Big changes are afoot at Hakoah Sydney City East in 2018 but coach Gavin Rae exclaims they should not be underestimated.
Despite a fairytale season in 2017 which included winning the Waratah Cup and a historic FFA Cup clash against A-League heavyweights Melbourne City, Hakoah are set for a transitional year in 2018 after a major turnover of players in the offseason.
Gone are key contributors Neil Jablonski, Dean Bereveskos, Lee Jones, Paul Orgad and Alec Lekoski, but one of the biggest changes at Hensley Athletic Field this season is Rae’s decision to retire from playing to take on coaching duties full time.
“At the end of last season I felt the time was right to focus on coaching so it was a logical progression for me,” Rae said.
“It has been a tough offseason in terms of player turnover and we have lost a lot of experience in the guys who have moved on.
“The loss of Jabba (Jablonski) to Stanmore Hawks was especially tough as he has been such a big part of this club for a long time and has played a big role in what we have achieved.
“While we aren’t exactly starting from scratch this season, the change in playing personnel has allowed us to refresh things a bit and build towards something great.”
Youth will be the key ingredient this season for Hakoah and Rae is excited to see how far his young squad can go.
“Hakoah has always been based around developing young local talent so having a transitional squad this season has given us the opportunity to promote even more up and coming players,” he said.
“The message remains the same and we will be pushing to make the finals this season.”
It hasn’t been just departures at Hakoah with veteran defender Mitch Stamatellis headlining the club’s off season acquisitions.
Also signing on at the club is Jordan Crighton, James Combes and former APIA Leichhardt midfielder Dominic Cox.
Hakoah has also retained key players Anthony Bouzanis, Andre De Jong, and Anthony Frangie.
“Last season was a breakthrough year for the club in regards to winning the Waratah Cup and now I hope with this younger squad we can build a platform for long term success moving forward,” Rae said.
“Despite everything the standards will remain the same this season and every game we will be fighting to win.
“It is an exciting time at the club and hopefully the start of something great.”
-By Nick Houghton