As one of the NPL NSW Men’s most experienced players, Brendan Cholakian has been a mainstay of Manly United’s squad for the majority of his time in the competition.
After making the big switch from Cromer Park to Belmore Sportsground for Sydney Olympic this year, the midfielder has settled right in to the new team dynamic, continuing to be one of the league’s most impactful players.
“I think this year was always going to be the toughest season for me because of the change,” he explained.
“Taking the big change into account, it’s been such a smooth and enjoyable season so far, the team, the squad, the coaching staff and the Club itself have been so welcoming to me and that made me fit in really, really well and it feels like I’ve been playing there for such a long period of time.
“We always knew it was going to take a fair bit of time for us to gel, but the chemistry that we’ve got as a playing group is really, really good and I’m enjoying my football now more than ever – it’s been a really good season.
“We’ve positioned ourselves really, really well, in that fifth spot and close to the top three or four that once we get back to playing, we can really close out the season with some strong form with the remaining games that we’ve got at home at Belmore.”
Having spent so much time at Manly, Cholakian experienced going back to Cromer Park as a visitor this season.
“It was strange when I came up against them the first time and it was actually at Cromer Park – it’s always strange going back to a place that you’ve been at for so long.
“I think the way that the Olympic has made me feel so much at home since day one, it made that transition a little bit easier.
“I still speak with a lot of the players at Manly still quite regularly and they’ll be good friends to me for a long, long time even outside of my footballing career.
“From that sort of individual people side of things, I still sort of keep in touch with everyone, but when it came to football, even though the first time back to Cromer was a bit strange, I haven’t really felt any different and I feel like my new home at Olympic is somewhere I want to be for a very long time.”
While the lockdown is stopping Olympic from getting together and training as a team, they are still training individually and building their chemistry through the digital channels available to them.
“As most people would say when you’re in lockdown the best escape is to sort of get out onto the paddock and have a run and have a kick so the fitness plan that has been provided to us by Olympic has been really, really good and, most importantly, we’ve got a really committed squad of individuals and I know that every single one of them is going to be doing this at the best of their ability.
“Our WhatsApp group chat blows up quite regularly with a fair bit of banter, in fact, I think now that we’ve gone into lockdown the WhatsApp group has probably got a bit more content in there in comparison to when we were seeing each other every pretty much every second day of training anyway.
“We’ve got a really good bunch of boys everyone gets along really well, everyone’s reaching out to individuals independently as well – I’ve reached out to the boys just checking to see how they’re going, and I’ve received the same, so it just shows what a strong group of players that we have.”
With the extension of the NSW stay-at-home orders, Cholakian can’t wait until it is safe to get back on the pitch and continue Olympic’s 2021 campaign.
“We’ve positioned ourselves in a really good spot in terms of the league, being fifth with a number of games to go.
“With a number of those games at Belmore, it gives us a really good opportunity to secure our spot in finals football and finish as high as we can on the table, so that when we do go into the finals series we’re going into that with a bit of sort of winning momentum.
“It’s also been a really successful year for us in the Cup competitions – we’ve got the semi-final of the Waratah Cup against Blacktown, and we obviously want to win that game and get into the final, and then we’ve got the big matchup against Sydney FC in the FFA Cup so we’ve still got so much to play for.
“That’s why this time off is so important to make sure that we are staying fit and sharp so when we do get back we’ve got a couple of big-ticket items to make sure that we win and progress well in.”
-By Madeline Riley