TeleChoice Premier League Easter Break Review


After Round 6, Sydney United sit out in-front of the chasing pack with an almost flawless run to-date. The Reds have accumulated five wins and a draw ? a hard fought 2-2 draw at Sutherland Sharks ? with only three goals conceded; a very positive sign for the former NSL club.
The return of club favourites Ante Milicic and David Zdrilic have proven very successful as their experience and flair have brushed off across the entire squad. Milicic, on his first coaching assignment, has proven he does have the qualities to replicate his playing successes in a coaching role. The striker has balanced both his role as player and coach very well, with the side?s results testament to the fine organisation at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Breathing down the necks of the Reds is Manly United FC, the Cromer Park side sits five-points behind Sydney United, though the side does have one match in hand (Round 6 clash against Sydney Olympic to be played on the 29th of April). Another of the League?s fine coaches Phil Moss has managed to steady the ship somewhat for Manly after a sluggish start. The integration of new signing Giosue Sama has started to reap rewards, meanwhile the inclusion of experienced utility Matthew Bingley ? along with the mountain of experience brought in by former EPL star Spencer Prior ? is a true demonstration of the ?2? in the ?goals against? department; subduing Manly United FC will prove a mammoth task for all adversaries.
Arguably the surprise packet in this early part of the season has been Penrith-Nepean United. Out in the cold at the conclusion of last season, Penrith-Nepean seemed destined to face a long battle to compete in 2009. Coach Ian Gillan, in his first Premier League coaching gig, has installed a winning mentality in his players. The side has battled against stronger teams and has pulled off some huge scalps to-date; non bigger than the Round 5 defeat of Sydney Olympic. A strong mix of youth and experience ? led by father-son combination Evangelos and Dimitrios Petratos ? Penrith-Nepean has proven more than worthy to hold third-spot on the ladder.
Rounding out the Top-Five, Sutherland Sharks hold a one-point lead over Marconi Stallions. The Sharks looked to be in ?honeymoon? mode in the opening rounds of the season following their emphatic 2008 campaign. Despite the slow-start, and an injury list that includes Nick Stavroulakis and Brad Boardman, coach Robbie Stanton and captain George Souris have brought composure back to the Sharks; the side is unbeaten in their last three matches.
Marconi Stallions on the other hand have seen the wheels fall off with two consecutive osses bringing the team back down to earth after a positive start to the campaign. Imports Ali Al-Hilfi and Kader Toure have shown their worth, though even more will be required after the Easter break if the Stallions are to keep up with the Top-Four. Lee Sterrey?s experience will prove key for the Stallions, along with Nahuel Arrarte who has lead the side marvellously well on the field.
Outside the Top-Five, five points separate Bankstown City in sixth-spot and Wollongong Community FC in twelfth.
The Lions have returned to season 2008 habits as dominant displays are not being converted into goals. Bankstown City has been impressive in each of their matches to-date, though wins have not been forthcoming as a great passing game has been overshadowed by poor finishing.
Blacktown City Demons? development after a disastrous 2008 is moving along smoothly with coach Ken Schembri?s mix of youth and experience proving successful in 2009. Damien Foxe and Luke Casserley have kept the defensive third intact, meanwhile the youthful prowess of Chris Bedzo and Ben Ellis stand the side as a menace in the attacking third. New boys on the block Joel Chianese and Ray Miller have slotted in nicely with their pace out of midfield causing adversaries all sorts of problems on the counter-attack.
The Easter break possibly arrived at the worst moment for Sydney Tigers following the side?s morale boosting win against Bankstown City. The Tigers were under the pump for the entire second-half though managed to scramble to a 1-0 win, courtesy of experienced playmaker Franco Parisi. The win arrives on the back of Luke McGuire?s appointment as coach of the side, a move that Tigers? supporters hope will bring finals football after an inconsistent opening to the season.
If the break arrived at the wrong moment for Sydney Tigers, it probably came at a good time for Sydney Olympic. The Blues were firm favourites heading into the season, though currently sit 10-points off top-spot with a match in hand. The Blues have struggled since the opening Round loss against stern rivals West Sydney Berries, though former NSL Championship winning coach Nick Theodorakopoulos has taken over the reigns. The former Wollongong Wolves and Parramatta Power boss will be out to add some composure to an unsettled group that has scored more goals than any other side, yet conceded just as many.
Bonnyrigg White Eagles supporters will be eager to see their new boss in action as Brian ?Bomber? Brown was handed the coaching ?gig? at the club following Blagoja Kuleski?s departure last week. The White Eagles have found the going tough back in the Premier League after their four-year absence, though the coaching experience of Brown could certainly add the flair that has gone missing in recent weeks. Frederick Graham will play a big role for the White Eagles in the attacking third, meanwhile Almir Dizdaric will need to build on his five goals to ensure Bonnyrigg?s finals aspirations remain intact.
West Sydney Berries? remarkable display against Sydney Olympic in Round 1 seems to have been forgotten as ?consistency? has been lacking from John Calleja?s side since. Calleja will be eager to use the Easter break to re-find the hunger shown by the team against Sydney Olympic, and most recently Bankstown City. The side?s more experienced players Aheleas Kotsopoulos, Kosta Lagoudakis and Jack Sobczyk will be key to guiding the Berries to a successful run this season.
Wollongong Community FC sit in bottom-spot at the break with a week to regroup after a difficult start to the season. The task at hand for Tony Pace and his players was always going to be a difficult one though initial signs were promising against Bankstown City and, even more so, Bonnyrigg White Eagles. Pace will require his big guns Ilija Prenzoski and Balla Conde to lead the line, as Steve Hayes will offer much of the energy through the middle of the park.
In the Grade 20 division, Blacktown City Demons hold a commanding four-point lead over Bankstown City Lions at the break, though Manly United could cut the lead to one-point when they meet Sydney Olympic on the 29th of April, 2009 in the rescheduled fixture.
Sydney Tigers, Sutherland Sharks and Wollongong Community FC sit only a point behind Manly United, Sydney United hold a slight lead over Sydney Olympic, Marconi Stallions and Bonnyrigg White Eagles. At the foot of the table Penrith-Nepean United sit three-points clear of West Sydney Berries.        
-By Joseph Carlucci