Rockdale City Suns player coach Paul Reid says his side are thriving on heightened expectations ahead of the 2018 NPL NSW’s commencement in under a month’s time.
The City Suns have been steady improvers over the last three seasons and 38-year-old Reid has earmarked the new campaign as one in which his side enter as potential champions.
Rockdale finished third in the 2017 season and were only a penalty shoot-out victory away from reaching the grand final following a defeat to would-be Champions Manly United.
“We were happy enough with third in the end, we thought we had a team that could probably win the league and we came close,” said Reid.
“This season we definitely have aspirations to finish top.
“If you don’t start the season thinking you can win it you might as well not be playing.”
The bar has been raised further for Rockdale thanks to the development of Ilinden Sports Centre’s brand new artificial pitch which will get its first competitive unveiling when the Suns host local rivals Sutherland Sharks on March 11.
Rockdale dropped nine points at home last year but Reid says the new surface will allow for a consistently fluid approach on the field and give the Suns a great opportunity to transform their pitch in to a home fortress.
“We like to play an attacking brand of football but by the time you got midway through the season it became very tough to play on,” said Reid.
“We got used to it and adapted to it and had a good home record because of that but at the end of the day we wanted a good pitch and teams are going to find it harder against us.”
While their competitors have largely endured busy off-seasons in terms of recruitment Rockdale have managed to maintain most of their 2017 squad despite the losses of keeper David Bradasevic to Bonnyrigg and Daniel Saric to North Shore Mariners.
Goalkeepers Nick Sorras and Jake Soutter will provide healthy competition for veteran gloveman Ante Covic while the Suns have added A-League experience in the form of versatile fullback Michael Neill.
Ex-Sydney FC youngster Bai Antoniou has impressed at youth level for the Sky Blues and will add significant depth to a frontline including Alec Urosevski and Jordan Figon.
Business has not formally concluded for the Suns with Reid citing the addition of another central defender or winger as possibilities before the season begins.
“We have the potential to bring in another player if needed but we’re happy with the way we are the minute and there’s plenty of competition for places.
“It’s definitely the strongest squad that we’ve had during my time at Rockdale so there’s an expectation that we’ll be one of the top teams and we’re not shying away from that.”
-By Jacob Windon