Men’s Premier League Season Preview

Men’s Premier League Season Preview

Welcome to what will be the 38th edition of the NSFA Men’s Premier League Competition. Last year three time reigning Champion West Pymble FC won their 4th successive League Title, comfortably finishing ahead of second placed Northbridge FC by 10 points. Lane Cove and North Sydney were the teams relegated to Division 2, however, with North Sydney also winning the second division, they retained their spot in the top flight. St Michaels are the club replacing Lane Cove, meaning that area of NSFA will still be represented in the Premier League and the Hornsby Shire remains the only area without a PL team. Everyone has been working hard in the off-season and are hoping to dethrone the dominant West Pymble. Paul Orgad takes a closer look at each of them.

2018 NSFA PL Ladder

Chatswood Rangers

Coach: George Zoratto, assisted by Craig Tyrie.

2016: 8th 2017: 4th 2018: 5th

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Schumann/Condylis (8)

Round 1: North Sydney United at Cammeray Oval

Paul’s Prediction: 4th

Rangers did extremely well to finish the 2018 season with just 1 loss in their last 8 games to sit a respectable 5th on the competition ladder. Given they were in 9th position at the midway point, a distinct change in attitude and a boost in team morale was required. Strong performances from Alex Drake, Curtis Schumann and Nick Condylis, as well as improved defensive displays led by Bray Smith provided the platform for their rise up the table. In fact, they conceded half as many goals in the second half of the season when compared to the first (28 v 14). Despite the much-anticipated move to the new synthetic surface at Chatswood High School, they only managed to win two home games all season.

Their pre-season form has been mixed. A 4-3 loss to St Augustines and a 3-0 loss to Pennant Hills the negatives, whilst a 1-0 win over Gladesville Ravens and a win against a strong Inter Lions team from Canterbury the positives.

The squad must now look at how they can maximise the potential of their squad heading into 2019, following a series of mid-table finishes (5th, 5th, 8th, 4th and 5th) since 2014. The fast growing club is no doubt hungry for success and a return to the halcyon days of the mid to late 90’s where the club won 3 titles in 5 seasons. They look to have multiple avenues to goal this year so their success will sit with their ability to keep goals out, as they managed to do a little better in the last 9 games of 2018. They know there are “no easy games” so they will look to start well against a rather unknown outfit in North Sydney United.

Major Ins: Said Soleimanpour, Cai Spiers, Michael Barbalace

Major Outs: Nick Swart

Kissing Point FC

Coach: Thomas McKnight, assisted by Clive Wells

2016: 4th 2017: 5th 2018: 4th

2018 Top Goal Scorer: Peter Blakeley (8)

Round 1: Old Barker FC at Koola Oval

Paul’s Prediction: 6th

This time last year I suggested Goals, Goals, Goals is what the Kissing Point Coaches and their supporters will be asking for in 2018. Unfortunately only 25 of them were scored, the equal 2nd worst record last season. However, conceding only 29 means they have the foundations to succeed but need to release the shackles and throw a few extra numbers forward if they are to finish towards the top of the table. ‘Kisso’ possess some quality players but in order to improve their ladder position they will need to hit the back of the net more regularly, as they only managed to score 30 goals in 2017 – a worrying trend. They have, however, managed to score in all of their pre-season fixtures to date, scoring 4 against Thornleigh and 2 against Eastwood would be pleasing for Coach Tom McKnight.

Opposite to Rangers fortunes Kisso’s late season form last year is worrying with the team registering just the solitary victory in their last 7 games. This meant they only just scraped into the top 4 and subsequent finals series but a fresh season awaits. New faces Sam Conway and Tim Lloyd will look to inspire their side in 2019.

Major Ins: Lee Hope, Tim Lloyd, Rohan Thomas, Sam Conway

Major Outs: Ben Kirley, Tom Morrisey, Liam and Marcus Flottman

Knox United FC

Coach: Danilo Gama

2016: 6th 2017: 7th 2018: 6th

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Radcliff, Bozic, Turrin (4)

Round 1: Lindfield FC at Koola Oval

Paul’s Prediction: 10th

2018 didn’t quite go to plan for Knox United as they struggled for consistency. Knox only managed to win back-to-back games on two occasions. On the flip side, they only lost 2 games in a row on one occasion, in Rounds 13 and 14. Despite recruiting a number of ex-NPL players and thinking they could make a push for the title, their inability to string results together meant they once again finished outside the top 4. They did, however manage to dramatically improve their away record last season. Interestingly, Knox have scored the same number of goals in each of their past 3 seasons since returning to the top flight (29). Tom Radcliff and Harry Kaye had stellar seasons with Alex Denning and David Guthrie also performing well throughout. All of which will be integral in their quest for a successful year in 2019.

Knox have had a disappointing pre-season in terms of results, registering losses against Northern Tigers U20’s, Belrose Terry Hills and St Augustines. The focus for 2019 is the implementation of a more adventurous playing style under the Brazilian leadership of new coach Danilo which will hopefully lead to scoring a greater number of goals.

