It all starts this Sunday as the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues 2 NSW Men’s competition comes to life with 14 teams chasing that one ultimate dream; to be crowned Champions and to win promotion into NSW’s elite league in 2017.
Round 1 is upon us and below are the first round match-ups that will take shape across NSW with some enticing fixtures that are sure not to be missed – so get out and support your local clubs!
North Shore Mariners FC v. Mounties Wanderers FC, Sunday 1 pm at Valentine Sports Park No. 2
The 2017 season begins at Valentine Sports Park on Sunday afternoon, where North Shore Mariners take on Mounties Wanderers FC in the first game of this year’s 2017 PS4 NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition.
This fixture ended 3-3 at Northbridge Oval in 2016, with two goals from Michael Cole helping to cancel out a hat trick from Matthew West. Both sides will be without these goalscorers this season – Cole has stepped down to play local football due to family commitments, while West has moved on to APIA Leichhardt. Joe Haywood continues with Mariners after a disappointing 2016 season, his side having finished bottom of the NPL 2 despite conceding the least goals of any team in the competition. Haywood stressed an emphasis on improving his side’s attack in the preseason, and believes that Mariners "can definitely improve at both ends of the park this year.”
Mounties, meanwhile, begin the 2017 season under new management, with Lee Sterrey joining from Macarthur Rams after David Perkovic moved to Spirit FC. Sterrey is aiming for an improvement on Mounties’ third place finish in 2016, and stated his new side are "good enough" to win the NPL 2, but admits they’ll likely miss West’s goals – "he was maybe three-quarters of the attack last year."
Central Coast Mariners FC v. Marconi Stallions FC, Sunday 1.30pm at Pluim Park No. 1
Central Coast Mariners clash with Marconi Stallions in a repeat of a fixture that finished 4-5 to the visitors last season, with two goals apiece from Marko Jesic and Mirjan Pavlovic helping Marconi across the line in 2016. The Stallions hold onto these two players moving into the new season, adding a number of players an already strong team which finished fourth last year – most notable among the new recruits is former Socceroo defender Michael Beauchamp, who joins from Bankstown City.
Coach Tony Candy retains much of the 2016 squad after taking over from Jeff Suzor, and is hopeful that Stallions will be able to make a serious push for promotion back to the NPL 1 this season.
Central Coast Mariners have lost Nathan Verity and captain Liam O’Dell due to the age restrictions that apply to the A-League academy sides, but welcome Brenton Fox from Western Sydney Wanderers and James Enticknap from Queensland to strengthen Ben Cahn’s young side, who have promoted talent from within the club in preparation for the 2017 season. Cahn’s priority remains producing players for the Mariners’ senior team, but says he and his side are aiming to reach the finals series this year: "We believe we can be there or thereabouts – we’ll see what happens."
Bankstown City FC v. Bankstown Berries FC, Sunday 6.30pm at Jensen Park WASHED OUT
Bankstown City FC hosted Bankstown Berries late in the 2016 regular season at Jensen Park, running out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Gerard Ouffoue and Christopher Gomez. City will be without Gomez, who joined Spirit FC in the offseason, and will line up against former teammates Nicholas Mouzourakis and Dominic Hudap on Sunday night, the pair having joined Berries for 2017.
They are strengthened by the arrival of Bruno Pivato from St George FC, Hussein Akil from Hakoah and David McMurray from Macarthur Rams, three players who coach John Caruana will hope can make up for the valuable experience that Michael Beauchamp brought to Bankstown City; the former Socceroo having left for Marconi at the end of 2016.
Alex Becerra, too, has moved from Berries across to Bankstown City, ensuring an intriguing reunion for both sides at Jensen Park over the weekend. Berries begin 2017 with new coach Perry Moustakas, a player at Sutherland Sharks last year. Moustakas is optimistic that the mix of youth and experience in his squad will pay dividends for Berries this season, after a disappointing showing in 2016 saw his side – then under the management of Wally Savor – finish second-to-last in the NPL 2.
"We’ve been training well, and training hard," he stated to Football NSW,
"We’re all really looking forward to the first game of the season."
Macarthur Rams FC v. Spirit FC, Sunday 7pm at Lynwood Park
Macarthur Rams met Spirit FC in Round 8 of the 2016 NPL 2 NSW Men’s season, with Rams edging a 1-0 win after Elid Barkhousir scored the only goal of the game for the home side.
