The disappointment of a horror title defence is set to be the driving force which helps Manly United return to the top of the NPL Men’s NSW in 2019.
Manly went into last season on top of the world flying high on confidence after claiming an incredible upset win to claim the 2017 grand final with a dramatic penalty shootout win against APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
However, their season failed to play out how they would’ve hoped as they slumped to an eight place finish and out of the finals less than 12 months after lifting the trophy.
The results left a bad feeling at the proud club from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, star player Brendan Cholakian says it has been a motivating factor for the team ahead of the upcoming campaign.
“It was a very frustrating season for everyone last year and it felt like no matter what we did we just couldn’t reach the heights which we know we’re capable of,” Cholakian said.
“Missing out on the finals cut deep and we have been determined this offseason to identify everything which we felt fell short and made changes so we can be a contender again this season.
“Preseason for us started back in November because we wanted to give everyone the best chance to start this campaign at their best and for our new signings to develop strong chemistry with the rest of the team.”
Coach Paul Dee has taken a nuanced approach to recruitment so far with a focus on developing young local talent combined with a few experienced addictions.
The biggest name back on the team sheet at Manly this year is the return of former NPL NSW Men’s Player of the Year winner Adam Parkhouse after two seasons in Wellington for A-League side the Phoenix.
He is joined by defender Sam Gallagher who also returns after a stint abroad and former Marconi attacker Charles Mendy.
“We’ve really added some new versatility to our attack and strengthened up the defence which was definitely needed,” Cholakian said.
“Adam (Parkhouse) was a huge part of our success in 2017 and his form was noticed enough to get him an A-League deal.
“Having a player like him on your team is a major coup as is bringing in a unique player like Charles (Mendy).
“I feel like we have really addressed the areas which we fell short in last season and helped strengthen the squad to where we have been at in prior years.”
Unfortunately it hasn’t all just been arrivals at Cromer Park with key players Sasa Macura and Leigh Egger both making the move to Rockdale City Suns.
While their departure is a big loss for Manly, Cholakian believes the club’s rising stars will help fill the void.
“It was unfortunate to lose Leigh and Sasa but that’s football but we are very lucky to have recruited players like Sam Gallagher to cover their departure,” he said.
“The young players coming up into the first team will also get their chance and that is something which Manly does very well. I was given a chance as a young player and the club helped me reach the level I am now.”
A fan favourite will also make his debut in the technical area this season with recently retired striker Dylan Macalister taking up an assistant coach position.
Manly United start their season with a tough road trip to Wollongong on Sunday, March 10.
Key player movements
Arrivals: Adam Parkhouse (Wellington Phoenix), Sam Gallagher (UK), Charles Mendy (Marconi Stallions)
Departures: Leigh Egger (Rockdale City Suns), Sasa Macura (Rockdale City Suns)
-By Nick Houghton