Brisbane Roar coach Ross Aloisi has an "if you are good enough, you are old enough" philosophy about picking young players and it is an ethos he is putting into practice.
The Roar, fourth in the A-League Men, have this season given debuts to 18-year-old Young Socceroos striker Tom Waddingham, midfielders Shae Cahill (18) and Quinn MacNicol (15) and striker Rylan Brownlie (16).
Brownlie had a potential late winner disallowed for offside in added time of last week's 2-2 draw against Western Sydney Wanderers, while Cahill marked his debut with a cracking strike that was brilliantly saved in the game's dying minutes.
"I don't look at age, I look at the footballer," Aloisi said when asked about backing youth.
"Someone mentioned, 'If (Shae) wasn't Tim Cahill's son, would you have signed him?'. The question is not about whose son it is, that is irrelevant to me.
"I didn't look at Rylan Brownlie and say, 'That's Royce Brownlie's son'. I looked at the footballer. It is the same with Shae Cahill.
"I look at the footballer and who we have available, and we had Flo Berenguer out injured (against the Wanderers). Shae is very quick and has a great eye for goal.
"(Cahill and Brownlie) were not on for very long but both had goalscoring opportunities, which is fantastic.
"Waddingham could have had two in that game and he's had clear-cut chances in other games he has played."
All the teenagers are projects for the club. Aloisi made the point that they were not signed to slot immediately into the starting side but rather to be moulded into quality footballers suitable for the Roar's playing style.
"They all have different characteristics," Aloisi said.
"It is exciting for the club and it can be difficult because they are young, and with young players come inconsistencies.
"But I can't ask any more than what they are giving me.
"We are relying on an 18-year-old boy to lead our front line but the way Tom plays he looks a lot older and more experienced, and he is growing each game."
Experienced Roar defender Jack Hingert, 33, said the young brigade had earned their opportunity.
"It is exciting for us older players to help these guys continue to improve. As you can see, they are great young players," he said.
"They deserve to be here. That is why they are here. If Ross thinks you are ready, no matter how old you are, you will be out there."
The Roar are away to fifth-placed Adelaide United on Sunday.
Australian Associated Press