These sides meet again in the opening round of the 2017 season, though Rams will be missing their match winner and top goalscorer from last season, after Barkhousir sustained a season-ending injury in preseason. The team from Lynwood Park will begin the new year under Bill Pilovski, as Lee Sterrey moves to Mounties Wanderers, and will be looking for improvement on a season which saw them finish in eighth place, just five points outside of the top six – "I think we might surprise a few people," Pilovski stated to Football NSW.
Spirit FC also welcome a new coach into the ranks, with David Perkovic arriving at Christie Park from Mounties Wanderers. Perkovic has brought in Christopher Gomez and Jack Musgrove from Bankstown City, along with 2016 NPL Goalkeeper of the Year James Webb from Stanmore Hawks, as he looks to move Spirit up the ladder after they finished 12th last season, just seven points off the bottom of the table. An attacking coach, Perkovic has brought in players to improve Spirits’ product in the front third of the pitch, and is hoping that his new side will be able to make a push for the finals in 2017.
St George FC v. Blacktown Spartans FC, Sunday 7pm at Seymour Shaw
St George and Blacktown Spartans meet at Seymour Shaw on Sunday night for the first time since 2014, when Spartans ran out 6-1 winners over a St George side which was relegated to the NPL 2 at the end of the season. It’s Spartans who find themselves down a division in 2017, taking on a St George team which had a strong 2016 season as they finished amongst the three teams that just missed out on finals football, along with Northern Tigers and Macarthur Rams.
St George coach Terry Palapanis is "quietly confident" that his side can make the jump into the top six this season, having recruited Jacob Bandur from Hakoah, Andrew Depta from Sydney United, and Zac Riberio from Fraser Park.
Also joining St George in 2017 is Juan Carlos Romero, who arrives from Spain’s third division. Blacktown Spartans prepare for the new season in the NPL 2 with an entirely new first grade squad, having been unable to retain any players from the 2016 side. Still, Luis Contigiani remains positive: "It’s a brand new team," he was quoted. "[and] a genuine rebuilding process for us. We’ve got the foundation for a good first grade side and I’m optimistic that we’re on the right path forward."
Western Sydney Wanderers FC v. Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC, Sunday 7pm at Sydney United Sports Centre
The Wanderers begin their 2017 season with a match at home against Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC, a fixture that they lost 3-4 last season despite a hat trick from club top scorer Kyle Cimenti. Western Sydney lose Keanu Baccus, Lachan Scott and Abraham Majok to Tony Popovic’s first team this year, though Baccus and Majok are still expected to play some role in coach Trevor Morgan’s plan in 2017.
Morgan has largely promoted talent from within the club, with Emmanuel Gonzalez headlining the few arrivals at the Wanderers over the offseason, coming in as the top goalscorer for Sydney FC’s 20s side last year. Mt Druitt Town Rangers, meanwhile, are looking to improve on their sixth place finish in 2016 – culminating in a loss to eventual competition winners Sydney FC in the semi finals – under Aiden Desmond, who has brought in a number of talented players from across the NPL NSW system, including Lachlan Roberts who arrives from Western Sydney Wanderers. Roberts’ new side will line up against the Wanderers on Sunday night hopeful that they can go one better in 2017, and at the least claim a spot in the finals again.
Hills Brumbies FC v. Northern Tigers FC, Sunday 7pm at Valentine Sports Park No. 2
Hills Brumbies arrive in the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition after a successful 2016 season which saw them finish top of the NPL 3, eventually succumbing to a 4-1 loss to the Rydalmere Lions in the grand final.
Dan Sheppard remains in charge of the Brumbies as they begin their campaign in the NPL 2 in 2017, and retains much of the same squad that achieved promotion, along with a few new faces which he hopes will help the Brumbies cement their place in the second division, including Nathan Rayner, Eoin Montford and Matthew Viera who join from Bankstown Berries, Sydney Olympic and Prospect United respectively. Paul Down, instrumental in the Brumbies’ 2016 campaign, steps down from the field to the bench as he begins his coaching career with the club’s 16s side. Northern Tigers, meanwhile, will be hoping that they can make a serious push for finals football this year under John Comito, who is expecting big things from his young side.
With Paul Davies having retired, and Steven Baveas choosing to help with the coaching staff rather than play, Tigers have looked to their 20s and 18s sides to bolster their team in 2017, with Harry Mears returning from APIA Leichhardt and Joshua Tanner arriving from Blacktown Spartans.
-By Max Grieve