It’s been a pretty interesting start to the NPL NSW Men’s competition as the first 11 rounds has suggested that this Premiership will certainly go down to the wire.
Sydney Olympic have been the leaders of the pack as the former NSL giants continue to pull through positive results with their free flowing brand of football. Chased by the likes of the usual suspects albeit APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Blacktown City and Sydney United 58, the year is poised to finish with a bang. Things are also crazy on the other end of the competition ladder as Rockdale City Suns have found themselves uncharacteristically perched in the bottom half along with Sydney FC and the Bonnyrigg White Eagles.
Here’s how club’s have been scored after 11 rounds:
Sydney Olympic FC – A+
Without a coach only three days out from the start of the season, nobody would have expected the incredible season they have delivered so far. Olympic have played an attractive brand of football led by Max Burgess in midfield and supported by a talented team of players playing some of the best football of their careers. The Abbas Saad coached side has not missed a beat and are deserving competition leaders at the midway point of the competition
Top of the class: Alejandro Sanchez has been the striker Olympic has been calling out for. The Spanish striker has an eye for goal and his energy in the attacking third is a headache for opposition defences. His runs off the ball has also opened up opportunities for his Olympic teammates.
What they need to improve: It’s a very simple formula for Olympic – Keep winning. The chasing pack are closing quickly but if the Belmore boys continue their form then no-one will be able to catch them.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers – A
APIA have picked off from where they ended the regular season last year with incredible winning form to lift them to second spot on the table. Despite a change in coach this season with the return of the experienced Billy McColl, APIA haven’t changed much from what helped them to a drought breaking Premiership in 2017. The Tigers have only made one major slip-up so far this campaign and are expected to push Olympic all the way to the end.
Top of the Class: Jordan Murray has come of age in 2018. With 11 goals in 11 games in the league the young striker is a short odds favourite for the Golden Boot. In the form of his life so far, the Wollongong born attacker will no doubt be attracting A-League suitors with his ‘Johnny in the box’ instinct.
What they need to improve: Keep the pressure on Olympic. APIA only trail by three points and will take inspiration from their incredible run down the home stretch last season to push them to back to back premierships.
Blacktown City – B
Known as being one of the most successful NPL NSW clubs, Blacktown City would be unfamiliar with their predicament this year after leading the pack season after season for the past four years. However, City are in third and chasing the leaders after paying the price for a horror three-week period. Mark Crittenden’s side are winners and have a team brimming with talent. They have rediscovered their form and shouldn’t be written off and will be the club chasing the front two teams in the end.
Top of the class: Grant Lynch has been relentless figure in the club’s water tight back-line and continues to go from strength to strength with his defensive displays. Having formed a great partnership alongside the likes of the Speranza brothers and Zac Cairncross, Lynch has been pivotal to the club’s defensive duties.
What they need to improve: Take it up a notch. Blacktown City flew out of the blocks in the opening weeks but then hit a roadblock. They have returned to winning ways but still have plenty to give and will need to be at their best if they are to snatch an incredible premiership win.
Sydney United 58 – B-
Its been a bipolar season for Sydney United 58 with the Edensor Park side unable to put together any consistent good form. They are without a coach after Jason Culina resigned following a shock loss to fierce rivals Bonnyrigg White Eagles. Their top players have failed to perform this season and its reflected in their results – that and the loss of Panni Nikas who ventured off to Europe on a coaching expedition. The attacking duo of Chris Payne and Patrick Antelmi have not quite gelled thus far so the club is hoping that both attackers fortunes will change come second half of the season.
Top of the class: After being dropped for the first two matches, goalkeeper Tom Manos has really kept the fire burning at the club with a number of notable performances underneath the sticks. The talented shotstopper has done more than enough to win that coveted number one keeper spot over John Hall and is hoping to do more of the same during the second half of the season.
What they need to improve: Find some consistency. United 58 may be inside the top 5 at the midway point of the season but they will struggle to be in finals contention if they are unable to string a run of good form together.
Sutherland Sharks – C+
A bounce back season for the Sharks has their young side back fighting for finals contention after a few years of struggle. Grant Lee’s side can beat anyone in the competition on their day.
Top of the class: Jacob Tratt has been an inspired signing for the Sharks with the former Wellington Phoenix defender giving the side new steel in defence. He will be key if they are to make it to the finals. Having copped a few nasty head knocks throughout the first half of the season, Tratt has shown pure grit and determination in returning to the pitch which has labelled him a warrior amongst his fellow peers.
What they need to improve: Cut down on the mistakes. The Sharks have pushed the best teams but have paid the price for silly errors. If they can become more clinical then the rest of the competition should watch out.
