Illawarra fans of the world game will have plenty of local talent to check out when the 2023/24 A-League season kicks off this weekend.
The two highest profile Illawarra players Joel King and Tate Russell will line up for two of the biggest clubs in the competition in Sydney FC and their crosstown rivals Western Sydney Wanderers respectively.
Wollongong's Russell, who is on track to return from an ACL injury which saw him miss the entire 2022-23 season, is joined at the Wanderers by Shellharbour young-gun Alex Bonetig.
Australia Cup champions Sydney also have Stanwell Park goalkeeper Gus Hoefsloot and Dapto teen scholarship player Zac De Jesus on their books.
Another former Dapto junior Matthew Jurman will play for a Macarthur side coached by former Wollongong Wolves player Mile Sterjovski.
Shellharbour junior Joel King, who will miss Sydney FC's 'Big Blue' clash against Melbourne Victory this Saturday due to a calf strain, said it was exciting to see so many Illawarra players making their mark in the A-League.
"It's not only at Sydney, there's a few boys at the Wanderers also. There's Tate Russell and Alex Bonetig is coming through now, so it's good to see a lot of the boys coming through," he said.
"It obviously shows there's a lot of good coaching and good products down our way. I really love seeing our boys do well."
Personally the 22-year-old left-back hopes to be back playing in Sydney's round three stoush against Melbourne City.
It was against City in the Sky Blues' Australia Cup semifinal victory that King picked up his calf strain.
With Sydney riding high after their Australia Cup success and having bolstered their squad, King knows he will have to work hard to earn his starting spot back.
"Things are looking very good for us at the moment. Obviously winning the cup gives us a lot of confidence and the boys are really happy and just really can't wait to get started this weekend," he said.
"I think even since the start of preseason, the boys have been jelling well. We've bought in a few new players and I think they've added a lot to our team and we've got a lot of depth now.
"I think we're all just very excited to get started and hopefully we can start with a few wins and then get on a roll.
"The Big Blue is always a big game and Melbourne Victory are always a team that have a lot of strength. It's going to be a tough game but I think we're looking solid this season and I think we have every right to be confident."
Sydney have bolstered their squad with two Brazilians, striker Fabio Roberto Gomes Netto and defender Gabriel Santos Cordeiro Lacerda as well as Jordy Courtney-Perkins from Brisbane Roar
"That's three very good players that have come in. I think it just adds to the depth of our squad as well," King said.
"We've also got a few players from last year that are doing well so it's going to be hard to get a start in the starting lineup this season. I think that's a good problem to have.
"Personally I want to play well individually and as a team we obviously want to win all three trophies this year.
"I just want to play well and hopefully contribute a bit more to the team's success.
"If I'm playing well on an individual aspect, then I can try to look to get into the Socceroos team again."
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