Thomas Deng's shock Victory

Melbourne Victory defender Thomas Deng

After captaining Melbourne Victory’s youth team last season, 18-year-old defender Thomas Deng has made a seamless progression into the reigning champion’s senior team, although to him it still feels like a shock.

Deng was born to a family of South Sudan refugees and moved to Australia from Kenya in 2003. He grew up in Adelaide and stayed there for nine years before moving to Melbourne, where he was spotted by Victory youth coach Darren Davies playing for Victorian NPL team Green Gully.

Deng soon made his A-League debut as a substitute against Adelaide United and a week later he won the supporters man of the match while playing in the derby against Melbourne City.

“I was very surprised,” Deng said.

“I didn’t think I would be playing for the first team so early in my career. Considering I only played youth football last year.”

“The environment that I’m around is very helpful all the coaches and the players teach a lot of the younger boys about the system, so it makes quite easy for the new players coming in.”

Deng started his career as a central midfielder before evolving into a central defender, where he has featured prominently for Paul Okon’s Young Socceroos side this year. It was an emotional moment for Deng when he reflected on his first game for his adopted country.

“It was astonishing. It was a proud moment,” Deng said. 

“It was such an honour to be playing and representing Australia at an international level.”

“It was such a different game. All the players were just so technical and very sharp and that is the good thing about playing at international level. You have to be on your toes.” 

Speaking about his senior national team aspirations Deng said: “I’d love to play for the Socceroos one day,"

"But just for now the focus is on my football and trying to play as much A-league games as I can and just focus on me.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.