A thrilling climax to the 2016 regular season looms on Sunday with Manly United, Sutherland Sharks, Bonnyrigg White Eagles and APIA Leichhardt Tigers all in the running to be crowned Premiers, while Sydney Olympic and Blacktown City will battle it out for the final position in the top five.
Here’s the permutations for the Premiership contenders on what will be a gripping afternoon of action:
1st – Manly United, 40pts (+16)
The competition leaders will likely seal the Premiership with a win over Blacktown City, but must be wary of second-placed Sutherland who are equal on forty points but trail United by two goals difference.
2nd – Sutherland Sharks, 40pts (+14)
Should Manly collect three points over Blacktown City, Sutherland Sharks will need to bolster their goal difference against fourth-placed APIA Leichhardt to stand a chance of winning the Premiership with the Sharks trailing United by two goals.
3rd – Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 39pts (+20)
The White Eagles are outsiders but hold a significant trump card in their superior goal difference over their rivals. All results falling their way, Bonnyrigg could be crowned Premiers with a win over Wollongong Wolves but will see their hopes crumble with Manly and Sutherland wins. Stephen Sigmund’s side could also finish first with a draw should Manly lose and APIA Leichhardt beat Sutherland by less than four goals.
4th – APIA Leichhardt Tigers, 37pts (+16)
The Lambert Park outfit have a lot of ground to make up but should APIA land a win over Sutherland Sharks, they will finish first if Bonnyrigg and Manly lose. George Sidis’ men could also seal an unlikely triumph if they beat Sutherland Sharks, see Manly lose to Blacktown and Bonnyrigg collect a point against Wollongong – but they would need to beat Sutherland by a four goal margin.
Match of the Round
APIA Leichhardt Tigers v Sutherland Sharks, 1.00pm at Lambert Park
APIA Leichhardt might be rank outsiders to claim the 2016 Premiership but the Tigers hold the key in deciding the final complexion of the competition ladder when they host Sutherland Sharks at Lambert Park.
With Sutherland trailing leaders Manly United on goal difference, Allan Edmondson’s side will need to deliver one of the performances of the season to maintain their Premiership bid.
They could hardly have asked for a sterner test – APIA Leichhardt have truly hit peak form in the latter stages of the season, winning four of their last five. Spearheaded by the prolific Duncan Stewart, who last week grabbed his 20th goal of the season against Blacktown City, George Sidis’ fourth-placed outfit will be looking to continue their sterling form into the finals series – and could even seal an unlikely Premiership should results go their way.
Manly United v Blacktown City, 1.00pm at Cromer Park
While the fate of the Premiership isn’t truly in anyone’s hands, Manly United profess the strongest chance of claiming the first trophy of the 2016 Men’s 20’s campaign when they host Blacktown City at Cromer Park.
But following consecutive draws – including the concession of a sensational last-gasp equalizer against Sydney United last weekend, has seen ramped up the pressure on the competition leaders who will have a nervous eye on events unfolding at Lambert Park.
Similarly, Blacktown City will be glancing sideways at Sydney Olympic who leapfrogged the reigning champions into the top five last week with a 1-0 win over Rockdale. Ben Wright’s side trail the Blues by goal difference (-1) and with both Olympic and Blacktown on 31 points it’s shaping up to be a fixture of gargantuan proportions for both the premiers-elect and finals hopefuls..
Wollongong Wolves v Bonnyrigg White Eagles, 1.00pm at WIN Stadium
It will be a tall order for Bonnyrigg to claim the Premiership with the White Eagles banking on a slew of results to go their way but Stephen Sigmund’s side nonetheless seek to enter the finals series on a high when they face Wollongong at WIN Stadium.
Consecutive victories over Hakoah Sydney City East and Sydney United 58 have steadied the ship for the third-placed side ahead of the final round of the season and the White Eagles will hope to leave the South Coast unscathed ahead of the finals.
However, it won’t be a stroll for Bonnyrigg with Wollongong still hunting crucial club championship points.
Blacktown Spartans v Sydney Olympic, 1.00pm at Blacktown Football Park
There’s still plenty at stake for both Blacktown Spartans and Sydney Olympic when the pair face off at Blacktown Football Park.
Olympic will be hoping to secure their position in the top five with a win, with the side only set for finals football on the virtue of one goal difference. The Blues will need to beat the Spartans and hope Blacktown City don’t beat Manly United by a greater goal difference in order to finally secure their spot.
With the Spartans playing for club championship points to retain their position in the top flight, it promises to be another encounter of epic proportions.
Hakoah Sydney City East v Sydney United 58, 1.00pm at Hensley Athletic Field
The first of two dead rubbers that Round 22 has to offer, Hakoah Sydney City East conclude their season back in the top flight with a home fixture against Sydney United 58.
In a campaign that began so promisingly for Hakoah, the side have now slipped to ninth position after a run of four straight defeats. They were held scoreless in three of those losses, the latest being a 3-0 defeat to Bonnyrigg White Eagles last weekend.
Coming up against a Sydney United 58 team buoyed by their draw against the league leaders last weekend, Hakoah will be desperate to avoid a fifth straight defeat – a loss that would see the team potentially slip as far as eleventh.
Rockdale City Suns v Parramatta, 1.00pm at Ilinden Sports Centre
Rockdale City Suns were consigned to the wooden spoon last weekend following a 1-0 defeat to Sydney Olympic and the Ilinden side will wrap up a disappointing campaign at home to Parramatta.
The Melita outfit have begun to demonstrate why the season will go down as a hugely frustrating one for Mark Zecchin’s side, with the Eagles stringing together three wins on the trot against Wollongong, Bonnyrigg and Hakoah in their last three outings.
Parramatta are now on course to finish just outside the finals positions with another win on Sunday afternoon – a situation that will further antagonize the Melita Stadium faithful but offer plenty of renewed promise for next season.
– By Jacob Windon