Academy Head Coach Joe Palatsides previews Victory’s VPL1 season

With Melbourne Victory’s junior teams competing in the Football Victoria competitions kicking off their season last week, the Club’s VPL1 sides in the Senior Men’s and Under 23 competitions will start their campaign this weekend as they face Northcote City at John Cain Memorial Park.

Joe Palatsides’ side will play in the second tier of Victorian football this season after gaining promotion to the league from the VPL2 competition (previously called NPL3) and will compete against fellow A-League academy sides as well as some of the giants of Victorian football including the likes of Preston Lions, Bentleigh Greens, North Geelong Warriors and Bulleen Lions.

Victory’s Academy has been a breeding ground for the A-League side over the past couple of seasons with a number of the Academy graduates and Under 23 A-League listed players featuring in the competition.

Melbourne Victory transitioned five Academy players from 2023 into this season’s unbeaten A-League Men’s team, with Christian Siciliano, Josh Inserra, Jordi Valadon, Franco Lino and Kasey Bos all earning professional contracts.

This season, the VPL1 competition is as competitive as ever and as Palatsides looked ahead to the start of the competition, the Head Coach was looking forward to starting the league and continuing the development of a talented, young group of players.

“I’m really excited to get things going and to play competitive games. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to test ourselves at a higher level against not only more competitive teams but also the other A-League academies as well,” Palatsides said.

“The last three seasons have seen a steady stream of players from our Academy represented in the senior A-League side and that makes us really proud. That’s the goal for us, to help these players on this pathway to senior football and this competition is an important part in this.

“We’ve got another batch of good young, talented players and now they have to show that they have taken another step in their development. It’s an exciting time for everyone and this league will provide a different level of pressure to perform that many of them haven’t seen before.

“We look at where we want to end up in the league and we want to win every game. We know that’s an important part in player development in knowing how to win games and doing it in a way that follows our fundamentals and the system we set out as a team and as a Club.

“There’s no doubt the boys will make mistakes and they will learn and that’s completely fine but the expectation is there for them to perform at the highest level to give them the best chance at representing Melbourne Victory in the A-League.”

Victory’s squad has seen the natural progression of players who have transitioned out of the Academy program to other A-League or NPL/VPL team but at its core, the squad has remained relatively unchanged with the promotion of the Under 23 players in to the Senior team as well as the signings of Luka Kolic (Melbourne Knights) and Will McIntosh (Germany) and Palatsides said there will be plenty of opportunities for those players to impress.

“For us, we can give fans and members names of players who could have the potential to make the senior side but the thing with development is that sometimes, it’s a player that you may not have expected to develop as quickly make their way up from the 23’s or even the 16’s or 18’s side and catch the eye of Tony Popovic.

“He has continually showed his faith in these players and given them tastes of the environment in pre-season and at training during the season so that’s why we always tell our players that there’s always an opportunity for every young player when they step out on the pitch in a Melbourne Victory shirt, they need to impress and produce on any stage they are on.

“All I can say is that we want everyone to come out at some stage of the season and see these boys for themselves show what they have to offer in a strong competition and see the next generation of Melbourne Victory.”

Victory’s first match of the VPL1 season is on Friday 9 February against Northcote City at John Cain Memorial Park, Thornbury. Kick-off 8.15pm.

Melbourne Victory 2024 VPL1 Squad: Eli Adams, Lucas Alessi, Linus Bourke, Kasey Bos, Damien Bozinovski, Matthew Bozinovski, Nikolas Cevizovic, Adem Duratovic, Daniel Duvnjak (GK), Riley Foxe, Giani Galanos, Austin Ganino, Jesse Hoey, Jordan Hoey, Josh Inserra, Alexander Kapaklis, George Karvounis, William Kennedy, Luka Kolic, Daniel Lazarevski, Owen McCloskey, Alex Menelaou, Jack Mihailidis, Tommaso Minutoli, Fabian Monge, Victor Muhindo, John Paikopoulos, Dimitri Palatsides, Thomas Pennisi, Marc Petheriotis, Anton Primorac, Zach Puhalovich, Kayne Razmovski, Christian Siciliano (GK), Yonathan Sultan (GK), Ahmad Taleb (GK), Ryan Teague, Jordi Valadon.