The 2016 season has been one of indifference for both Hakoah Sydney City East and Wollongong Wolves but the two standout teams from the PlayStation®4 NPL NSW Men’s U18’s competition are out to ensure they end the campaign with silverware when they clash at Leichhardt Oval.
Both sides have enjoyed stellar seasons with Hakoah claiming the Premiership from the noses of Sutherland Sharks – whom the Hensley Athletic Field outfit comfortably dispatched 2-0 in their preliminary final last Sunday at Seymour Shaw.
Having finished 11 points behind the Premiers at the conclusion of the regular season, Wollongong have timed their run through the finals series to perfection, overcoming both Hakoah and Sutherland on their path to the Leichhardt Oval.
The James O’Rourke coached side have prepared for the edgy, tense nature of finals football with impressive aplomb, keeping five consecutive clean sheets en route to state football’s biggest day.
Wollongong also find themselves undefeated against Hakoah this season – the only club yet to be defeated by the Premiers, with the South Coast side sharing on the points at WIN Stadium on the opening day before notching 1-0 victories in Round 12 and in the qualifying final in late August.
The Wolves custodian is quietly optimistic his charges can maintain their undefeated streak against their more fancied opponents.
“We’ve beaten all the teams in front of us and around us this year so we’re feeling confident”, says O’Rourke.
“Hakoah are a similar side to us in how we play, they play with a togetherness, and they’re a very solid unit and one that is hard to break down.
Mark Gannon’s Hakoah conceded just 19 goals over the course of the regular season, a feat that the former Sydney University manager says has laid the platform for his side’s success in their Premiership winning campaign.
“We built a good back five from day one.
“I’ve always tried to build from the back and set up a good defence first and try and educate the lads to defend first.”
With both sides openly declaring their considerable defensive strengths prior to the match, the stage is set for a fiercely contested Grand Final – one Gannon needs no further motivation for.
“They’re the only team I haven’t beaten, so I’m looking forward to going in against Wollongong.
“The likes of Jake Trew will hurt us if we give him time, and they’ve got a couple of good holding midfielders who get on the ball and control the game.
The Wolves starlet has caught the eye of many throughout an impressive 2016 campaign that has seen the forward deputize for Jacob Timpano’s first grade side, including a late cameo in Wollongong’s FFA Cup Round of 32 meeting with Sydney FC.
“The U18 boys have been shining lights for the club this year”, says O’Rourke.
Sunday 11th September
Wollongong Wolves v Hakoah Sydney City East
10am kick off
-By Jacob Windon