Major Ins: None

Major Outs: Alex Sharpe, Callaghan Sharpe, Oliver Stickland, Paul Turrin

Lindfield FC

Coach: Chris Deblaere

2016: 3rd 2017: 2nd 2018: 3rd

2018 Top Goal Scorer: Ventura (13)

Round 1: Knox United at Koola Oval

Paul’s Prediction: 1st

Despite having a new look team last season, Lindfield surprised many to finish 3rd in both Reserves and First Grade, an admirable result given the changeover in playing personnel and in the coaching ranks. Lindfield finished the season with a trophy, beating Northbridge FC in the NSFA Cup Final. They have a new gaffer once again in young but promising coach Chris Deblaere, who led the U18’s to the league title last year. Squad depth has been the key ingredient to their success and they have recruited some quality players for 2019, so expect them to challenge once again in both Reserves and Firsts.

Their results to date have steadily improved, since a shock loss to Division 2 side Forrest Killarney in their first match, rebounding with a 3-2 win against Mosman, a 2-2 draw with Normanhurst and a narrow loss to Seaforth. Their most recent fixture was an FFA Cup clash against Central Coast side Kariong United which they won comfortably by 2 goals to nil. New signing Connor Brannen grabbed the first with Tom Colfer netting the second deep into the match. They face a stern test in Round 1 when they face bogey team Knox United, who beat Lindfield on both occasions in 2018. Former Northern Tigers player Julian Lim will look to assert his dominance in the centre of the park and if his combination with Matt Ventura and Polish import Jacob Jakobczyk takes off, a few defences might have a tough assignment this year.

Major Ins: Jacob Jakobczyk, Josh Spencer, Chris Woo, Julian Lim

Major Outs: Daniel Stern, Scott Ryan, Nick Bersee, Adrian Pang

Northbridge FC

Coaches: Tom Sweeney and Alan Bain

2016: 9th 2017: 1st (MAA2) 2018: 2nd

2018 Top Goal Scorer: Partridge (14)

Round 1: Willoughby Dalleys at Willoughby Park

Paul’s Prediction: 2nd

Coaches Tom Sweeney and Alan Bain will be hoping to kick on from last year’s strong season, where the team finished second in the league and runners up in the NSFA Cup final. Goals were not an issue in 2018 as they hit the back of the net on 60 occasions – 3 players reaching double figures. However, conceding 32 and winning only 2 of their 6 games against the other teams in the top 4 ultimately prevented them from mounting any real challenge on West Pymble.

The First Team are unbeaten in preseason so far, including being on the right end of some big scores against strong opposition in Curl Curl (7-2) and Seaforth (5-2). The Reserves have been getting some decent results as well and look as though they will once again push for top 4 honours this season.

The loss of First Grade Coach Jamie Collins after 3 seasons will be an interesting challenge for this talented squad, full of former NPL players and an NSFA Golden Boot winner. Their biggest challenge no doubt is their ability to unite and play for a common cause and the biggest club in NSFA will be hoping they can be the best in 2019 – in Premier League anyway.

Major Ins: Shohei Takahashi, Michelle Pezzano, Jay Wynter

Major Outs: Jamie Collins, Harry Morton

North Sydney United FC

Coach: Matt Sawers

2016: 2nd 2017: 3rd 2018: 9th

2018 Top Goal Scorer: Moth (8)

Round 1: Chatswood Rangers at Cammeray

Paul’s Prediction: 9th

Unfortunately for North Sydney the pre-season talk has been more about who they don’t have rather than who they do have. Two-time NSFA MVP winner Alex Moth has moved to Coogee United (so a few defenders can sleep easier at night) and strong performer Ben Peacock has also departed. The young team never really got going in 2018, with their opening day loss to Northbridge and their Round 2 loss against West Pymble causing them to prop up the table from the outset. From there, just 6 wins all year saw the squad relegated but fortunately for them, the Division 2 squad won their league and the club retained its place in the top tier of NSFA football.

Experienced coach Matt Sawers will be hoping to get his team playing attractive yet successful football and their pre-season results suggest he has a way to go, with a real mixture of ups and downs. Losing 7-2 to Coogee wasn’t the way they wanted to start but they bounced back well to beat Epping 6-2, Balmain 11-0, Lane Cove 4-1 and kept Gladesville Ravens to a draw. Unfortunately they suffered a heavy loss in their FFA Cup match down in Wollongong but they have the chance to get back on track before welcoming Rangers to Cammeray in Round 1.

Major Ins: Christian Garces, Jonny Robson, Alex Doyle, Jon Horlyck

Major Outs: Alex Moth, Ben Peacock, Matt Peach

Old Barker FC

Coach: Jim Harte, assisted by Peter Gunning

2016: 5th 2017: 6th 2018: 8th

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Vickers, Robinson, Evrat (4)

Round 1: Kissing Point at Koola Oval

Paul’s Prediction: 7th

In their latest spell at Premier League level, Old Barker enter their fifth consecutive season with a relatively settled line up. They have what it takes to worry the big teams and victories over Lindfield and Kisso last season, as well as taking points off Northbridge, showed they can mix it with the best on their day. They will be hoping the reliable pairing of Matt Vickers and Ned Robinson start well and lead by example, with Sam Gunning providing the outlet with his pace. Gohto Saikawa has proven to be a top performer at this level for a few seasons now, evident by his 3rd place finish in the MVP standings in 2018.

