'Santa' delivers the presents for A-League's 'ageing XI'

It has been a stellar A-League season so far for players in their 30s, so The World Game invited one of the competition's in-form veterans, Brendon Santalab, to pick his best "ageing XI". The 34-year-old quickly found that he had to leave a lot of good players out of his XI.

Brendon Santalab

Brendon Santalab has compiled the A-League's ageing XI for players over 30-years-old Source: AAP

Western Sydney Wanderers striker Santalab embraces the benefits of sports science and swears by the concept of treating your body like a temple when it comes to increasing the longevity of his playing career.

It must be working for him, because he has been in great form and scored a fantastic goal against Wellington Phoenix last weekend, getting his body into a position, no 34-year-old should realistically be able to, before hooking the ball past goalkeeper Glen Moss.

But it is working for plenty of other players as well.

"Players reaching 30 now are in a great position to go on and play comfortably until they're 35 or 36," Santalab said.

"The way I see it, my body is my everything and I look after it as best I can."

The only position that was a bit light-on, for the 30-or-over category, was fullback. Essentially, they do more running than any other player on the field.

So "Santa" created - and then used - his discretionary power to include Tarek Elrich, who turns 30 on January 1.

So here is Santalab's starting team and bench players, complete with his reasons for picking them.


Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United, 35). "He's been the benchmark in the A-League for a long time and still deserves top billing."


Jade North (Brisbane Roar, 34). "Super-consistent player. Keeps holding his form at a high level every season and rarely makes a mistake."

Michael Jakobsen (Melbourne City, 31 on January 2). "True pro. Doesn't react to players niggling him and is outstanding on the ball. Very hard to get it off him."


Josh Rose (Melbourne City, 35). "Deserves congratulations for making a success of his big move from the Mariners to Melbourne City."


Tarek Elrich (Adelaide United, 30 on January 1). "If I was picking the team when he turns 30 in a week - he'd be in it, so I'll pick him now. He's probably lying about his age anyway!"


Carl Valeri (Melbourne Victory, 32). "Has had a great career and overcome a big health scare to perform strongly this season. At the back in a diamond midfield."

Matt McKay (Brisbane Roar, 33). "Never stops running and is one of the most committed players in the competition. I'd have him on the right."

Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide United, 33). "On the left. What he brought to the A-League in terms of skill and vision has been outstanding."

Milos Ninkovic (Sydney FC, 32 on Christmas Day). "Terrific player who can run, but he's not the greatest defensively so I'd put him at the top of the diamond."


Besart Berisha (Melbourne Victory, 31). "Has to be at the top of the attack. He's the ultimate goal-scorer and he's in fantastic form."

Alex Brosque (Sydney FC, 33). "I'd have him as a deep-lying forward. He can play anywhere in the front line and I reckon he'd work well with Berisha."


Danny Vukovic (Sydney FC, 31). "Overcame a rough time early in his career, in terms of his discipline, to become a very consistent goalkeeper. In great form."

Iacopo La Rocca (Adelaide United, 32). "Mr Reliable. Strong, aggressive, good passer and can play either centre back or holding midfielder."

Milos Dimitrijevic (Sydney FC, 32). "Can play as a holder or further forward in midfield. If you're winning, he can come on and control the game."

Tim Cahill (Melbourne City, 37). "You've got to have Timmy in the squad and he would be great off the bench as that player who can change a game."

Brendon Santalab (Western Sydney Wanderers, 34). "I have to put myself in because everyone labels me the super-sub. If I wasn't on the bench it would look a bit silly!"

Some of the 30-plus brigade who missed out: Glen Moss, Thomas Sorensen, Michael Theo, Liam Reddy, Alex Wilkinson, Nigel Boogaard, Andrew Durante, Alan Baro, Dino Djulbic, Manny Muscat, Jacques Faty, Vince Lia, Neil Kilkenny, Dimas, Mikhael Tavares, Gui Finkler, Thomas Broich, Thomas Kristensen, Nebojsa Marinkovic, David Carney, Andy Keogh, Diego Castro, Roy O'Donovan, Henrique, Fahid Ben Khanfallah and Filip Holosko. 

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4 min read
Published 22 December 2016 at 6:32pm
By Greg Prichard