As the final whistle sounded on a cold Saturday evening at Seymour Shaw during the round 15 clash between the Sutherland Sharks and Sydney United 58, the competition felt a boom albeit with the announcement of the departure of one of the best players ever to grace the PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition.
Sydney United 58’s number 23, Panny Nikas said his final goodbyes to his teammates, ironically against a club he truly made his name at after bursting into the scene and announced his presence with the Shire boys in 2009 after initially getting his debut via the now defunct Penrith Nepean United.
The final game didn’t go to script for Nikas and the United 58 boys as Grant Lee’s men spoiled the party running home 3-2 victors in a huge upset but the news filtered around the ground that the former PS4 NPL NSW Men’s Player of the Year had signed with Thai League 1 side Police Tero Football Club coached by former Brisbane Roar manager Mike Mulvey.
The move was effective immediately as Nikas had a flight booked for Bangkok at 4pm on Sunday.
“It all happened so quick.
“I know I still have that burning desire to continually evolve as a player and test myself at the highest levels possible and this opportunity came about and was something I just could not pass up.”
The constant chatter over social media year upon year was why hadn’t a Hyundai A-League club snapped up the 28-year old’s services after consistently performing in Australia’s strongest state league.
Nikas did get a sniff at the Central Coast Mariners when he played with the NYL side in 2009-2010, a season that saw him win the Player of the Year tag however the club released him surprisingly after that. North Queensland Fury were the next time club that gave the Kingsgrove North High School teacher a chance in 2010 but luck deserted the star attacking midfielder as a year, later the club folded resulting in Nikas returning to the state league with the Sharks.
After three seasons with Sutherland, former NSL giants Sydney United 58 came knocking on the door and they further unleashed the player’s potential.
Winning individual trophies, championships and lots more, one thing that was missing for Nikas was another crack at the big time in Australia’s elite league.
“I had a couple of trials with a few teams but nothing ever eventuated from that.
“It didn’t put me down as a player and as an individual I still had that burning desire to play football professionally – if anything, it made me work a lot harder at my game.”
The former Australian Beach Soccer international received a call from Mulvey, a former Hyundai A-League Championship winning coach, who saw the potential the fleetfooted Kogarah born star had and after a few nervous hours, sealed the deal.
“I knew the move was right for me after speaking to Mike.
“I knew that that to further test myself was to take this opportunity presented to me and I know I will do all that I can to continue to work harder in winning a spot with his side.
“I know it’s not come at a great time leaving a club that has given me so much professionally and I want to thank the entire coaching staff at Sydney United 58 from Mark Rudan to Ray Gerrie to Jerry Bilokapic to Tomi Vidovic to the Club President Mark Ivancic and of course Sam Krslovic for allowing me to pursue my dreams abroad.
“I also want to thank Benchmark Sports and Entertainment for making this happen too.”
Mulvey isn’t the only Australian currently representing the country in Thailand as the likes of Bangkok Glass skipper Matt Smith (English born Australian), Sisaket’s attacking midfielder Isaka Cernak and Khon Kaen striker Richie Cardozo are all currently plying their trade there.
Asked what he knew of Thailand’s top league and what he was gearing himself up for, Nikas replied to Football NSW.
“The league itself has come a long way in the last couple of seasons and this has shown with the success of Thai teams such as Buriram United and Muangthong United who have held their own in the AFC Asian Champions League as well as the national team’s continual development in the Asian scene.
“Money has poured into the competition in getting the standard of play up and its visible that it’s only going to get better.”
Scoring and setting up goals as well as tricking opponents and the desire to win at all costs has been forever entrenched in Nikas’ DNA and it is that drive that has made him one of the hottest properties in the PS4 NPL NSW Men’s competition.
Asked whether he would still be keeping a close eye on his former squad, Nikas stated.
“Of course I will be, what kind of a question is that?
“I have a lot of respect for the team and coaching staff there and I know they will continue to play the football they love and getting the results they need to win Premierships and Championships.
“They’ve got a talented squad led by a good coaching staff and with the experience of captain Nick Stavroulakis along with some seasoned campaigners in the league and some up and coming youngsters coming through the ranks, the club is in good hands.
“I hope to catch them now on the PS4 NPL Facebook Live Streams where I will be cheering them on.
“I want to wish them all the best – they will forever be with me.”
Anyone that’s come across Nikas understands the quality he poses not just as a footballer but as a human being.
His character is infectious and anyone that has crossed paths with the diminutive star understands the positive attitude he poses on a daily basis.
As the news broke that he was off to Thailand, several of his students as well as teachers at Kingsgrove North High School shed a tear but offered him words and letters of support.
“The feedback I got from them was truly amazing and something I will never forget.
“I’ve made lifelong friends there as well as nurturing young students whom I am sure will make decent human beings after their time at school both academically and via football.
“I want to thank Kingsgrove North High School for also allowing me this chance to play in Thailand.”
Nikas will also be leaving a number of promising young footballers behind whom he coached privately as well as a cluster of kids at Earlwood Wanderers but is adamant that they will kick on.
One things for sure, unlike the movie hangover, Nikas’ will to succeed as he did in many ways in the PS4 NPL NSW Men’s competition, has put him in good stead of cementing himself as yet another successful Australian product – a player that will go down as one of the first to leave this semi-professional setup jumping into a pro contact in Thailand.
Good luck Panny, the eleven other rival PS4 NPL NSW Men’s clubs will now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least for the remainder of this season, they will not face a player that plays with his socks pulled down and one that strikes fear in opponents when he is about to unleash a free-kick or shot from a good 40 or 50 yards out.
-By Mark Stavroulakis