Season 2013 has proven the rise of Rockdale City Suns as the side from Ilinden Sports Centre has thrown caution to the wind, and reaped some great reward in the process.
Under the expert tutelage of coach Branko Culina, the club has sealed not only its first ever semi-final appearance, though its maiden grand final qualification.
The football philosophy exercised by Culina has been the insistence of young talent in his teams. Mixed with some of the most experienced campaigners in the competition, the former A-League boss has fashioned a side that is one win away from a first ever piece of silverware.
One of the most consistent young performers for the Suns in 2013 has been left-sided defender Giorgio Speranza. The Suns number 3 has played a big role for his side, though it has certainly been hard work along the way.
“The season has been great for us, we did have a bit of a bumpy start, though we managed to get through that phase and go on a long undefeated run,” commented Speranza.
The Suns have made little noise since its promotion to Football NSW’s top flight in 2010, though this campaign has proven a massive wave as the likes of Marconi Stallions, Sutherland Sharks and Sydney United 58 FC can all testify.
“There really is a great belief amongst the entire team. This group of players is a fabulous one that has gelled very well together; and this goes beyond what happens on the park, we are good friends off it too, I think that is why we have managed to do well.”
Speranza’s start to the season was by far an unfortunate one, where the left-sided defender, who has a playing style resembling the great former Italian National team captain Paolo Maldini, was forced to watch his team from the sideline as he returned from injury.
“I personally did have a difficult start with an injury that kept me out initially. Of course it is hard to watch your teammates play while you are watching from the sideline, though the support of the boys kept me focused.”
Despite Speranza making his return to fitness, he had a tough battle claiming his spot in the starting lineup back.
“Thanks to some great physio work, a lot of hard training, I was ready to make my return, though as is the case at any club in the world, you need to fight for your spot and that is what I had to do.
“It was a challenging moment, one that I managed to eventually overcome when I got my chance again in the starting lineup, though it really is important to maintain that intensity because there are some great players in this squad and everyone needs to keep a high level of performance if they want to be playing each week.”
Speranza’s showing against Sydney United 58 FC, where he helped his side secure a shot at the grand final, was solid and the 22-year old is confident his side can go one more match to secure a historic Minor Premiership win for Rockdale City.
“To be honest, we were happy with our start where we wanted to press them early and not allow them to play. The way things went though, with the penalty for them, we lost our way a little.
“In saying that, we dug deep especially in the second-half after our coach looked to instill more confidence at half-time,” added Speranza.
“In the second-half, when they equalised, our heads did drop a little, though once more it is about the high level of respect and belief we all have in one another that allowed us to give extra-time a big shot and finally reach the win in the shootout.”
Rockdale City has recorded two draws in the regular season encounters against Bonnyrigg – the White Eagles triumphed in the Waratah Cup quarter-final – setting up the scene for a very tight encounter between the League’s best attack and best defence.
“Bonnyrigg is a great side. They are very direct, very physical and have a fine group of skillful players. I think we can match them in every position, we do need to play to our full potential though, that will be the key to having a shot at winning the match,” continued Speranza.
The older of the Speranza brothers, younger brother Roberto too has played his part in the Suns campaign this season, is confident that the mix of youth and experience can cause a major upset on Sunday.
“I am confident that we do have the players to do the job, it will just be a matter of settling down quickly and playing our game.
“Our midfield is integral to our chances. If our midfield is on top, the whole team does well. Paul Reid and Brendan Gan in the middle with Idriss El Hafiane or Sam Munro alongside them have a lot of quality about them, and they have been great this season.
“Add Cardozo and the likes of Askin (Oygur) and Paul (Kohler)… these guys are real role models for the rest of the team and the younger boys have all been able to learn a lot, and feel more comfortable on the pitch, especially at the final end of the season.”
The 22-year old continues to show maturity beyond his young years, and despite the excitement of an upcoming grand final, and possessing the ability to look forward to a long prosperous football career still, Speranza is one-hundred percent focused on Sunday’s grand final.
“To be honest, I am concentrating on this season for now. We have made the grand final, so all the focus is on this upcoming match. We will see about beyond this season later on, we are just focused on making all the fans happy by collecting a first ever grand final win,” Speranza concluded.
-By Joseph Carlucci