It has been a disappointing campaign for Hakoah Sydney City East, however their skipper Brad Walker is confident that his side can round out the season on a high.
The Eastern Suburbs based side currently languish at the foot of the National Premier League Men’s First Grade and Club Championship standings and appear on course for relegation.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Walker revealed that Hakoah are treasuring the upcoming rounds as opportunities to conclude their campaign on a positive note.
“We’re not going to hide from the fact that it’s been a disappointing year from us,” the centre-back reflected.
“But we’re definitely looking to finish the year on as much of a high as we possibly can.
“We want to close the gap as much as possible in the next few weeks.
“The feeling in the camp is good, we have a great bunch of boys and hopefully we can build on, although a loss, a positive performance against Wollongong who have been by far the best team this year.
“I thought we took them all the way and hopefully we can take that performance into the rest of the year.”
The majority of Hakoah’s hardships have arrived in the final third, with Gavin Rae’s men having only found the back of the net on 10 occasions in 18 rounds.
On the other hand, Walker has been a key component of a stubborn defensive unit that have conceded just 27 goals this season; a statistic level with the likes of Sydney United 58 and Sydney Olympic who currently sit inside the competition’s top five.
“As you can see, we’re not an easy team to be broken down,” the 29-year-old said.
“But at the end of the day you have to score goals to win games and we haven’t quite done that.
“That’s not just on our attacking players; it comes from how we build out of the back and play through midfield to provide opportunities for the boys up top to finish it off.
“We have just not really been able to put on the finishing touches at times and that has unfortunately cost us.
“We have had some positive performances and at times luck hasn’t gone our way this year.
“I think if you ask most of our opponents, they’d say that we definitely pushed them to their limits and were very unlucky to not get more out of a lot of the games we played.”
A shining light throughout Hakoah’s frustrating season has been their shot-stopper Ryan Norval, and Walker praised the former Sydney FC man’s consistency between the sticks.
“I think you can’t look past our goalkeeper Ryan Norval, he’s been exceptional.
“Losing a good goalkeeper in Anthony Bouzanis (to the Sutherland Sharks) I think we’ve done very well to replace him.
“He has made big saves at big times in a lot of games and is a great guy to have around the club.
“He’s been a standout for us and across the whole year, and the back four and a couple of boys in defensive midfield have done really well too.”
If Hakoah are to suffer relegation to the National Premier Leagues Men’s 2 competition, Walker believes they would be well poised to push for a rapid return to the top division.
The defender knows what it takes to earn promotion, having joined the club back in 2013 when they plied their trade in the third tier of NSW Football.
“I think there’s some good structures in place at the club,” Walker said.
“We can look at what we did well this year, but I think we really need to learn from the things that we didn’t.
“If we can do that and address those quickly, I think the club definitely have the potential to come straight back up.
“We’ve done it once before so what’s to say we can’t do it again.
“If you don’t have faith that when you go down you can’t come back up that would be a bit of a lost cause.
“I think there’s some really good people at the football club in many different departments that can put together a really good shot at coming straight back up if we do go down.”
Hakoah are next in action on Sunday afternoon when they host Manly United at Hensley Athletic Field.
Walker’s side may well prove to be tricky customers for the likes of Manly, as well as their final three opponents Sydney United 58, Mt. Druitt Town Rangers and Blacktown City FC as the race for finals football heats up.
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Reporter Chris Curulli (Twitter handle @ChrisCurulli)