The IGA NSW National Premier Leagues Mens 1 competition for 2013 kicks off this weekend with proceedings to commence on Saturday evening.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles will look to go one better than last season after falling just short of the double after clinching the Premiership trophy, though the verdict from the Pre-Season Cup was that Sydney Olympic are looking the goods to reclaim the successes of 2011.
New team Central Coast Mariners Academy will need to hit the ground running as the names joining the competition this season continue to lift the popularity, and standard, of Football NSW’s top-flight of football.
Exciting times ahead for the state’s Premier competition with some top class football expected over the next seven months.
Sydney Olympic v Central Coast Mariners Academy, Saturday 16th of March, 7:00 pm Belmore Sports Ground
At Belmore Sports Ground, fresh from their Pre-Season Cup triumph, Sydney Olympic kick-starts the 2013 regular season with the visit of Central Coast Mariners Academy. The Blues have looked sensational to-date with some blistering performances – most impressively the wins against Sydney United 58 FC and Blacktown City FC.
Peter Tsekenis has maintained a large chunk of last season’s playing group, and with the additions of midfielder Petar Markovic, striker Elsid Barkhousir and English midfielder Kingley Williams, the side looks very stable even at this early point of the season.
The departures of both Chris and Peter Triantis are certainly massive, however captain Phil Makrys has called upon all his experience, helping the new arrivals to fit in with last season’s playing group with minimal fuss.
The task at hand for the new boys from the Central Coast will be a difficult one, however rival teams would do best to not underestimate Mark Jones’ men this season. The former Perth Glory assistant coach is from the region, and he has an impressive reputation in nurturing young, local talent.
The Mariners Academy side boasts some experienced players who have played in the top-flight, including the likes of James Monie, Adam Biddle, Chris Payne and David Bradasevic. Joined with a good mix of youthful exuberance, the Mariners side will have nothing to lose when it takes to the field this weekend.
Despite the potential for first-up surprises on the opening day of a regular season, it would be a brave call for one to bet against Sydney Olympic this weekend.
South Coast Wolves v Sutherland Sharks, Saturday 16th of March, 7:00 pm John Crehan Park
Rivals South Coast Wolves and Sutherland Sharks lock horns on Saturday evening in the ‘gong’ with both sides eager to get their campaigns off to winning ways.
Wolves coach Richard Lloyd has the entire squad at his disposal, and he will be looking for his troops to make John Crehan Park a fortress of sorts in 2013.
The Wolves defence will need to bring its ‘A’ game as the likes of Panni Nikas and Brad Boardman come to town. Captain Jacob Timpano will be leading the line with new signing Sam Chapple, and the reliable Jack Keating, to assist.
In the front-third, Ricky Zucco will be the man given the job of causing Sutherland trouble. Zucco can count on the creativity and speed of both John Martinovski and Peter Simonoski to assist with the goals.
Sutherland has been one of the most consistent sides in recent seasons, however missing out on the finals in 2012 was heartbreak for the proud club. Coach Robbie Stanton will want to have an immediate win to kick-start this campaign, even though the Sharks have the daunting trip to Wollongong.
Sutherland lacked goals last season, and the return of Brad Boardman and Nathan Elasi gives the side more attacking prowess. Add to that the genius of Panni Nikas, and the marshalling in the middle of the park by Nick Stavroulakis, and the Sharks do appear to have made some big improvements to its squad.
Despite boasting a rather poor record on the road in recent seasons, a strong pre-season with some important acquisitions could start to reap reward from as early as Round 1.
Blacktown Spartans v Marconi Stallions, Saturday 16th of March, 7:00 pm Blacktown Football Park
At Blacktown Football Park, the Spartans will look to start its campaign in the best possible manner against 2012 grand-final winner, Marconi Stallions. Ben De Haan’s men have now a season of experience in the top-flight under their belt, and the players in this group could well turn some heads this season.
The side has added some impressive names to its playing roster – including the likes of Jordan Simpson and Bryan Soane – two players who have a big amount of experience to help lead Blacktown Spartans’ quest this season.
Standing in the way of the Spartans and an opening round win for 2013 is Marconi Stallions. The side shocked many last season with a late run to consolidate a finals spot before leaving Bonnyrigg White Eagles shell-shocked on grand-final day following an exceptional 90’ minutes of football to claim the title.
Coach Jean-Paul De Marigny has prepared his playing group for the task at hand of retaining the trophy in 2013, and the players are looking the goods for another positive season.
