The long wait is finally over, the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition is back for season 2020 with a massive opening week of matches for fans to sink their teeth into.
It is shaping up to be one of the most evenly matched seasons to date with all 12 teams with their eyes on Premiership and Championship success. The Wolves hold the crown for being the 2019 Premiers while the APIA Leichhardt side are the reigning Champions.
All teams will want to get the season started on the right note and an opening week win could be the confidence booster required to find a run of early success.
Round one is also ‘Bush Fire Relief Round’ with clubs around the competition doing their part to help support those affected by this summer’s horrific fires.
Fans are invited to support the best NPL competition in Australia with so much at stake, the 2020 season promises to be the biggest and best yet.
For those not being able to make it, you can once again watch each and everyone of the matches on both NPL NSW Facebook Page and Football NSW YouTube page so tune in when you can.
North Shore Mariners v APIA Leichhardt FC, 6pm Saturday at Lambert Park
Competition new boys North Shore Mariners have been thrown in the deep end to start the season with a clash against reigning Champions APIA Leichhardt.
The Mariners will be desperate to prove themselves and show that they are not here to just make up the numbers.
The will need to find a way to win without star recruit Panny Nikas who has been ruled out with a facial injury he suffered in a pre-season friendly.
That being said, the club still has enough players to surprise APIA with the likes of Emmanuel Peters, Brian Jamba, Marquin Smith and captain Chris Lindsay set to fire on all cylinders.
It puts the pressure on long serving coach Joe Haywood who will need to find a different way to goal against a well drilled APIA defence.
A big round one win will also be on the agenda for the John Calleja coached APIA Leichhardt as they set out to start their title defence on the right foot.
While APIA has a new look off the field this season with a new club logo and revised name, the team on the field will be very similar.
Club captain Sean Symons will once again lead the team onto the park with club veteran Franco Parisi, shot stopper Ivan Necevski and Josh Symons also back for another season.
A lot of pressure will be put on the shoulders of leading marksman Chris Payne to lead form the start in attack while new recruit Jeremy Cox would love to open his account with APIA against the new kids on the block.
North Shore will be calling Lambert Park home this season but APIA will be out to remind them they whose turf it really is.
PREDICTION: North Shore Mariners 0 APIA Leichhardt FC 2
Mt Druitt Rangers v Sydney FC, 2pm Sunday at Popondetta Park
There was plenty of positive signs from Mt Druitt Town Rangers in 2019 and they will be looking to build on that with a strong start to this campaign, beginning with a win agains Sydney FC at Popondetta Park on Sunday.
Not much was expected of Mt Druitt during their maiden season in the NPL NSW but the Aiden Desmond coached outfit proved they can match it with anyone.
Mt Druitt will be a little smarter and a little wiser in their second season while a huge off-season recruitment drive has them stronger than ever.
Former A-League star midfielder Mateo Poljak makes the move west to join the Rangers and could be the perfect foil for striker Mirjan Pavlovic.
The big loss however is that of midfield maestro Fabricio Fernandez who has since moved back home to his native country in Uruguay.
Looking to stop them will be Jim van Weeren and his Sydney FC side.
The Young Sky Blues have shown a knack for surprising any team who underestimates them and that is likely to continue this season.
Star youngsters such as Marco Tilio have broken into Sydney FC’s A-League squad and will be out to earn a permanent move into the senior squad with a big showing in the NPL.
Van Weeren will be hoping his latest crop of academy players can make the step up to the NPL after losing Ryan Teague, Joel King and Harry van der Saag in the offseason.
Expect plenty of goals in what is set to be an exciting contest.
PREDICTION: Mt Druitt Town Rangers 2 Sydney FC 2
Blacktown City FC v Sydney United 58 FC, 3pm Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
A traditional rivalry is renewed in round one as Blacktown City play host to Sydney United 58 on Sunday at Lily Homes Stadium
The two teams played an absolutely epic semi-final clash last season with Sydney United taking out 7-3 in what was a match for the ages.
Six months later the two teams meet again and be sure that Blacktown will be looking to get one back on the side which eliminated them from the finals series.
Blacktown come into this match with a very similar team from last season with coach Mark Crittenden once again relying on youth to get the job done.
Club captain Matt Lewis and Grant Lynch will be leading the charge for Blacktown once again alongside some of the club’s production line of up and coming talent.
The sore point coming out of the club was the loss of star attacker Joey Gibbs who signed a professional contract in Iceland days before the transfer deadline ceased. Taking his spot and the pressure up front will be the likes of live-wire Leroy Jennings and new recruit Hassan Jalloh.
Their opponents Sydney United won’t have the same familiar look with a new coach in former Socceroos and AC Milan keeper Zeljko Kalac taking the reigns of a revamped side.
