Two years ago, the PFA published its Player Pathway Study into Australian football.
The Player Pathway Study was primarily quantitative in nature; it didn’t seek to deep dive on the moving parts that determine success or otherwise. It was about demonstrating, from a platform of evidence, how male Australian footballers were tracking relative to the rest of the world.
The results reflected what many people within the game already knew – our players of today were not enjoying the same level of individual success as that of previous generations of players.
One specific metric was very stark – leading into the 2006 World Cup, Australian male footballers were collectively playing close to 30,000 match minutes per season in the top 5 leagues of Europe (England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France). Leading into the 2018 World Cup, those figures were closer to 5,000 match minutes per season.
This is a collapse approaching 90%. At this rate of regression, any success we were enjoying at the global level was unsustainable and our high expectations on Australian male teams at all age levels was cognitive dissonance – we were sticking our heads in the sand. 
With this in mind, the PFA needed to undertake a complementary, second phase of research. This involved trying to develop a deeper understanding of the personal dynamics that contributed to the success of the players.
Through the Player Pathway Study, we were able to identify the peaks and troughs of the success of our players across international clubs. Accordingly, there was a group of players – those contained within the so-called Golden Generation – who could provide valuable insight into their footballing development experience.
The PFA partnered with Victoria University to develop a research model that could provide a window into this success but also help develop a policy framework for future decisions. The research involved interviews and questionnaires with some of our best players from 2002 to 2015 (which culminated in winning the Asian Cup).
The results of the research are now back with the PFA. I have personally considered them deeply and contemplated what value they provide to our future planning. To this end, we look forward to presenting and sharing this information to the football community over the coming months.
The reality is that, based on the evidence, there is no silver bullet or recipe for success. There is no tweak or overhaul of the current model that would trigger immediate results. From the research, it remains clear that the success of our footballers goes beyond a curriculum or beyond a coaching methodology or beyond a development pathway.
It goes to the core of our football culture. 
The culture that threads itself throughout the sport will determine the success or otherwise of our teams and our players. Talent – exceptional talent based on a global scale – will make some players immune to this law, but for the most part the prospects or otherwise of our teams and players will be amplified by the quality of the football culture that Australia builds.
As we plan for the next generation of players, it is incumbent on the game to nurture an authentic football culture that helps amplify talent by helping our players not only pass the ball with both feet (hopefully not sideways), but fall in love with the game and immerses them in the beauty of the sport. 

John Didulica

Chief Executive, Professional Footballers Australia