NPL talents in AFC Champions League squads

It's an opportunity of a lifetime for a host of National Premier Leagues players, who are set to tackle Asia’s premier club competition after being selected in AFC Champions League squads.

Defending A-League Champions Sydney FC, as well as Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory, will contest the restarted AFC Champions League group stages this week in Doha in Qatar.

The Glory lead the number of NPL players making the step up to continental football after promoting five members of their Academy team, which competes in NPL Western Australia, to their squad for the tournament.

Nicholas Walsh, Mason Tatafu, Joshua Rawlins, Giordano Colli and Bryce Bafford have all been called up by Glory boss Richard Garcia as the Glory tackle Shanghai Shenhua, FC Tokyo and Ulsan Hyundai in Group F.

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Also selected for the Glory are former Glory youth players Luke Bodnar and Daniel Stynes have returned to the fold following successful stints in the NPL WA, while 20-year-old Bayswater City midfielder Declan Hughes has been included after impressing on trial.

Garcia told perthglory.com.au that the Champions League provides an exciting challenge for his squad and a tremendous opportunity for a number of young WA players to prove themselves at senior level.

"We’ve seen these players develop through the Academy and they deserve this opportunity,” said Garcia.

"It will be a huge test for them against the best that Asia has to offer and I am confident that they will adapt and rise to the challenge.

"Providing young WA players with opportunities to play for Glory is part of the club’s ambitions and I’m sure our Members and fans are as excited as we are to see how they perform."

The Sky Blues have also drawn on youngsters from their NPL New South Wales squad, including goal machine Patrick Wood, who netted 11 goals in 11 games over the recent season.

Sydney boss Steve Corica told sydneyfc.com.au that Wood will add much needed numbers to his squad with four matches yet to play in their campaign.

“We need depth and young Patrick Wood is coming in, he’s been doing very well at training,” he said.

Wood is joined by Levi Kaye in the squad, who continue their Group H campaign on Thursday 19 November against Shanghai SIPG at Khalifa International Stadium (kick off 9pm AEDT).

The Glory’s first assignment is against Shanghai Shenhua at Education City Stadium, Al-Rayyan on Wednesday 18 November (kick-off at 9pm AEDT)

The Victory will wait a further week before resuming their campaign in Group E against Beijing Guoan at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Tuesday, November 24 (kick-off at 9pm AEDT).

All matches will be shown on Fox Sports.

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