New Reds signing Devante Clut will be starting the year with a return to his former club and will be hoping to collect all three points.
Kalac has pledged to play a high octane brand of football this year so expect plenty of fireworks.
He does boost a quality side all across the pitch with Liam Rose set to have a huge year at the club while more goals are expected to flow from Patrick Antlemi via the creative services from midfield star Glenn Trifiro.
Matches between these two teams never disappoint and this one is sure to continue that trend.
PREDICTION: Blacktown City 1 Sydney United 58 3
Sydney Olympic FC v Wollongong Wolves FC, 4pm Sunday at Belmore Sports Ground
With a new coach and an overhauled squad, Sydney Olympic is equipped for a massive season, however first they must start their season against reigning premiers Wollongong Wolves
Terry Palapanis takes the reigns at Olympic in 2020 and the goal will be getting the side back to the top of the pile after a challenging season last year.
A bumper recruitment drive has brought in a wealth of stars including Seb Ryall, Raul Beneit Romero, Adam Parkhouse, Fabio Ferreira and Charles Lokolingoy.
It has given the Belmore side a ferocious attack on paper and the question will be how long it takes before it is firing on all cylinders.
Looking to stop them will be a Wollongong Wolves side out to prove their incredible 2019 season wasn’t just a flash in the pan
The Luke Wilkshire coached Wolves were a dominant force in 2019 leading the competition from the opening round before taking out the Premiership title in a canter.
The disappointing end to their finals campaign is sure to be a sore spot for the Wolves and a big win in week one will go some way to easing any lingering frustrations.
Golden boot winner Thomas James returns for another year at WIN Stadium and will again be the focal point of the attack.
Japanese midfielder Takeru Okada is also back and will be hoping his second season in the NPL NSW is just as good as his breakthrough first.
Promising youngster James Stojcevski will have the honour of wearing the captain’s armband for 2020, a huge responsibility but one that the player will relish.
Olympic will be out to make a statement in the opening game of the season and a win against Wollongong would definitely send a message.
PREDICTION: Sydney Olympic 1 Wollongong Wolves 1
Rockdale Ilinden FC v Manly United FC, 4.30pm Sunday at Ilinden Sports Centre
It was a tough year for Rockdale Ilinden FC fans last season and the club will hope to get things back on track when they kick-off the 2020 campaign at home against Manly United FC.
New coach Steve Zoric will be pushing his Suns team to not make the mistakes of season past and starting the season on the right foot.
Japanese playmaker Tomoki Wakada is the biggest addition to the Suns roster and will be tasked with being the spark plug between midfield and attack.
Alec Urosevski returns for Rockdale and will again be the main man at Ilinden Sports Centre but look for new recruits Mitch Stamatellis and Dimi Petratos as well as James Baldacchino to make headlines at the club.
Manly United had an equally disappointing year and a good start will be just as important.
Paul Dee returns to coach the boys from the Northern Beaches and hopes to unlock the potential of his young side.
Brendan Cholakian will be the primary weapon in attack, while the return of Sam Gallagher to the line up after spending the majority of last season on the sideline will boost their defence.
Journeyman Richie Cardozo will look to lead the team’s attack alongside the likes of young guns Marley Peterson and Harry McCarthy while the inclusion of Dean Bereveskos from NPL Victoria could prove to be the X-Factor at the club.
Both teams are a bit of an unknown quantity so this match could go either way.
PREDICTION: Rockdale Ilinden FC 1 Manly United 1
Marconi Stallions FC v Sutherland Sharks FC, 7pm Sunday at Marconi Stadium
Marconi Stallions will be out to make their mark with a big win against Sutherland Sharks at Marconi Stadium on Sunday.
The Stallions narrowly missed the finals last season despite boasting one of the strongest squads in the competition.
Coach Peter Tsekenis has kept the majority of the team from last season and will be eyeing nothing short of Premiership or Championship honours.
One player Tsekenis will be hoping to see more of this campaign is Anthony Frangie with the young attacker back after a 2019 season which was interrupted by injury.
A lot of hype has surrounded former Adelaide City star Anthony Costa, with the striker hoping to do some damage in the most prestigious NPL competition in Australia.
They will go up against a new look Sutherland Sharks side who could prove to be a dark horse this season.
Incoming coach Nick Dimovski has built an impressive roster including former NPL Golden Boot winner Blake Powell and ex-Eredivisie defender Joey Groenbast.
Throw in Peter Simonoski, Oliver Green and Mason Versi and you have a pretty decent line-up.
Dimovski has set out on ending the Sharks poor results over the last few seasons and nothing can send a message more than a big win in round one.
A thrilling clash to wrap up what will be a massive opening round of the National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s competition.
PREDICTION: Marconi Stallions 3 Sutherland Sharks 2