A new study by Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA) has identified what set Australia's 'Golden Generation' of footballers apart in a bid to create a framework for talent management and development going forward.
The 18-month study, titled 'Culture Amplifies Talent: Building a Framework for Golden Generations', was conducted by Victoria University and included 17 'Golden Generation' participants selected on two criteria: age and excellence.
The sample ranged from Paul Okon born in 1972, to Nathan Burns, born in 1988, with 13 of the 17 players born in the decade between 1975 and 1984.
As a point of comparison, a small sample of five Australian national youth team players aged in their late teens in 2018 were interviewed using a similar format to the older players.
The report was off the back of the 2017 Player Pathway study, which identified a decline in Australian footballers playing in Europe's top five leagues and highlighted a dearth of young players earning professional minutes.
The new report emphasised the success of the 'Golden Generation' was an outlier, with the talent pool of today a matter of Australia reverting to the mean, rather than a drop-off.
The study aimed to identify what those 'Golden Generation' players had in common and found six recurring themes: passion, family, mentality, environment, practice and pathway.
Crucial factors included unstructured and informal play - such as playing backyard soccer - at a young age, an early exposure to senior football, and connection to a particular club.
"As we assessed the Golden Generation, it evolved as a case study for the decisive role that an immersive culture plays in sporting success," PFA chief executive John Didulica said.
"For far too long we have viewed talent development through the narrow lens of a curriculum or a coaching methodology."
Former Socceroos striker and ex-A-League coach John Aloisi was one of those surveyed and said the results provided an important perspective in regards to developing elite talent in the future.
"The evidence in the findings confirms in many respects what we intuitively suspect, but the important aspect it actually now provides a framework for us to ensure we can create the conditions needed to develop world class players," Aloisi said.
"The report shows that the process goes much deeper than just coaching, facilities and style of play but to building a deep culture and connection to the sport we all love."