THE 2015 PS4 National Premier League NSW Men’s 1 Grade 20s season begins on Saturday.
The future of the NPL NSW will turn out for the 20s sides of some of Australian football’s most illustrious state league clubs in 2015, in a competition renowned for nurturing young talent, and its well-established competitiveness.
Match of the Round
Rockdale City Suns FC v APIA Leichardt Tigers FC, 1.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale City Suns and APIA Leichardt faced off in round 18 of last season, where APIA were beaten 5-0 at the Ilinden Sports Centre in 2014; a curious result given their recent form.
APIA have finished in third place for the previous two seasons running, going on to lose the grand final both years, while Rockdale remained a competitive side despite placing ninth.
Rockdale’s last win in this competition came against APIA before an indifferent run of form ended hopes of finals football, and they will be aiming for a repeat performance in this fixture as they aim for a higher position. Both sides harbour finals ambitions, and will each be looking to get off to a winning start in 2015.
Sutherland Sharks FC v Blacktown Spartans FC, 5.30pm at Seymour Shaw Park
Blacktown Spartans visit Seymour Shaw Park to begin their season against Sutherland Sharks.
These sides met in the opening match of the 2014 season, with the Sharks claiming a 2-1 win in Blacktown, and a 3-0 win at home in round 12.
The Sharks will look to build on last year’s fifth place finish, though they must do so without striker Daniel Loe, who was promoted to the first team after scoring 7 goals in 22 appearances during the 2014 campaign.
Blacktown Spartans will be hoping for a dramatic improvement on last season, having finished bottom of the ladder with only four wins, and the worst goal difference in the competition. Having qualified for the finals in 2012, the Spartans face a tough opponent in the Sharks as they aim for a higher position in 2015.
Marconi Stallions FC v Parramatta FC, 5.30pm at Marconi Stadium
Marconi Stallions endured a difficult 2014, finishing second to last after winning both the Championship and the Premiership in the previous season, but will be confident of progress in 2015 should forward Noah Chianese continue to build on his performances from last year.
Parramatta FC earned promotion after the first team finished top of the second division, while the 20s side qualified for the finals before losing out to Spirit FC in the preliminary final.
Traditional state league powerhouses Marconi will look to start 2015 with a win, while Parramatta will aim to provide the opening weekend with an upset.
Sydney Olympic FC v South Coast Wolves FC, 1.00pm at Belmore Sports Ground
Sydney Olympic underperformed in 2014, finishing ninth after a disappointing season by its own high standards, and will be targeting an opening round win against South Coast Wolves, who ended last year one place behind Olympic in tenth.
Olympic won this fixture at Belmore Sports Ground last season, running out 3-0 winners courtesy of a hat trick from striker James Andrew.
Andrew finished as the competition’s highest goalscorer last year with 13 goals in 21 appearances, and will again be central to Olympic’s efforts against the Wolves on Sunday afternoon.
Manly United FC v Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC, 1.00pm at Cromer Park
Manly United face Bonnyrigg White Eagles in an opening round match between last year’s Premiership winner and runner-up respectively, with Manly eager to avoid a repeat of their 3-0 loss in this fixture in 2014.
Manly ultimately reached the grand final and won, beating APIA Leichardt 3-2, while Bonnyrigg went out to Blacktown City in the semi finals.
Stevan Ilic was among the scorers during his side’s 3-0 win at Cromer Park in March last year, and went on to finish the season with 10 goals.
Looking to defend their title, Manly will need to be sharp against Bonnyrigg, who enjoyed a reversal in fortune last season after finishing 12th in 2013.
Blacktown City FC v Sydney United 58 FC 1.00pm Lilys Football Centre
While Blacktown City lost in last season’s preliminary final to Championship, and eventual Premiership winners Manly United, Sydney United 58 were unfortunate not to qualify for the finals; finishing their run-in with one point from their last three games – including a 2-1 loss to this weekend’s opponents.
Both sides will be relying on fresh faces for goals this season: United’s first team won the PS4 Preseason Cup with a goal from the newly-promoted Mark Cindric, who top-scored for the 20s side last year, while Sam Perre scored 12 goals for Blacktown City before moving on to the Central Coast Mariners youth team.
As in previous seasons, United can be expected to continue to encourage development within the club by promoting members of their under 18s squad to the 20s.
– By Max Grieve, PS4 National Premier Leagues Grade 20s Reporter