Wollongong Wolves have officially been been crowned 2019 National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s Premiers after wrapping up the title with a narrow 2-1 win against Rockdale City Suns at Ilinden Sports Centre on Sunday.
The win ended a 32 year Premiership drought for the club and was their first league honour since they took out the 2008 Championship.
Wollongong were determined to secure their place in history from the opening kickoff and took the lead only 17 minutes into proceedings thanks to a thunderous volley from defender Nick Littler.
Star striker Thomas James gave the visitors a 2-0 lead on the cusp of half-time leaving Rockdale all to do if they were to make a stunning upset.
The Suns attempted a gallant fight back when Jonathan Grozdanovski halved the deficit in the 63rd minute but it would prove too little too late as Wollongong clung on for victory and the Premiership.
The match was dominated by the home side in the opening exchanges as
Alec Urosevski fashioned the first opportunity in the second minute when he fired straight at Wolves’ ‘keeper Justin Pasfield.
Indeed it wasn’t until the 17th minute that Wollongong hit the target for the first time when a stupendous hal-volley via Littler cannoned into the back of the net to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead.
Rockdale upped the tempo after conceeding and nearly equalised when Grozdanovski was denied by a great Pasfield save.
Wollongong’s James worked an opening in the 35th minute that was helped over the bar and from the corner Guy Knight sent a fizzer narrowly wide of the upright with the visitors turning up the pressure on the hosts for the first time in the match.
Suns skipper Daniel Petkovski cost his side a penalty in first-half stoppage time when he took down james in the penalty area.
Wollongong’s leading scorer picked himself up to plant the ball with some venom past David Bradasevic to give Wollongong a 2-0 lead at the break.
After the interval Mick Neill almost claimed one back for Rockdale when he fired across the face of goal after a cruel deflection.
Littler nearly had a brace when he forced another magnificent save out of Suns glove man David Bradasevic
Grozdanovski gave Rockdale hope in the 63rd minute when he cooly headed home to cut the deficit to only 2-1.
It was backs to the wall stuff for Wollongong in the late stages of the match as nerves jangled but they battled through the difficulties posed by the gallant Rockdale side.
Despite the Suns’ determination, they were unable to find an equaliser with the final whistle confirming Wollongong’s title win.
Wollongong Wolves coach Luke Wilkshire was jubilant after the win praising the resilience of his team to secure the hard fought win.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game against a side that’s fighting for a final’s spot,” he said.
“We knew the situation but I think we’ve defended fantastically, as we have all season, and we’ve got the rewards for that effort.
“We had some players playing their first full 90 minutes of the season and some younger guys who’ve got some time on the pitch and obviously we’re happy to have wrapped things up officially.
“At the end of the day we just want to win and that goes throughout the team but we won’t sit back and feel the job is done yet as we have a lot more we want to achieve.
“We’re a group of winners and we want to do the same next week and beyond.
“It’s a habit and we want that to continue but credit Rockdale today. It was a tough game and they put us under pressure but we’ve come through and taken the points so very pleased with the effort.
Rockdale’s Jake Trajkovski rued the match as another opportunity lost for the Suns
“I felt we had the better of the chances,” he said.
“We trained very well throughout the week and perhaps on another day we would have come away with the three points.”
“Congratulations to Wollongong, they thoroughly deserve it for the season they’ve had and after a performance like that, they are a champion side.
“Even when they’ve been put under the pump they come away with the points and they’ve done that again against us tonight.
“We had our chances again but at the end of the day they’ve taken two against our one and that’s how football goes sometimes.”
Rockdale City Suns 1 (Grozdanovski 63’)
Wollongong Wolves 2 (Littler 17’, James 45+1 pen’)
Ilinden Sports Centre, Rockdale
Sunday 4th August 2019
Referee: Lachlan Keevers (Vic)
Asst. Refs: Scott Edeling & Greg Taylor (ACT)
4th Official: Cameron Wright
Rockdale City Suns: 1.David Bradasevic, 2.Daniel Petkovski, 3.Mick Neill, 5.Jake Trajkovski (8.Alex Canak 85’), 7.Alec Urosevski, 9.Jonathan Grozdanovski (23.Jordan Nikolovski 82’), 10.Nikola Taneski (45.Jordan Figon 59’), 11.Leigh Egger, 12.Idris El Hafiane, 19.Patrick Savor, 23.Panni Nikas
Subs not used: 15.Nick Petrillo, 18.Sasa Macura, 22.Max Rowston
Yellow Cards: Petkovski 47’, Neill 89’
Wollongong Wolves: 1.Justin Pasfield, 2.Taylor McDonald, 4.Nikola Djordjevic, 6.Ben Tosi, 7.Chris Price, 9.Thomas James, 10.Brendan Griffin, 11.Takeru Okada, 15.Nick Littler, 16.Guy Knight (8.Bul Juach 78’), 17.James Stojcevski (20.Brandon Stojcevski 62’)
Subs not used: 12.Luke Karies, 13.Stefan Dimoski
Yellow Cards: Knight 69’
By National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s reporter Micky Brock