Last season?s top-two Sydney Olympic and Sydney United commence as favourites for the title, though the likes of Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Blacktown City FC and Sutherland Sharks will be aiming to better their finals series finish last time around.
The new boys Blacktown Spartans will have a tough task in their debut season, though the newly promoted boys will be keen to use their state of the art home ground to their advantage and give the ?big boys? a real tough time.
The season also poses another chance for glamour clubs Marconi Stallions and APIA-Leichhardt Tigers to bounce back following indifferent 2011 campaigns, meanwhile Rockdale City Suns, Parramatta FC and South Coast Wolves could certainly spring a surprise despite their lesser experienced squads.
South Coast Wolves open proceedings at John Crehan Park on Saturday evening as Bonnyrigg White Eagles visit the South Coast. Both sides will be looking to improve on their 2011 efforts and the home side will be eager to once again make John Crehan Park their fortress this season.
Trevor Morgan?s group possesses much youth, though it will be the experienced campaigners that will be expected to lead the charge on Saturday. Jacob Timpano in defence will call the shots from the backline, meanwhile Sasho Petrovski and Mark Picciolini will be asked to find the goals.
The White Eagles have undergone some big changes in playing personnel over the off-season, though as always Brian Brown?s men are expected to figure in the top-five come the season?s end.
The trip South did prove a difficult one last season for Bonnyrigg as the side only just salvaged a point in the closing stages of that encounter – and more of the same is expected this weekend. In the attacking third, the additions of Mitchell Long and the Gaitazis brothers Chris and Harris should provide new striker Robbie Younis with the goal scoring opportunities, meanwhile Luka Dukic?s experience in the backline alongside Alex Mansueto will make the Wolves job of breaching the White Eagles? rearguard somewhat of a challenge.
At Seymour Shaw, Sutherland Sharks will aim to make a positive start to the season as APIA-Leichhardt Tigers visit Seymour Shaw. The Sharks have maintained a tremendous home record in recent seasons, and Robbie Stanton?s men ? led once more by George Souris ? will be a mountain to overcome for visiting sides.
Panni Nikas will again carry the weight of expectation in creating the Sharks? forward forays with Nick Stavroulakis the engine in midfield. The additions of Blake Powell and Matt Gordon could cause the Tigers some grief on the encounter, with the Sharks possessing a very strong playing squad.
Much is expected of the Tigers this season with John Turner?s newly assembled playing group, and what better way for the Tigers to make an early statement than upset the Sharks on Saturday. The experienced heads of Franco Parisi and Nick Rizzo will be expected to lead the group, with the additions of Michael West, Danial Cummins and Adel El Jamal certainly strengthening an inconsistent backline from last season.
With both sides eager for success this season, an open encounter is expected in the Shire this weekend.
At Marconi Stadium, the newly promoted Blacktown Spartans start its Premier League campaign with a tough first-up match against the Stallions. The reigning Super League Champions have their work cut out, though with the expectation on the shoulders of the Stallions, Ben De Haan?s Spartans may well be up for causing an upset.
The Spartans? coach will have the services of experienced Premier League players Chris Bedzo, Sean Mitchell and Steven Veleski with influential goalkeeper Carlos Salidarre ? and these players will need to bring their A-Game on Saturday.
The expectation around Marconi Stallions is very high this season following a disappointing 2011. Coach Luke Casserly has assembled a very strong team with a lot of emphasis on the side going forward. The additions of Shane Webb, Jamie McMaster, Milorad Simonovic and Daniel Severino have the Stallions as one of the most aggressive sides ? interest will be around how long it takes the team to gel, as the Stallions may well prove to be a real title contender.
At home, the Stallions will be extremely disappointed should they not pick up maximum points on the opening weekend of the season.
2010 Champions Blacktown City FC open their campaign at home against Manly United FC on Sunday afternoon in what is traditionally an open, end-to-end, encounter.
Blacktown City coach Mark Crittenden will be looking to unveil new signings Ryo Watanabe and Ryuji Miyazawa as young guns Ray Miller and Travis Major aim to further consolidate their developments in the top league of the past few seasons.
The home side can expect a tough encounter against the Northern Beaches side as Craig Midgley always fields a side with strong physical characteristics.
Captain Marc Richards will lead the chargers from the backline with Scott Balderson and Colin Illey very capable of creating goals. In the front third, Adam Foti will be expected to score the goals with Balderson and Damir Prodanovic also finding their feet in front of goal in pre-season matches.
Parramatta FC have a tough opening encounter at home against Sydney United 58. Despite the Eagles? squad featuring a number of younger, and lesser known names in the competition, experienced coach Lee Sterrey is more than capable of pulling a rabbit of the hat in his first season in charge at Melita Stadium. The club has recruited three foreign players, Irishman Mark O?Reilly and the Japanese duo of Akiyoshi Saito and Taichi Kojima, along with Central Coast Mariners? youth league striker Kwabena Appiah-Kubi, and really is an unknown coming into the season.
Their first test is against a well established Reds squad. Coach Jean-Paul De Marigny has the luxury of retaining the larger part of last season?s squad, and with the additions of Mitchell Stamatellis and Stjepan Paric, the squad is very well-balanced across the park.
With the Reds hoping to make a statement early in the season, and the Eagles too aiming to start the season on the front foot, supporters will be treated to an entertaining match on Sunday.
In the final match of the round kicking off at 5pm, defending Champions Sydney Olympic kick-start season 2012 with a home clash against Rockdale City Suns, on Sunday. Despite wholesale changes in playing personnel at Belmore following last season, coach Peter Tsekenis has recruited well, and will again be looking to implement his attacking style of play. The Blues added attacking trio Sam Awad, Joel Wood and Kutaiba Elrich to the group, along with the experience of Marton Vass. Strong in defence, the visiting Suns will be up against it on Sunday to break down Brett Studman and Blaz Dejanovic.
The Suns supporters too are expecting a better 2012 season, and despite a difficult first round clash, the side will look to pressure their more fancied opponent at Belmore.
A sturdy defence with Askin Oygur and Josh Lawson possessing much experience, coach Wally Savor has the added bonus of a number of interesting youngsters at his disposal. In the front third, Jason Naidovski will be expected to find goals this season. The burly striker didn?t have the best 2011 campaign, though certainly does have the characteristics to spearhead the Suns? assault this season.
NSW Premier League Round 1 Fixtures
Saturday March 31st 2012
7pm ? Sutherland Sharks v APIA Leichhardt Tigers ? Seymour Shaw
7pm ? South Coast Wolves v Bonnyrigg White Eagles ? John Crehan Park
7.30pm ? Marconi Stallions v Blacktown Spartans ? Marconi Stadium
Sunday April 1st 2012
3pm ? Blacktown City FC v Manly United ? Lily Homes Stadium
3pm ? Parramatta FC v Sydney United 58 ? Melita Stadium
5pm ? Sydney Olympic v Rockdale City Suns ? Belmore Sports Ground
-By Joseph Carlucci