Death, taxes and Blacktown City playing in the national rounds of the Westfield FFA Cup.
Since the first iteration of the tournament in 2014, Blacktown City has qualified for the Round of 32 each and every time.
And while their spot in the latter stages of the tournament have so often been powered by the seemingly individual brilliance of names like Travis Major, Patrick Antelmi and, most recently, Danny Choi, there is an unnerving consistency about Blacktown City that have made them arguably the best PlayStation® 4 National Premier Leagues New South Wales Men’s club over the last half-decade.
Few players have contributed to that success more than Matt Lewis and after his side drew none other than his former club and A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners in the FFA Cup, he is keen to prove Blacktown and their players are worthy of an opportunity to mix it with the professionals.
“I was very excited when I saw the Mariners come out of the pot,” Lewis said.
“It will be a nice occasion for me personally to get to take on my old club, and especially at home.”
But Lewis is not one to dwell for too long on the personal.
“It’s always about the team. That’s why we’re at this stage for the fourth year in a row,” he said.
“Even when Choi scored that goal last year [from halfway against Sydney United 58 FC] and Antelmi was banging in all those goals, there was something bigger happening. It takes a lot of players to set up those goals and it takes a strong defence to make sure you can win those games.
“Every year we have a good bunch of players.”
Blacktown City has always managed to ensure their squad has had minimal changeover compared to other PlayStation4 National Premier Leagues clubs which has gone a long way to helping their consistency as a unit, but this year has seen a larger changing of the guard than most.
Antelmi now plays for the Wollongong Wolves, Choi left for Adelaide United, before returning and suffering a season ending injury while star midfielder Sasa Macura and goalkeeper Nenad Vekic have also departed the club.
But still, the Blacktown City machine keeps ticking. City sit top of the league having won 14 out of 19 games, losing twice and are currently three points ahead of the APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
Players such as the birth of a new star in James Andrew who he along with Joey Gibbs have banged 11 goals each while the likes of Mitchell Mallia, Connor Evans and tough tackling defender Zach Cairncross continue to fly the flag for the club.
It is little wonder that, despite being drawn against A-League opposition, Lewis is supremely confident in his team’s chances.
“It’s probably the best time to draw an A-League team because they are just starting their pre-season and we’re right into the swing of things,” Lewis said.
“If there’s a good time to get an A-League team, it’s now, so we’re confident and it would not have mattered who we drew.”
The Mariners are the only team to have been knocked out of the cup by a lower-league opposition, when they fell to Victorian side Green Gully last
season and Lewis is confident his Blacktown can make it happen again.
“We’ve got the winning habit, so we’re just naturally confident anyway,” Lewis said.
“A lot of their players have come from the NPL, so we know a fair few of them and have played them before.
“It’s a different Mariners to the one I played for. I think Josh Rose is the only player left I played with.
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s a big gap between a lot of the players in our competition and those that go on to play A-League.
“I look at Blake Powell and he’s done very well for himself since he had to come back down to the NPL level to earn another A-League shot. He had one massive season with APIA where he was scoring goals for fun, and that’s set him up.
“I think a lot of our players will look at that as motivation, because the talent is there, there just aren’t a lot of opportunities, we don’t get seen as much as we should.
“Obviously our game against the Mariners has been chosen as the live game on TV, so I know we’ll be keen to show that our club and our players can mix it with the pros.”
Wednesday 2nd August
Blacktown City v Central Coast Mariners
Lily Homes Stadium – 7:30pm
-By Matt Galea