The senior squad will have a new manager in charge with Englishman Gary Ward pulling the strings as the likes of experienced campaigners Franco Parisi, Michael West and Stephen Kayes will all look towards a strong finish this season.
The Team: APIA-Leichhardt Tigers start its 2013 campaign eager to commence right from where 2012 finished. The Tigers have in fact started both of the past two seasons slowly, however the second part of both seasons have been exceptional, the side twice falling, only just, short of finals football.
2013 sees a new coach at the club with a new philosophy, one that the playing group appears to have captured with open arms.
Senior players Michael West and Franco Parisi will again play major roles in assisting the new boss with his role, the latter very happy with the pre-season to-date.
A good mix of youth in the group, with the experience across the park of Adel El Jamal, Stephen Kayes, Michael West and new signing Keith Shevlin, the club and its supporters can have every hope of giving the season a good shake.
One player that will be sure to catch the eye of many is the big frame of French striker Gerard Ouffoue who has already been amongst the goals during the Tigers’ Pre-season Cup campaign.
Also, a late signing but former Rockdale City Suns and Sydney FC National Youth League keeper Ryan Norval will also strengthen the Tigers’ outfit at the back.
Despite the inconsistent run of results in the Pre-Season Cup – most alarmingly was the loss against Sydney United 58 FC – the Tigers did display some very positive showings against South Coast Wolves and Sutherland Sharks, auguring well for the opening round of the season.
The Coach: Englishman Gary Ward has been signed as head coach for APIA-Leichhardt Tigers this season. Boasting an impressive ‘CV’ from his playing days in England and the North American Soccer League, Ward vested the jerseys of Preston Lions, Melbourne Knights, Brunswick Juventus, West Adelaide Sharks and APIA-Leichhardt Tigers in the mid-80s.
A striker in his playing days, Ward is looking to implement a positive, attacking style of football at Lambert Park this season. The Pre-Season Cup has seen the Tigers collect some indifferent results, though the emphasis is strictly on being ready for the opening round of the season.
Player to watch: Apart from playmaker Franco Parisi and captain Michael West to lead the Tigers this season, midfielder David D’Apuzzo will be another talent to keep a close eye on. Returning from an injury that all but ended his 2012 season, the talented midfielder is ready for a big return.
A massive engine in the Tigers midfield, D’Apuzzo has a hunger to win the ball and an equally impressive ability on it. Speed and finesse, in addition to an ability to score goals, make D’Apuzzo one of the big talents, not only in the Tigers squad, but in the entire competition.
Rising Star: Right-sided defender Brendan Reilly made an impressive debut last season, and the 21-year-old is primed for more success in 2013. A very fit and aggressive defender, Reilly boasts a great reading of the game, matched with some fine man-marking skills.
In what is arguably an important season for the club – in anticipation of the works to take place at Lambert Park – expect to see Reilly figure prominently for the Tigers this season.
Also look towards the rise of striker Nicola Taneski who caught the eye of many during his season with Sydney FC’s National Youth League side.
2013 squad: Ryan Norval, Mark Byrnes, Adel El Jamal, Brendan Reilly, Michael West, Stephen Kayes,Gerard Ouffoue, Franco Parisi, Keith Shevlin, David D’Apuzzo, George Khoury, Brad Bartels, Sean Symons, Clayton Musumeci, Nikola Taneski, Adam Raciti, Joshua Symons, Anthony Costa
Ward comes to the Tigers with an enormous amount of playing experience as the Westoning born manager has played for the likes of English sides Crewe Alexandra and Leyton Orient before moving off to the former North America Soccer League where he played for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
After his stint in the U.S., Ward then ventured to Australia where he played in the old National Soccer League for the likes of the Preston Lions, Melbourne Knights, Brunswick Juventus, West Adelaide Sharks and the APIA Leichhardt Tigers in the mid-80s.
The Englishman stated to Football NSW that his aim is to keep at least nine players from the 2012 season adding a couple of fresh new faces in the APIA Leichhardt Tigers squad who will be gunning for some silverware in 2013.
?We?ve had a couple of training sessions and I can say that I am looking at signing up at least nine players from the 2012 squad but I have had a number of exciting players that have come through which we will unearth for the 2013 season as well as some promising youngsters.?
One such player that could earn himself a big name in the NSW Premier League goes by the name of ?Jay? – a tall French Nigerian striker who will be one to look out for in 2013.