Expected to play a free-flowing style of football, synonymous with De Marigny’s football philosophy, Marconi will be out to get the season off on the right track and quash the doubters who cannot see the side go back-to-back this season.
Should the opening round jitters be eliminated early in this encounter, an entertaining 90’ minutes of football can be expected by two positive sides playing on the picturesque playing surface at Blacktown Football Park.
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Sunday 17th of March, 3:00 pm Lambert Park
An intriguing battle awaits at Lambert Park between APIA-Leichhardt Tigers and Bonnyrigg White Eagles on Sunday.
The feeling around the Tigers camp is one of confidence and tranquility under new coach Gary Ward. Despite some indifferent results in the Pre-Season Cup, the Tigers goal has been one of being ready for the opening round of the season, and the reaction from the playing group appears to suggest that this is exactly the case.
Franco Parisi is the playmaker with his fine touches, vision and ability to score goals, and once again he will be a pivotal part of the coach’s plans.
Defensively, the Tigers look sound with Michael West, Adel El Jamal, Mark Byrnes and Brendan Reilly forming a very interesting backline.
It will be in the middle of the park, however, where the Tigers will need to be on song against the intimidating Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
Bonnyrigg coach Brian Brown will be looking to wear the Tigers down in the middle of the park with the likes of Tynan Diaz, Mitchell Long and Adrian Ucchino all expected to figure.
Stephen Kayes and David D’Apuzzo will need to be firing from the opening whistle if APIA-Leichhardt is to stand a chance of ‘knocking off’ last season’s Premiers.
Up-front for Bonnyrigg, striker Robbie Younis returns to his former stomping ground, and the White Eagles number 9 has not had any problem finding the back of the net in recent seasons.
Expect a close encounter between these two sides, with the battle in midfield to decide the outcome on Sunday.
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown City FC, Sunday 17th of March, 3:00 pm Ilinden Sports Centre
At Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale City Suns and Blacktown City FC start their season on Sunday. A fixture that traditionally produces goals, more of the same is expected this weekend.
The Suns, under the expert tutelage of Branko Culina, are really expected to take that next step this season and become a serious contender for finals football. Culina has brought some impressive names to the club, all in the while promoting young players. Brendan Gan and Richard Cardozo are two names that all Suns’ supporters will be eagerly awaiting to see, meanwhile last season’s revelation Alec Urosevski is expected to further showcase his abilities this season.
The opening round clash is certainly a difficult one with Mark Crittenden’s Blacktown City already showing its worth in the Pre-Season Cup.
Crittenden has his side already playing good football – the side showing a more direct approach in the off-season.
Expect the encounter on Sunday to produce a fiery Blacktown City with Sean Rooney leading the charge up front.
The Blacktown City coach has even more attacking talent to call upon including Rjuyi Miyazawa, Harris Gaitatzis and Matthew Mayora – a scary proposition for the Suns’ defenders.
The key in this match will be how the Suns cut off the supply to the Blacktown City strikers. Should Rooney & Co. be starved of the ball and good possession in the front-third, the Suns will feel comfortable pressing forward themselves via Urosevski and Sash Tirovski.
Manly United FC v Sydney United 58 FC, Sunday 17th of March, 3:00 pm Cromer Park
In the final match of the opening weekend, Manly United FC faces a tricky first-up tie at home against Sydney United 58 FC. Certain to have the backing of their supporters at Cromer Park, Craig Midgley’s men will be aiming to make 2013 the season that the club figures amongst the title contenders come the finals series.
Midgley has maintained a tremendous balance of youth and experience in his playing group, Graeme Forbes and Marc Richards to play the on-field leaders role for the likes of Josh Ward and Tonu Liband.
Midgley’s sides have been energetic though perhaps lacking in the front-third of the field, a responsibility that the likes of Jamie Gosling, Scott Balderson and Colin Iley may need to take upon themselves.
The visit of Sydney United 58 FC will be a big test as Mark Rudan’s men have already performed well during the pre-season. The side’s loss against Sydney Olympic would have only hurt on the scoreboard, largely because the majority of the ‘first team regulars’ were rested for that encounter in anticipation of their trip to Melbourne to face Melbourne Knights.
Rudan appears to have brought about a new mentality at the club he served at as a player, and the former A-League star has also re-found a fit Luka Glavas – the Reds striker in exceptional touch over the pre-season. Add to the mix the likes of last season’s Player of the Year, Chris Triantis and midfielder Glen Trifiro, the side is really shaping up for a big season ahead.
Sydney United arguably start the season as one of the title favourites, though facing the side early on may well be the tonic required for Manly United FC to deliver a big upset on opening day.