The 2022-23 European football season is over, so it’s the ideal time to reflect on how our Socceroos went during the campaign, ranking a top 10, with a skew to the quality of their league.
There are a few unlucky players to miss out, including Martin Boyle who started the season strong before being struck down by an ACL injury, along with Awer Mabil who won silverware in the Czech Republic after his ambitious move to Spain’s La Liga didn’t pan out as hoped.
Aziz Behich had some strong games in Scotland but ultimately his Dundee United were relegated, with a late-season red card for dissent not helping their cause at all. Ryan Strain was very close to the top 10 as a good performer for St Mirren as full-back, with a few excellent free-kick goals too.
Alex Robertson, Cameron Peupion and Mohamed Toure all made good strides at youth level but this list is focused on senior first-team football.
- Keanu Baccus – St Mirren (36 appearances (33 league, 3 cup), 2 goals, 2 assists)
Dropped away as the season wore on, but was brilliant in the first half of the campaign in the lead-up to the World Cup, prompting reported interest from Championship clubs Huddersfield, Cardiff City and Millwall, while Scottish giants Rangers almost landed him in January. Brought energy to St Mirren’s midfield, displaying good control and passing range. May be on the move in the off-season.
- Connor Metcalfe – St Pauli (31 appearances (30 league, 1 cup), 3 goals, 2 assists)
Settled in exceptionally well at 2.Bundesliga club St Pauli after his off-season move from Melbourne City, debuting almost immediately. Scored in his third game for the club which helped. Used out wide in attack, making 13 starts and 17 appearances off the bench. Netted two goals in two games during their 10-game winning run which ultimately ended in falling short of promotion.
- Cammy Devlin – Hearts (41 appearances (30 league, 4 cup, 2 Europa, 5 Conference), 2 goals (1 league, 1 cup), 4 assists)
Tenacious midfielder who continued his rise in his second season in Scotland, making 34 starts in all competitions for Hearts. Responded well after a red card against Rangers in October, with his willing work rate. Tireless, relentless nature made him a popular figure at Tynecastle, albeit missing a touch of craft and power.
- Denis Genreau – Toulouse (20 appearances (20 league, 0 cup), 1 assist)
Playing in Ligue 1, Genreau was close to the Socceroo playing consistently at the highest level this season. It must be noted, only seven of Genreau’s 20 appearances for Toulouse were starts, regularly used for brief cameos off the bench, but he did enjoy a good run of form with six starts across April and May. The 24-year-old midfielder didn’t play in any of Toulouse’s Coupe de France games, watching on from the bench as they lifted the trophy with a 5-1 win over Nantes in the final.
- Harry Souttar – Stoke City/Leicester City (19 appearances (7 Stoke, 12 Leicester), 1 assist)
The big central defender missed most of the first half of the season recovering from an ACL injury and went in and out of the Leicester City side as they were relegated, but he had his moments. Souttar’s impact upon his return from injury was impressive, playing full 90-minute shifts in a run of five straight games for Stoke before his January switch to Premier League club Leicester. He was outstanding in the Foxes’ goalless draw with Newcastle in the penultimate round, offering them hope of survival, but ultimately they went down.
- Kye Rowles – Hearts (33 appearances (29 league, 2 cup, 2 Europa), 1 goal, 1 assist)
Enjoyed a strong first season in Scotland with Hearts, quickly establishing himself as a first-choice centre back, only to break his foot when scoring his maiden goal in August. After missing over two months, Rowles won back his spot in the Hearts starting line-up and remained a staple of their side that qualified for the UEFA Conference League. He was inconsistent at times, but made a decent impression for being reliable at the back, strong in the air and comfortable on the ball. Good form warranted a contract extension to 2028 in January.
- Mat Ryan – FC Copenhagen/AZ Alkmaar (36 appearances (11 FC Copenhagen (6 league, 1 cup, 4 UCL), 25 AZ (18 league, 1 cup, 6 UEFA Conference League)
Endured a fascinating season where he played in the Champions League against Dortmund and Sevilla, before falling out of favour, copping potshots from his goalkeeping rival and being forced to leave in January. Despite that, Ryan fell on his feet, enjoying a strong second half to the campaign with AZ in both the Eredivisie, where they finished fourth, and the UEFA Conference League, where they lost in the semi-finals to West Ham. Ryan didn’t miss a game for AZ when available, keeping six clean sheets in the league.
- Jackson Irvine – St Pauli (35 appearances (33 league, 2 cup), 8 goals, 2 assists)
Irvine embodies everything St Pauli nowadays to the point where he was handed the club’s captain armband this term. The tireless midfielder played a critical role in their promotion push which ultimately fell short in fifth. Irvine was a constant in their 10-game winning run from January to April which catapulted them up the table, playing every minute of that span and scoring four goals with an assist. He was a genuine goal threat from set-pieces, but there’s more to his game than that, breaking up attacks, tackling with aggression and keeping the ball moving in midfield.
- Riley McGree – Middlesbrough (46 appearances (45 league, 1 cup), 6 goals, 3 assists)
The 24-year-old attacking midfielder firmly established himself as a starting XI player at promotion-chasing Middlesbrough in 2022-23, becoming a favourite of new manager Michael Carrick in their run to the playoffs. The crafty left-footer added six goals and three assists in the league, supporting Championship top scorer Chuba Akpom excellently. His strength on the ball and creativity seemed to go to another level this term, along with his consistency, returning from the World Cup with renewed confidence. He also added to his impressive highlights reel with a stunning left-foot strike in November against Norwich City from outside the box.
- Aaron Mooy – Celtic (35 appearances (29 league, 6 UCL, 8 cup), 7 goals (4 league, 3 cup), 9 assists (8 league, 1 cup))
Outstanding campaign, playing a significant role as Celtic won an historic treble under Ange Postecoglou after his career appeared at a crossroads following his ill-fated move to China. Mooy had to initially spend time re-building his match fitness after his July move, playing mostly off the bench, but he found his touch, providing three assists in three games in October and starting against Real Madrid in the Champions League. After the World Cup, he was instrumental for Celtic, starting more games, scoring seven goals and providing seven assists between Christmas and March. Injuries held Mooy back late in the campaign, not playing in the Scottish Cup final, but he got an assist as Celtic beat Hearts 2-0 in May to clinch the Premiership.