?Jay is a 6 foot 6 striker that can play the game and has been very exciting at training.?
Ward, who counts Miron Bleiberg and Ernie Merrick as close friends, wants to instil a good playing style mentality at Lambert Park with focus on entertaining football for the APIA Leichhardt Tigers faithful.
The Tigers just missed out by a point in the finals series this year finishing sixth while they were runners-up in the 2012 Waratah Cup Final to eventual winners Sutherland Sharks.
-By Mark Stavroulakis
Under 18s NSW Premier League Grand Final: Dramatic comeback sees Blacktown City beat Parramatta FC to Under 18s title
Parramatta appeared to be in control at the interval after Jordan Parfait and Jaushua Sotirio cancelled out Jayden Priest?s early opener.
Sam Perre led Blacktown?s second half revival as his set pieces created all three second half goals; Daniel Araujo levelled from Perre?s corner before Priest and Daniel Collins headed home crossed free kicks to wrap up with win for Tony Candy?s squad.
Parramatta appeared the more comfortable from kick off as they pressed Blacktown in the opening minutes.
An early Daniel Holz corner was narrowly missed by the head of Alexander Kelly before Holz was denied by a crucial intervention from Collins.
Having staved off early pressure Blacktown hit the lead with their first clear chance of the match as Araujo picked out Priest with an inch perfect cross; the Blacktown target man beat his marker in the air to head the ball inside the near post to open the scoring.
Priest came close to doubling his tally minutes later as he ran onto Tom Mallatt?s well weighted throughball, however Jair Fernandez was quick off his line to spread his frame and make a confident block.
Fernandez was called into action once again soon after as he was forced to tip Perre?s cross over his crossbar before denying Priest with another vital save midway through the first half.
Blacktown threatened from range once again around the half hour mark as Bruno Antelmi?s smartly taken corner was fired goalward from 25-yards by Perre, however Fernandez was well positioned to hold the long range effort.
Parramatta settled down around the half hour mark and began to create chances for themselves as Daniel Moffett saw his 30-yard effort held by Mitchell Seager.
Devante Clut?s free kick found Sotirio via Kelly?s head; the header lacked conviction and was easily gathered by Hernandez, yet the warning signs were there before Parramatta hit the lead via a quickfire double.
Ryan Peterson?s last man challenge deflected off Sotirio and fell to Jordan Parfait; the winger produced an opportunistically clinical finish as he drove his first time effort low and inside the far post to level the scores.
The Parramatta fans had barely retaken their seats before they were brought to their feet once again as their side hit the lead.
Still shell-shocked from the equaliser, the Blacktown defence allowed Raffael Moniaci the space to break down the right flank and get a shot off on goal; Seager was able to block the shot yet Parfait was in the right place at the right time to tuck home the rebound and grab his side the lead.
It was just the response Parramatta coach Jakob Tielman was looking for from his side as they controlled the run of play to hold their lead going into the interval.
The break appeared to benefit Blacktown as they emerged from the sheds with renewed confidence following Tony Candy?s half time team talk.
Peterson headed over seconds after the restart while Parramatta Kelly?s made a fine last man challenge to deny Ray Coletta a route to goal.
Blacktown soon reaped the rewards of their new found attacking confidence as they grabbed a deserved equaliser from the set piece.
Perre?s corner was flicked on at the near post by Don Dileo; Araujo was first to react as he turned to ball past Fernandez to level the scores.
Blacktown came agonisingly close to grabbing the lead soon after when Coletta?s goalbound effort from Perre?s corner was deflected narrowly over by substitute defender Gianluigi Truglio.
Dileo showed a great turn of pace to burst clear of Kelly and find his way through on goal; however the ball took a bobble off the pitch as he lined up his finish, forcing him to mishit his finish which skewed well wide of goal.
Blacktown were handed a golden opportunity midway through the second period as Perre lined up a free kick from 25-yards and the youngsters took full advantage as Priest managed to get his head onto Perre?s delivery to deflect the ball past Fernandez to put his side into the lead.
Parramatta rallied in search of a route back into the match yet were undone from the set piece once again late on; another marvellous ball from Perre found Collins unmarked in the box and the Blacktown captain took full advantage as he headed home to secure the win.
Tempers temporarily flared late on as Perre and Clut clashed near the sideline before referee Daniel Stack intervened to diffuse the situation before suitably booking the pair for their outbursts.
