Former NPL players who became pro footballers

Western United took another step in their journey to growing football in Melbourne’s west this week, announcing that it will be entering two teams into the 2021 NPL Victoria season.

United will enter one team in the NPL3 senior competition and one in the Under 21’s, in what is a landmark moment towards establishing a pathway for young players in the west.

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There have been some decorated players who have come from the semi-professional competitions in Victoria and gone on to become full-time footballers.

Here are some of the players who began their careers at Victorian NPL clubs before turning pro:

Matthew Leckie

Leckie is known in Australia primarily because of his place in the Socceroos’ starting eleven, however his career began at Bulleen Lions in the Victorian State League Division One (equivalent to the current NPL2 Victoria competition). Leckie turned pro shortly after, signing with A-League club Adelaide United before heading to Germany’s Bundesliga. There he’s had stints at Borussia Mönchengladbach and his current club, Hertha Berlin. The 29-year-old is ranked 15th for overall Socceroos’ appearances with 63 and made six starts across the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.

Leckie
Matthew Leckie duelling with France's N'Golo Kanté at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Jason Davidson

Another recent Socceroo, Davidson in 2009 played for Hume City in the Victorian Premier League (equivalent to current NPL Victoria competition). From there, Davidson had spells in Portugal and Netherlands, before moving to English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion, where he made two league and three cup appearances. A solid year in the English Championship followed with Huddersfield Town, where Davidson made 22 appearances. The left-back returned to Australia in 2018, playing every game bar one in Perth Glory’s Premiership run under Tony Popovic. Davidson moved back overseas at the beginning of the 2019/20 season, signing with Korean giants Ulsan Hyundai, who are currently in the quarter finals of the AFC Champions League. Davidson has represented his country on 22 occasions including three starts at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Aziz Behich

On either side of his one season at Melbourne Victory, Behich spent time in the Victorian Premier League with Green Gully SC in 2008 and 2009, and Hume City in 2010. Behich went on to sign with A-League club Melbourne Heart where he made 65 appearances, before heading to Europe to spend five years at Turkish club Bursaspor. A stint at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in 2018/19 saw him make five appearances in the Eredivisie, until he returned to Turkey to sign with his current parent club Istanbul Başakşehir for the 2019/20 season. Behich has 38 caps for the Socceroos, including three starts at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Behich
Behich playing for Australia against Denmark at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Ryan Scott

Western United’s very own. Scott spent four years at Bentleigh Greens in NPL Victoria as their number one keeper. He won multiple championships at Bentleigh and was the hero in the club’s 2019 Grand Final, being named man of the match in a penalty shoot-out win over Avondale FC. The former bricklayer joined United in November 2019 as an injury-replacement and made his A-League debut in the club’s round 22 win over Adelaide.