It’s been a strong pre-season, with the team playing more games than ever before, including entry into the FFA Cup. A tough defeat against the always strong Wollongong United was a hit to their ambitions but they hope to make 2019 the year where they change from just staying up to wanting to finish in the top 4. Phil Spruce claims he’s going to be a goal scorer this year and Mike Evrat has come out especially strong this year, looking to provide the attacking fire-power the team needs. First Grade has had wins against Gosford (3-0) and Belrose Terry Hills (1-0) with their only blemish (other than the FFA Cup) coming against Sydney CBD.

Major Ins: Joey Lancaster, Adam and Adrian Cocaro, Oscar Suaris, Andrew Taylor

Major Outs: None

St Michael’s FC

Coach: Stu Mather

2016: 2nd (MAA3) 2017: 6th (MAA2) 2018: 2nd (MAA2)

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Unknown

Round 1: West Pymble FC at Blackman Park

Paul’s Prediction: 8th

The league welcomes newcomers St Michael’s FC. More renowned for their successful O45’s team in recent years, this young All Age Squad has been quietly working their way from Division 3 to the big time, managing to keep a core group of players along the way. Many of the team’s players grew up playing together at various clubs or at school level and there is an undeniable and obvious bond amongst the group. They will certainly need this when the going gets tough and it doesn’t get much tougher than 4 time defending Champions West Pymble FC first up. With that said they are by no means invincible and come into the season with a fairly new roster and a new coach – so this could be the best time to play them.

St Michael’s have decided to keep their pre-season preparations short and have not played many games, however, a 2-1 loss to Saints United and a comfortable win against St Pius College XI has them feeling fresh and ready. The only downer is the loss of their inspirational leader and technical midfield wiz Neil McGraith, who is overseas for the year. They have picked up Matt Severino, a former APIA Leichhardt Tigers player and Xavier Rickard, a left back with lots of potential. Add to this the existing quality in the form of Tom Keenan, Matt Bowd, Daniel Drakopolous and Lachlan Howarth and you have yourself a competitive team. They will need to ensure they capitalise on their technical ability and match the effort and physicality of opposition teams, if they are to gain enough points to survive in this quality competition.

West Pymble FC

Coach: Alex Dimos

2016: 1st 2017: 1st 2018: 1st

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Bendall (16)

Round 1: St Michael’s FC at Blackman Park

Paul’s Prediction: 3rd

They did it again and again and again and AGAIN! West Pymble took out their fourth League Title in a row last season easily finishing ahead of second place by a comfortable 10 points. Unlucky to lose in the Final of Champion of Champions, there has been some change in the off-season, headlined by long-time coach Greg Fuchs working closer to home (Belrose Terry-Hills). Alex Dimos has taken over, following his successful season with the clubs U16’s Super League side.

Their pre-season hasn’t quite got going yet, but that won’t worry the four time Champions as they are notorious slow starters. Losses to Coogee and Pittwater and a draw against Wakehurst are the notable results to date. The return of midfield general Niall Codling will serve them well, with a few key players departing in the off-season.

With any new coach comes a new philosophy and a new way of running things. Combine this with a strong contingent of departures and it’s hard to know what to make of West Pymble this year. One thing is for sure, they will be out to emulate the Asquith team in the early 2000’s, who won a record 5 titles in a row. They will need to get off to a flyer against the young and energetic St Michael’s team in Round 1.

Major Ins: Alex Sharpe, Niall Codling, Luciano Mesi

Major Outs: Peter Spinos, Jack Gilbert, Joel Carter, Buba Suleiman, Charlie Cox

Willoughby Dalleys FC

Coach: Nestor Moreno

2016: 1st (MAA2) 2017: 8th 2018: 7th

2018 Top Goal Scorers: Doran, Casali, Nix, Louw (5)

Round 1: Northbridge FC at Willoughby Park

Paul’s Prediction: 5th

Start as you mean to finish! That is what Dalleys will be hoping to do, rather than having to turn their season around midway through the year, as they did in 2018. Without a win in their first 6 games last year Dalleys went on a decent run, winning 7 of their next 12. If they want to push for a top 4 finish they will need to start the season much better and their pre-season form suggests they might do just that. Pushing Coogee United all the way in a 2-1 loss, plus a draw against St Augustine’s and a 3-1 win against Lokomotive Cove providing good signs. Whilst they have felt a loss in the coaching ranks, with Chris Cowley and Adam Vlatko moving on, they have recruited former UNSW State League Coach Nestor Moreno to lead this enthusiastic side. Never easy to play against at Willoughby Park, their Round 1 fixture against Northbridge shapes up as a real litmus test for Dalleys. If they can get a good result it will no doubt give them the self-belief required to be successful. Long serving players Chad Cowley, the Scardino brothers and Conor Nix are back for another season and are joined by Dael Palte, a former Northern Tigers player looking to make his mark on the competition.

Major Ins: None

Major Outs: None

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