Blacktown comfortably saw out the closing stages of the match and could have extended their lead as Priest skipped past James Do only to be denied the opportunity for a hattrick by a crunching last ditch challenge by Trugilo.
It was a hard earned win by Tony Candy?s side as they showed great resilience to battle back from behind to claim the title after Parramatta appeared to have taken the initiative in the first half.
Blacktown City FC 4 (J Priest 10?, 65?, Daniel Araujo 50?, Daniel Collins 78?)
Parramatta FC 2 (Jordan Parfait 34?, Jaushua Sotirio 35?)
Monday October 1st, 2012
Bonnyrigg Sports Centre, Bonnyrigg
Referee: Daniel Stack
Assistant Referees: Nick Brisbane and Blake Herbert
Fourth Official: Chris Abela
Blacktown City FC: 60.Mitchell Seager, 2.Daniel Collins, 4.Bruno Antelmi, 5.Braeden Robins, 8.Ryan Peterson (6.Kisha Pitso 81?), 9.Jayden Priest, 10.Daniel Araujo (7.Mitchell Morris 73?), 11.Sam Perre (12.Lewis Beumie 86?), 13.Shane D?Cunha, 14.Ray Coletta, 15.Don Dileo
Substitutes Not Used: 50.Blake Tuxford
Yellow Cards: Sam Perre 79?
Red Cards: nil
Parramatta FC: 1.Jair Hernandez, 6.Kwasi Nsiah (3.Paul Georgiadis 81?), 8.Devante Clut, 9.Alexander Kelly (21.Andre Groiosa 78?), 10.Dylan Holz, 11.Jaushua Safirio (13.Gianluigi Trugilo 46?), 12.Daniel Mallatt, 14.Raffael Moniaci (4.Jack Press 90?), 15.Tom Mallatt, 17.James Do, 16.Jordan Parfait (7.Lawrence Hanna 65?)
Substitutes Not Used: nil
Yellow Cards: Dylan Holz 42?, Devante Clut 79?
Red Cards: nil
-By Michael Shoolman
Tony Candy?s side finished a strong second place in the league and a key component of his side is midfielder Ryan Peterson, who has had a fantastic season in the heart of the side.
Peterson is a vital cog in Candy?s midfield, strong in the tackle and an excellent passer of the ball. He made his full debut for the Grade 20s during the season and slotted in perfectly in the match against APIA Leichhardt at Lambert Park.
?He?s a real talent, a player of the future,? Candy said in the lead up to the Grand Final.
Peterson himself assessed the season as a successful one.
?We had a very strong beginning with some strong results against all opposition,? he said.
?We had our ups and downs of course, but the real highlights was our 10-0 win against Sydney Olympic.
?Everyone was pulling the strings that day.
?We?ve had injuries during the season but everyone has stepped up throughout the year to ensure that we?ve had a quality eleven on the pitch for every game,? Peterson added.
Sutherland Sharks won the Premiership by 11 points, but were vanquished in the Grand Final qualifier.
Peterson said the win was well deserved.
?Coming into the game, we felt like we knew a lot about Sutherland?s strengths? he said.
?We worked on some tactics in training and we implemented those strategies into the game,? he added.
Tony Candy?s side have forged a reputation as a formidable attacking outfit, never more so than in the aforementioned 10-0 win over Olympic.
Peterson had only words of praise for his coach.
?Tony?s a spectacular coach,? the youngster said.
?He?s a coach that wants the best for everyone.
?He likes a really attacking style of football, but he?s adaptable depending on the situation and the opposition.
?There are techniques and tactics we work on in training so that we?re all on the same page,? he said.
All of which has led to a Grand Final appearance on Monday, where Candy?s Blacktown City take on the Jakob Tielman coached Parramatta FC.
Having also defeated Sutherland, Parramatta FC are worthy opposition, something Peterson was keen to acknowledge.
?We?ve played Parramatta three times and they?ve all been close encounters,? he said.
?They?ve all been decided by the odd goal.
?We definitely respect them as opposition.
?We?re confident we?ve worked out their style of play though and that we can exploit their weaknesses on Monday,? he added.
For a young player with a bright future, Monday?s Grade 18 Grand Final could be the first step on a long football journey ahead.
-By Matthew Connellan
The game itself between APIA-Leichhardt and Blacktown Spartans may not have meant much in terms of the finals series but for both teams pride was at stake.
