Socceroos great Jason Culina has thrown his support behind the establishment of a national second division to help Australia produce better footballers.
Culina played in two FIFA World Cups for Australia and earned 58 senior national team caps. The 40-year-old, a product of the NSL and a member of the Golden Generation, believes a new full-time second division is needed to provide more development opportunities for young players.
“Every day I wake up and I look at Live Score, I look at the results around the world,” he told The World Game.
“Then it comes to the English leagues and they’ve got so many divisions. That’s why we’re not really progressing here because players aren’t really given a chance.
"You compare the NPL with the A-League – it’s semi-pro, it’s amateur still.
“That step-up from the NPL at the moment into the A-League is too great. Why? Because A-League players train every day and you cant compare a player who trains every day to a player who trains two or three times a week. And the intensity is different as well.
"The passion is a little bit different as well because I’m not paid as much so I’m not going to put in as much… so that’s what it comes down to.
"Yes we need another full-time division if we want to help players become better, if we want to start producing players.
“Because at the moment that step from the NPL – and believe me there are some really good players in the NPL – they’re just not ready to take the next step. Why? Because number one they’re not getting the opportunity and number two, if they have been given the opportunity they’re not ready for it yet.
“So I think that’s what that second division will do is bridge that gap. But it will also give a lot of young players an opportunity to be seen, to be shown, so that’s great. In terms of promotion and relegation, I don’t think that’s going to happen in the near future.
“I think that can happen with time. I’m all for a second division, I think it’s a fantastic idea. I really hope it happens.
"I think it will be exciting, it will get more people engaged. People who haven’t been engaged in the A-League for many, many years will start getting excited about football again.”
Culina came through at Sydney United 58 in the 1990s before going on to star in the Netherlands with Twente and PSV. He returned to play in the A-League in 2009 with Gold Coast United and then Sydney FC.
The midfielder, who hung up his boots in 2013, admits only recently he has started taking interest in the A-League again after a several-year absence.
“My kids are now playing at Brisbane Roar and so I’ve started following Brisbane Roar,” he said. "Therefore I’ve started to watch the A-League again.
"To be honest I didn’t watch the A-League for three or four years, up until this season, because it just didn’t interest me whatsoever.
“I was more focused on my boys playing football and junior football, I’m still a massive fan of youth football – that’s where my interest lies right now. However, watching the A-League – it’s different.
“We’re headed in a slightly different direction with A-League football, professional football given the circumstances of the past 12 months. It’s changed, it’s got a different dynamic somewhat and it’s made it a little bit interesting.”
After retiring as a player, Culina coached at school level in his hometown before briefly taking over at former club Sydney United 58 in 2017. But he relocated to the Gold Coast last year with his family and is now focused on watching and supporting his two sons, and is not seeking a return to the coaching world.
“We always liked the Gold Coast,” he said. “It’s good, we’re all enjoying it.
"My wife runs an interior design business. She’s very, very good at it and very successful. I focus more on the kids and the football side of things.
“I was coaching my oldest son last year in the Under-13s at Gold Coast United, however both my boys have moved to Brisbane Roar. So I’ve become a professional taxi driver, that doesn’t get paid [laughs].
“Since I’ve finished playing football I’ve just looked for that work-life balance.
"When I was coaching, the balance just didn’t work for me and you need to get that right, especially having a certain routine for 15, 16, 17 years. I’ve finally got that now and I think it works.”