Wollongong Wolves – C-
A team with a squad as good as Wollongong shouldn’t be battling to make the top five. The Wolves haven’t gone anywhere near displaying the class they are capable of. They closed the season last year with a winning run and they will be expected to turn it around again this year.
Top of the class: Justin Pasfield. The experienced shotstopper has led by example with a number of key performances that have kept the Wolves in the game and it will be his leadership that can push the team through to a finals series finish.
What they need to improve: Find some consistency. Wollongong has the talent to be a real contender in this competition and if they can get it together they may finally be able to deliver on their promise.
Manly United FC – C
Manly United have been a shadow of the team which won last season’s Grand Final. A run of away games to start the campaign, combined with a horror injury run, cursed Paul Dee’s side and they’ve struggled to find their rhythm once again. The majority of their remaining 12 matches are at home so they will need to turn Cromer Park into a fortress once again.
Top of the class: Travis Oughtred has been a solid performer for Manly this campaign from the centre of defence. Oughtred has even chipped in with a few important goals
What they need to improve: Rediscover the magic. Something has been missing from Manly this year and the injuries and away games haven’t helped. Paul Dee will need to remind the team of their strengths and help them capture that form once again.
Marconi Stallions – C
It has been a solid but somewhat unsatisfactory start to Marconi’s return to the NSW top flight. Injury and lots of bad luck has cursed last year’s NPL 2 NSW Men’s winners and premiers who had promised big things coming into the season. Still in the running to make the finals but will need to deliver more.
Top of the class: Marko Jesic has chipped in with a number of key performances this season. The former A-League attacker has the talent to take on the league’s best.
What they need to improve: Step it up – Marconi has a strong line-up of talent in their squad and should be able to compete with any side in this competition. While injuries have hurt them, Marconi must still lift over the next twelve weeks.
Hakoah Sydney City East – C+
Gavin Rae has made a solid move from the field to full-time coaching this season and has done a good job so far with few resources. His young side has had some bright moments throughout the first 12 weeks, but have also had a fair few moments Rae would like to forget. Despite winning only three games they are still an outside chance of finishing in the top five.
Top of the class: Mitchell Stamatellis has helped Hakoah cover the loss of Rae’s experience on the park this season. Veteran Stamatellis has performed well and been a player his teammates can rely on.
What they need to improve: Cut out the silly stuff – Hakoah has developed a reputation for going toe to toe with the big sides and that hasn’t changed this season. If they can cut out the silly errors and ill-discipline they could be a real surprise packet down the home stretch.
Rockdale City Suns – D
It has been a horror season so far for Rockdale who are languishing near the bottom of the table when they expected to be fighting for the Premiership. While the Suns have maintained their impressive outlay in attack, it has been their equal league worst defence which has let them down. Despite their struggles they are still in touching distance of the finals.
Top of the class: Alec Urosevski has not dropped his standards in attack and remains one of the league’s best in his position. He will be a major factor for the Suns if they are to contend for a finals place.
What they need to improve: Defence wins championships – It is a message Rockdale has clearly missed this season. Quite simply if they can stop the flow of goals they will be able to fight their way back into contention.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles – D-
The struggles from the end of last season have continued for Bonnyrigg who have had a forgetful start to Brian Brown’s tenth season in charge of the White Eagles. Injury once again has played a major factor in their issues but they also need to lift their game.
Top of the class: Captain Ray Miller continues to pull out decent performances albeit in a side that has lost a fair few this year. A well-known ball player with silky skills to boot, Miller will be hyping up his chargers both on and off the pitch in achieving better results come second half of the season.
What they need to improve: Work on their discipline – Silly errors and sloppy play have cost the White Eagles this season. If they can play it safe and keep mistakes to a minimum maybe they are an outside chance of finals football
Sydney FC – C+
The Young Sky Blues are at the bottom of the ladder but it hasn’t been a true reflection of their performances this season. They have made improvements from last season and have been competitive in every game they have contested and have continued to play the Robbie Stanton way of football and that’s on the ground. They are sure to play the role of spoiler to many finals contenders.
Top of the class: Sam McIllhatton and Jeremy Cox. Joint prize for best so far with the performances of McIllhatton and Cox unable to be split. Captain McIllhatton has been the backbone of this team and his play in the centre of the park shouldn’t go unnoticed. Cox on the other hand is their leading goal scorer and his seven goals in 11 games is a great return for the talented young striker.
What they need to improve: Keep the faith – While the results haven’t quite been there, Sydney FC’s performances certainly have been good enough. If they can keep developing at the current pace they should be able to avoid relegation.