While Victory Medal winner Leroy George and his A-League championship-winning teammates rightfully stole the show at this year’s celebrations, the night was also memorable for youth player Thierry Iradukunda.
The 18-year-old midfielder was named Victory’s Y-League Player of the Year on Saturday night, beating out fellow prospects such as Birkan Kirdar, Pierce Waring and Mathew Sutton for the honor.
Formerly on South Melbourne’s books, Iradukunda impressed enough with Hellas as a part of their U20 title-winning 2017 season to earn a move to the A-League champions’ youth side prior to the 2017-18 campaign.
Saturday’s award came almost a year to the day after the youngster was named best afield in South’s U20s 1-0 win over Kingston City.
Iradukunda was clearly taken aback with winning the award on Saturday night, giving a one sentence acceptance speech to cheers from his youth teammates.
He clarified later in the evening that he had no expectations surrounding the award – voted on by Victory Y-League boss Gareth Naven and his assistants – coming into the evening, but it served as a fine conclusion to his first Y-League campaign.
“Not really,” Iradukunda said when asked if he thought he was a chance coming into the evening.
“Because all the boys they put in 100%. We’ve all deserved something, so we weren’t sure who was going to get. Luckily, I got it.
“It was a good success (the season), (it ended) a lot better than how we started. First game against City wasn’t the best, we came back from that (Victory’s youth lost the first tie against City 9-2 during the season but won the return 2-1) and hopefully, we can keep doing it.
“I’ve improved a lot, mentally, physically, technically, just overall. It’s a big step up from NPL to A-League youth.”
The 17-18 A-League season saw two of Iradukunda’s academy compatriots burst onto the senior scene.
Hope and Theoharous generated huge excitement among the Victory faithful with their cameos throughout the year and the latter player seemingly did enough to earn a move to the German Bundesliga.
Iradukunda says that he, and his fellow academy players, have taken significant inspiration from Hope and Theoharous this year.
“We all look up to those boys,” he said.
“They did what we want to do. They’re in a good position – it’s what we want to do – we look up to their hard work and effort.”
And as for when Iradukunda – who earlier in the day had played in Victory’s 3-0 win over Murray United in the NPL2 – will break through, he is not certain, but he is not stressing over it.
“(I’m) not really sure,” he explained.
“It’s up to Kevin (Muscat). If I’m not ready any time soon I’m not going to be worried, I’ll just keep pushing, working hard.
“I work hard, do as I’ve been taught at the Victory.”