The penultimate fixture of the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U20 season falls on Sunday morning with Bonnyrigg White Eagles and Sydney Olympic facing off at Edensor Park in a bid to confirm their attendance at next fortnight’s Grand Final.
In keeping with what has been a thoroughly unpredictable campaign, the preliminary final has offered up an unlikely match up – but one that should be hugely anticipated and an encounter that will undoubtedly be fiercely contested by both.
For Sydney Olympic, the fifth-place finishers from the normal season and rank outsiders to claim the championship at the beginning of the finals series, the meeting with Bonnyrigg looks to be symbolic of the Belmore club’s season – and how they’ve managed to time their run to the finals so expertly.
When the White Eagles defeated Olympic 2-1 at Bonnyrigg Sports Club in Round 18, the Blues looked consigned to a hugely disappointing mid-table finish. The defeat left John Theodoropoulos’ side in ninth position and five points away from a finals berth, a seemingly impossible deficit to overcome.
But nearly two months on from that loss, Olympic approach Sunday’s preliminary final with considerable momentum following seven wins in a row, and having beaten competition heavyweights Sutherland Sharks and APIA Leichhardt Tigers in consecutive elimination finals they are shaping up to be tricky customers for Bonnyrigg.
Key to this late season revival has been the emergence of the consistency that was sorely lacking over the first half of Olympic’s campaign. Captain and central defender James Combes has marshalled an ever-improving back four with impressive nous, while in Nikita Andricopoulos and Michael Loupis Olympic possess two diminutive attackers able to produce moments of brilliance from anywhere.
It leaves Bonnyrigg, who have been handicapped by the losses of Asmir Kadric and Martin Lo to the first-team, with plenty to consider when they arrive at Sydney United Sports Centre. Stephen Sigmund’s side gave Premiers’ Manly one of their toughest tests of resolve all season in last week’s grand final qualifier but were unable to capitalize on a series of well-constructed opportunities and the absence of Kadric will surely be felt again on Sunday.
In this minor reshuffle of the team, Bonnyrigg have promoted exciting youngster Luke Ivanovic to lead the line in recent months and the forward has deputized steadily with six goals from 11 appearances. With the likes of Harrison Bagot dictating play from midfield and Leon Faria offering an attacking presence from fullback the White Eagles offer plenty of quality needed to scupper the Olympic fairytale.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles v Sydney Olympic, Sunday 10.30am at Sydney United Sports Centre
-By Jacob Windon
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