Australian football is on the rise, with no finer evidence than the Socceroos’ last-16 finish at the 2022 World Cup.
While domestic leagues back home are steadily improving, this recent success is largely thanks to Aussie players flying the nest and trying their luck abroad. Many footballers have found their feet in England’s second division, the Championship – here are three of the best.
Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)
Socceroos star Aaron Mooy boasts 57 caps for his country and starred in Qatar this winter, playing the full 90 minutes in all four of Australia’s matches. Despite coming through the ranks at Scottish side St. Mirren before a move home to the A-League in 2012, Mooy eventually secured a move to Manchester City four years later. It was while on loan from the Premier League giants that Mooy featured in the Championship, making 45 appearances for Huddersfield in 2016-17 as they secured promotion to the top flight.
This dream would only last two seasons, though, when the Terriers were demoted back to England’s second tier, with Mooy making one more Championship appearance in 2019-20 before securing a move to Brighton. This campaign, his former club risk facing relegation, with just seven wins from their opening 25 matches giving Huddersfield The Championship odds of 8/13 to go down. Away from the Terriers, Mooy spent two seasons in the Prem before a move to China and his eventual home, Celtic, where he is still playing.
Jackson Irvine (Burton Albion, Hull City)
Mooy’s team-mate in Qatar, Jackson Irvine, amassed four seasons in the Championship across two clubs, Burton Albion and Hull City. The Melbourne-born midfielder first came to the United Kingdom in 2012 with a move to Mooy’s current employers Celtic, before successive loan moves to Kilmarnock and Ross County. After his fourth season in the Scottish Premier League, Burton snapped Irvine up for a fee of £1.9 million.
The 27-year-old – who boasts 53 caps to his name – had an impressive return of 10 goals in 42 appearances for the Brewers. This earned him a move in 2017 to Hull City, where he remained for three seasons. Irvine amassed 107 appearances for the Tigers between 2017 and 2020, but couldn’t match his previous goalscoring heights, with just 10 goals to his name in that three-year period. In total, the Australia international totalled 152 Championship appearances before returning briefly to the SPL with Hibernian before landing in Germany with St. Pauli, where he recently signed a new deal.
Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace, Aston Villa)
While Irvine may have amassed the most appearances in England’s second tier, Mile Jedinak is not far behind. The former Socceroos captain is just five shy of his fellow countryman’s record with 147 Championship appearances to his name, splayed across five seasons with Crystal Palace and Aston Villa. Jedinak spent lengthy spells in Australia, Croatia and Turkey before a move to Crystal Palace in 2011, where he made 165 appearances across six seasons.
Of these six, two were spent in the Championship, and in 2012-13 Jedinak led the Eagles to England’s top flight via the play-offs with a 1-0 win over Watford after extra time. Decreased playing time under manager Alan Pardew saw him drop back down to the second division with Aston Villa in 2016, where he spent three seasons and reached the playoffs twice before successful promotion in 2018-19 with a 2-1 win over Derby County. The defensive midfielder retired that year has also made a whopping 79 appearances for his national team, which even includes three World Cup goals.
In total, there are seven Socceroos still playing in the Championship, out of a total of 54 to have done so since records began in 2004. The league serves as an important source of experience and growth for many players and has helped Australian football blossom into what it is today.