And so it comes to this.
After weeks of intense preparation and the round robin IGA Preseason Cup matches, Rockdale City Suns and Blacktown Spartans will do battle in the Preseason Cup Final at Ilinden Sports Centre this Sunday afternoon.
Both sides enter the final unbeaten, although Rockdale City’s final match with St George was washed out. Suns won all four of their matches, beating Blacktown City, Manly United FC, APIA-Leichhardt Tigers and Sutherland Sharks on the road to the final.
Suns finished as winners of Pool 2, scoring five goals and not conceding once in 360 minutes of football.
Meanwhile, Spartans finished top of Pool 1, with wins against Sydney United 58 FC, Sydney Olympic, Bonnyrigg White Eagles and South Coast Wolves, and an inconsequential draw in the final round against Marconi Stallions.
Rockdale City Suns coach Branko Culina said that he was reasonably pleased with their preparation, despite the loss of some key players in the off season.
“It’s always important for teams to be able to work on their structure and shape,” Culina said.
With Diego Barcena, Brendan Gan, Richard Cardozo, Alec Urosevski, Giorgio Speranza, Sam Munro and Seiya Kawamura all departing Ilinden, this preseason has taken on extra importance for Culina.
“It’s difficult and it takes time to put it all together,” he said.
“I’ve been very lucky, I have a few experienced players in captain Askin Oygur, Paul Kohler and Paul Reid.
“It’s a pity that we lost so many, but that’s the way it is and the club is proud of what it’s achieved.
Nonetheless, Culina is confident that his side has what it takes to beat a strong Spartans team.
“Spartans were a solid team last year, and now on paper at least they look very formidable,” Culina said.
“They will be a difficult opponent, not just in this game, but all season.”
Spartans coach Ben De Haan is extremely happy with how preseason has played out for his side and they will surely be a force to be reckoned with when the season proper kicks off.
They also have a number of new signings, but De Haan said that they have all fitted in nicely.
“The boys have been gelling and getting together very well,” he said.
“Everyone is on board with what we’re trying to achieve.”
Spartans was clear winners of Pool 1, finishing seven points clear of Sydney United 58 FC and they are coming up against the other in-form team from the preseason campaign.
De Haan said that Spartans would concentrate on their own game, rather than what Rockdale City Suns may offer.
“We’re just concentrating on playing our game,” De Haan said.
“We don’t need to worry about them, we’ve done enough over the past four or five weeks.
“We’ll be okay, not just for this game but for the season.
“It’ll be a very good game and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sunday 9th March 2014
Rockdale City Suns v Blacktown Spartans
Illinden Sports Centre