SYDNEY : Teenager Garang Kuol was hailed as a "special talent" by Central Coast Mariners coach Nick Montgomery after his fourth goal in seven A-League games helped the club to a 2-0 win over Brisbane Roar and a spot in the playoffs.
A fourth straight win for the Mariners locked up a spot in the top six of the regular season standings with one match to spare before the start of the knockout stage that will decide the championship.
Kuol, born in Egypt to refugee parents from South Sudan, came on as a substitute in the 59th minute in Queensland on Tuesday and four minutes later found the net to double his side's lead.
"Garang, he's a special talent," Montgomery said of the 17-year-old forward.
"When he comes off the bench he just needs one chance. That shows what a talent he is. Great finish tonight."
The Mariners, perhaps best known for offering Olympic champion Usain Bolt a three-month trial in 2018, are based in the sleepy town of Gosford an hour's drive north of Sydney.
They won A-League titles in 2008 and 2012 by making the most of what limited resources they had, a process that has been continued by former Sheffield United midfielder Montgomery, first at the club's academy and now as head coach.
"We've got the smallest squad, the smallest budget, in the league but what we are blessed with is good young players that I've coached for the last couple of years," Montgomery added.
"They know what I expect and they're honest, they work hard."
Among the players nurtured on the Central Coast was Kuol's older brother Alou, who was snapped up by Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart last year.
A survey by the Swiss-based CIES Football Observatory published last month placed the Mariners 17th among clubs in the top 40 leagues around the world for giving homegrown talent playing time.
Montgomery said that would not be changing any time soon.
"I don't see them as young players - they're A-League players," he said.
"As long as I'm at the club I'll continue to give them opportunities."