Only five days ago, 16-year-old midfielder Avaani Prakash signed her first professional contract with Western United and now, she’s the youngest debutant in the club’s history to play in the Liberty A-League Women.
An injury to Melissa Taranto saw the teenager who is of Fijian heritage introduced by Mark Torcaso after 37 minutes.
She slotted into the centre of midfield alongside the likes of Emma Robers as the Westerners gained a point in an exhilarating 2-2 stalemate with Melbourne City on Sunday afternoon.
Prakash, who has already represented Australia at Under-16 and Under-20 level as well as being a part of the Future Matildas program and once juggling in front of Sam Kerr, Steph Catley and Alanna Kennedy on a Sunrise segment back in 2019, gave a good account of herself on Liberty A-League debut against an experienced City engine room.
“Incredible, 16 years old (and) getting the opportunity at Western United,” A-Leagues legend Grace Gill said on commentary duties on 10 Play.
“She plays in the Bulls FC Academy in NSW and went to the Westfield Sports High School in Sydney… a huge opportunity.”
Former Matildas defender Alicia Ferguson-Cook added: “That’s quality… every young footballer’s dream to sign their first pro contract. To do it at 16 is pretty special.
“(I’d) be interested to see how the dynamic for this Western United defensive block changes with Prakash there. Maybe she is going to offer more creativity and support for Chloe Logarzo, who has a difficult job on her hands against Rebekah Stott.”
There were glimpses to suggest Prakash will fit right in at this level, with her creativity on show.
In 2022, she was part of the Junior Matildas side that won the AFF Women’s Championship, playing alongside Western United defender Silver Bell Morris in that team.
Prakash has also attended Westfield Sports High School, an institution with a remarkable Hall of Fame of footballers including Ellie Carpenter, Alanna Kennedy, Kyra Cooney-Cross and Harry Kewell, as well as current Western United men’s stars Noah Botic and Ramy Najjarine.
Reaching a long-term goal in signing her first professional contract, Prakash said she is overjoyed to sign for Western United and is anxious to get started in the Liberty A-League.
“I am very grateful to Western United and can’t wait to play. I have been working very hard toward this for a number of years now,” she said.
“I am super excited and honoured to play alongside the talented players in the team and be guided by Mark. This is only the beginning of my professional football career, and I aim to bring finesse to Australian football and play a game that players and fans both enjoy.”
Western United Head Coach Mark Torcaso said Prakash’s supreme quality and potential made her signing one of his most pleasing at the Club so far.
“I am extremely delighted to bring Avaani into our squad and grateful for all of the work that our staff put in to get this deal over the line,” he said.
“I have watched Avaani play a number of times and I have been so excited by her quality each time. She has the ability to go right to the top and I think our fans are going to love watching her play this season.
“Importantly, we recognise Avaani is still very young and has lots of growth to come, and we are committed to nurturing her talent and ensuring she can develop as one of the Green and Black family.”