Cup triumph, as well as making his full starting debut in the IPL in a 4-2 win against Tarrawanna.
Zapata made seven appearances in the IPL in total. He picked up youth grade player's player at Olympic's awards night as a result of his stellar year.
It has been a meteoric rise for young centre-back Lucas Loncar at South Coast United.
Not long ago he was playing youth grade. That was until first grade coach Greg Valic saw potential in the towering defender, giving him ample opportunity in the top grade the last couple of years.
Still with plenty to learn, but there is no questioning his potential to be one of the best defenders in the league in the future. He is strong in the tackle and comfortable in possession.
Loncar was given the captain's armband on a number of occasions for SCU in 2023. He will almost certainly have to get used to wearing it more often.
He was part of a side that improved massively this season. SCU accumulated six wins, including major victories against eventual title winners Albion Park and Coniston respectively. Loncar played the entirely of both of those matches.
The Wollongong United midfielder has been around the traps for a little while now, but he is starting to make that position his own in the middle of the park.
He featured in an inexperienced United side that is built for the future, with a number of youngsters in Bailey Barbarovski, Rene Vescio, Jayden Makowski and Joshua Correia all getting consistent minutes under Billy Tsovolos.
Hales is in prime position to be one of the first names on the team sheet under Rob Jonovski next season, with the two working together previously at the now disbanded Kemblewarra Fury.
Die-hard fans of Tarrawanna will be familiar with the name Tim Chapman.
The former Wolves junior featured a number of times in youth, seconds and first grade for the Blueys, but he has made a real name for himself now across the road at Corrimal.
Brother of Dan at Tarrawanna, Tim was a constant figure at at fullback for the Rangers under Manny Mavridis and Phil Matias.
Corrimal certainly looked promising at times this Premier League season. They ended up amounting seven wins in their 22 fixtures.
Another South Coast United representative. Similiar to Loncar, Antoni Anic started his foray into the first team through consistent performances in youth grade.
Originally a midfielder, Anic played a lot of football this season in the fullback role.
Anic gives it his all every game and provides plenty of positive, forward thinking on the field in order to get SCU going in attack.
Both Anic and Loncar should be on the South Coast team sheet for over a decade if things go to plan.
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