In the off season fans of Australian A-League team Brisbane Roar were looking forward to a year of rebuilding under new coach Ange Postecoglu and were lucky enough to see some very impressive foundations emerge during what had been an underwhelming previous campaign. Young guns Adam Sarota, Tommy Oar and Michael Zullo were shining lights in a dull season, with 18-year-old Oar in particular stealing the limelight with some stellar performances in his first full season in professional football. So impressive was the zippy left winger that he received a call from the Socceroos to make his first appearance in the green and gold against Indonesia in a 1-0 victory in Brisbane.

Although a dour performance overall from the Asian based players, Oar stood out from the rest with his runs down the left flank and a willingness to attempt to beat his man. Many in Australia haven’t seen talent like that since the days of Harry Kewell in his heyday.

And, with his meteoric rise to fame, Oar and team-mates Michael Zullo and Adam Sarota went out to trial with FC Utrecht in Holland’s Eredivisie.

Zullo was the main prospect at Brisbane Roar before an injury ruled him out of contention. Typically a left winger himself, Zullo adapted to a left wing-back role for the Roar in the latter half of the season, a position that had been quite problematic for the club. In the season previous, Zullo had a successful trial with NEC Nijmegen and the Dutch club offered the talented Brisbane winger a contract. However, Zullo decided it would be better for his development to stay in the A-League and partake in a further season to concentrate on building his burgeoning reputation as the most skilful dribbler in domestic football. Many had expected the once capped Socceroo to make the move to Europe at some stage and it seems that Zullo will now have the company of two of his former team-mates in Holland.


The most surprising of the three however, is Adam Sarota. A midfielder by trade, Sarota has already had a stint in Europe with the youth team of Bundesliga side 1.FC Koln. Voted Youth Player of the Year in the Australian National Youth League, Sarota was promoted to the senior side where he was expected to make an impact of sorts, but certainly find himself behind the likes of Mitch Nichols and Scotsman Charlie Miller. However, after a dip in the form of Nichols and the termination of Miller’s contract, Sarota was called on by newly appointed coach Ange Postecoglu to fill the midfield gap. He performed admirably with some inventive passing and showed maturity beyond his years.

At the close of the season, the youngsters decided to go on trial to gain further experience and perhaps pick up some valuable knowledge that would stand them in good stead for their next season with the Queensland club, but so impressed were the coaching staff at FC Utrecht, by all three, that they were all signed for a figure in the region of €1.2M. Brisbane Roar, who have been having financial difficulties, eagerly accepted the offer and saw off the cream of their crop to Holland.

Although not all that positive for the fans of the Roar in terms of possible future success, the club have proven that their youth development is amongst the best in the whole of Australia. Indeed, Brisbane Roar have now added to a list of exported talent that already included fringe Socceroo Dario Vidosic and Universitaea Craiova midfielder Spase Dilevski.

What though can FC Utrecht fans expect from the Australian trio? It is still early days, but it is a good bet that Oar will be the most likely to make an impact at the club having already made his first appearance in the Europa League, albeit for only a minute. However, if Zullo and Sarota can improve exponentially they will certainly be in the running for Socceroos spots and starting positions in the Utrecht midfield. Off the pitch however, the trio should be on very close terms and this will arguably enable them to settle into the Dutch lifestyle a lot quicker that might ordinarily be the case – no bad thing when they are thousands of miles from home.

Whatever the individual outcomes of their Dutch adventure, this is an important step forward in their development and status as symbols of the next generation of Australians playing abroad.