The Tigers too were out to continue their winning run given that under coach Billy McColl they had won four games from four attempts. And they didn?t disappoint, sending McColl out with the perfect record of five wins from all five games that he was in charge.
After the game an elated McColl spoke about the difficult game against the Spartans and with pride and passion about APIA Leichhardt in general.
?It was a battle out there today,? he said. ?We wanted to win because it was the last game at home at Lambert Park and we wanted to send Danial Cummins off [retirement] on a high note.
?I am always happy to come back to the club but I feel a bit like an Italian boomerang.
?This club will go from strength to strength next year and once we get our new surface and we appoint our new coach, you will see the kids develop. They will finish in the top half of the competition and be one of the best teams over the next ten years.?
The first real opportunity of a rather dull first-half fell to Jacob Ott who in the 20? minute blasted a dangerous shot just over the crossbar from outside the box.
APIA-Leichhardt did indeed finish the first-half with a late flurry of opportunities. Michael West in the 41? minute found that he couldn?t penetrate the wall-like orange and black defence with his shot from fairly close range.
In the 44? minute the best opportunity of the half fell to the Tigers; Brad Bartels sent in a delightful cross from the right into the middle for Ethan Galbraith, but the tall marksman couldn?t find the target thanks to the handy work of Carlos Saliadarre between the posts.
In the second-half, on 62? minutes Bartels was brought down in the penalty-area by Djordje Degenek, who actually injured himself in the process, and referee Michael Weiner had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick. Up stepped the retiring Danial Cummins but his rather weak attempt was saved, but not held, by Saliadarre and Mun Soo Gil, charging into the box, managed to force the ball home for the Tigers.
In the 72? minute APIA-Leichhardt almost doubled their lead when Bartels, with a powerful shot, sent the ball just wide of Saliadarre?s net.
Chris Bedzo replied for the visitors shortly afterwards with a powerful drive from outside the box but his attempt ended up just wide. It was the best the Spartans could offer in the second-half.
APIA-Leichhardt?s second goal came in the 82? minute when a cross from the right was met by Mark Byrnes and the former captain of the Australian under-17 team had no hesitation in heading home.
From this point onwards the Spartans were shut out of the game and APIA had secured another courageous victory.
After the game Spartans player Luke Boyd expressed his frustration about the ground but with the new surface due over the summer, then that is well and truly a moot point. However, he also expressed satisfaction about the season as whole given that the Blacktown Spartans had just finished their first season in the NSW Premier League after securing promotion from the NSW Super League.
?You can?t do much on a ground a like this,? he said. ?We did run out there and tried to win but coming here you almost need a completely different team to compete on a field like this.
?A lot of young guys in our squad hadn?t played in this league before so we did alright this year, but maybe we could have done a little better in those close games where we only lost by a goal.
?It?s a good first season anyway and Ben (DeHaan) will build this team up for next year because he?s a good coach and we should do well.?
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers 2 (Mun Soo Gil 63?, Mark Byrnes 82?)
Blacktown Spartans 0
Sunday 2nd September, 2012
Lambert Park, Leichhardt
Referee: Michael Weiner
Assistant Referees: Sebastian Brennan and Wayne Crabb
Fourth Official: Sam Grasso
APIA-Leichhardt Tigers: 21.Anthony Costa; 2.Mark Byrnes, 4.Mun Soo Gil, 5.Michael West, 6.Danial Cummins (13.Paul Galimi 89?), 7.Stephen Kayes, 9.Ethan Galbraith (14.Nick Taneski 89?), 12.Brian Griffin-Colls, 15.Bradley Bartels (11.Adam Raciti 87?), 18.Brendan Reilly, 20.Gyu Re Lee.
Substitutes Not Used: 1.Stefan Giglio, 17.Sam Salameh,
Yellow Cards: Galbraith 86?
Red Cards: Nil
Blacktown Spartans: 1.Carlos Saliadarre; 2.Michael Khoury, 5.Luke Boyd, 8.Djordje Degenek (15.Louis Bozanic 71?), 9.Chris Bedzo, 10.Chris Gomez, 14.Jonathan Castano-Acero, 22.Andre Carle (11.Steven Veleski 79?), 23.Chris Bush, 27.Jacob Ott (7.Chris Gaitatzis 59?), 36.Tomislav Herceg.
Substitutes Not Used: 17.Peter Hubbard, 40.Daniel Sadaka
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
-By Joe Russo