Sydney United 58 veteran midfielder believes the fighting spirit shown during his side’s backs against the wall finals win against APIA Leichhardt Tigers is why they should be the ones to watch this finals series.
Despite playing with 10-men for more than 75 minutes, The Reds held strong against a desperate and fast finishing Tigers team to secure an incredible preliminary semi-final win on penalties.
It was a win Stavroulakis called ‘one of the best he has ever been a part of’ and has been a major confidence booster for a side still coming to grips with the loss of star player Panny Nikas for the season with a serious knee injury.
With a potential grand final berth as little as one game away, the experienced star said United 58 is driven to make this season something they will never forget.
“Everyone in the club is buzzing and the players are feeding off that which has been really evident at training,” he said.
“The way we won the game against APIA proved that this side is in for a fight and we won’t back down.
“This team is such a great group of players and the camaraderie we have is one of our biggest strengths.
“We’ve had our struggles this season but every time we dig in and I think that makes us a very tough team to beat.”
The loss of Nikas, the attacking dynamo who has been the fulcrum of United 58’s attack for years, threatened to derail The Edensor Park outfit’s chances before they started.
However, Stavroulakis is adamant it will not hamper their chances and instead open the door for a young player to make their mark.
“You can’t replace Panny Nikas. What he brings to our side is like nothing else in the competition,” he said.
“But what his absence does do is give a guy like Tariq Maia the chance to take over games and play a bigger role.
“I have so much faith in the young players in this team and while it would be great to have Panny for the finals I’m confident we can be just as strong with whoever takes his role in the team.”
Sydney United 58’ s opponents this week will be rivals and newly crowned Premiers Sydney Olympic.
Olympic have had the better of United 58 twice already this season by Stavroulakis said form means nothing come finals time.
“I’m not too worried about our record against Olympic because this weekend the situation is very different to our last game against them,” he said.
“Abbas Saad (Sydney Olympic coach) has done a very good job since taking over and he has a team which is very dangerous with a great mix of youth and experience.
“It’s cliché but as long as we stick to our structure and play to our potential I’m confident we will be able to win the game.
“Both teams have brilliant players that will try to influence the game but at the end of the day I still think our determination and fighting spirit will give us the edge.”