Tarek Elrich has played for the Socceroos and enjoyed a distinguished A-Leagues career with Newcastle Jets, Western Sydney Wanderers, Adelaide United and Perth Glory.
He’s won A-League premierships, championships and even an Australia Cup.
But he’s never played in a competition like the revamped National Premier Leagues New South Wales.
“I’ve never had to play with this pressure of promotion and relegation,” he said.
“I think it’s something that football in this country has been striving for and to have that promotion and relegation like the rest of the world does.
“I remember being in A-League teams where the coaches have said, ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen? If we finish last, we start again next year.’
“That’s how people view our league, and that’s how foreign coaches view our leagues, so in the NPL, to have a competition where there is that pressure at the bottom and where the boys will play 30 games, it’s pretty incredible.”
Elrich said the big winners from the new first-past-the-post, the 30-game format of the competition would do wonders for the competition’s young guns.
“I think for those boys in A-League academies and the younger boys in the other clubs, it’s amazing,” he said.
“They will get plenty of opportunities to play. Not even the A-League plays this many games, so every squad is going to be tested, and every club is going to need to rely on its younger players at times.”
Elrich, who is entering season number three with Mt Druitt Rangers, said his respect for the players in the competition only continues to grow.
“These guys are up early in the morning, putting in a big day at work and then having to come to training and games. It’s not easy,” he said.
“It’s not like in the professional environment where you train early in the morning, and then you have the rest of the day to live your life. It’s hard work, and I always had a lot of respect, even when I was playing these teams in the Australia Cup as an A-League player.”
Elrich’s side is coming off a tough 2022, which saw them finish 10th out of 12 teams.
“There was no relegation last year as they were looking to promote teams only to grow the club, so maybe our club took that as a year to just ease off on the spending,” he said.
“But we’ve recruited very well this year and have some good experienced players and some younger boys.
“I can sit here and give you the clichés that we want to win the league and go undefeated, but our short-term goals are to get off to a good start and readjust our season aims from there.”
Mt Druitt Town Rangers kick off its season with an away fixture to Sydney FC at Valentine Sports Park this Sunday at 3pm.