The 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition reaches the season crescendo on Sunday afternoon, with the 187th and final match of the 2017 campaign – the Grand Final.
Rydalmere Lions – Fraser Park
Grand Final – Sunday, September 24
Sydney United Sports Centre @ 3-00pm
It is difficult to argue that the competition’s two best teams have earned the right to face each other head on in the Grand Final on Sunday afternoon at Sydney United Sports Centre.
Both sides are littered with quality players, some who have the experience of having played on bigger stages, but all who will be fighting tooth and nail to lift the Championship trophy on Sunday evening.
Rydalmere Lions are the PlayStation NPL3 Premiers, being first past the post at the completion of the 26 round, weekly bread-and-butter competition. The Lions won the most games (22), scored the most goals (95 – at an average of just shy of 4 per game), and entertained their large fan base throughout what became a stellar season.
Rydalmere Lions also finished on top of the Club Championship ladder, by the narrowest of margins, winning on goal differential after the Lions finished equal on points with Fraser Park.
After finishing as runners-up in 2016 in both the Premiership and Club Championship, Tony Basha and his staff took that in their stride, and assembled a stronger squad of players to conquer the two mountains they missed out on last season.
Given the club’s familiarity with the Grand Final – last season it was the one trophy they won with a 4-1 drubbing of Hills United – they will be gunning to repeat that effort, and attempt to finish the season with all three major trophies.
Did I say three trophies? With the U20s and U18s also representing the club in this weekend’s respective Grand Finals, a clean sweep is definitely on the cards for Rydalmere Lions.
Fraser Park have pretty much spent the season on the tail of their Grand Final opponents.
Fraser Park finished as runners up in the Premiership race, just two points behind Rydalmere Lions, and exactly the same goal differential of +62. Fraser Park can boast the competition’s best defence, conceding a miserly 19 goals across the 26 matches, a hallmark of their performances this season.
As mentioned previously, Fraser Park were also runners up in the Club Championship, based on goal differential, in a case of so near, but yet so far.
The team has been a benchmark of structured football, limiting the opposition with a sturdy defensive line, whilst quick to punish on the counter attack. Fraser Park in fact went the first 19 matches of the competition unbeaten, before succumbing with three losses in their final seven matches to finish just behind Rydalmere.
Both clubs earned the right to rest during the opening week of the Finals Series, courtesy of their respective 1st and 2nd place finishes, qualifying for the big event with solid wins in the elimination semi finals.
Rydalmere Lions overcame 0-1 and 1-2 deficits early to finally overpower SD Raiders 4-2 in their semi final, whilst Fraser Park easily brushed aside a disappointing St George City FA 3-0 in the other semi final.
The two encounters between the sides during the season have been intense, drama filled duels, as you would expect between two heavyweights.
The spoils were shared back in Round Seven on April 22 at Rydalmere Park in a 2-2 draw.
Russell Farrell broke the deadlock in the 43rd minute to give Rydalmere a 1-0 lead in to the half time break, sneaking inside the box before rifling a shot in to the roof of the net.
Fraser Park equalised minutes after the break when Tai Smith directed his header past Harrick Sinpraseuth in the Rydalmere goal, but the Lions were not to be denied, and restored their one goal advantage in the 70th minute, courtesy of Zac Watters, who snapped an angled shot in to the far inside netting after cutting in from the right flank.
But Fraser Park came back to equalise once again, this time in the 85th minute, when yet another Tai Smith header deflected off a Rydalmere defender this time on the way in to goal.
The second match up took place at Fraser Park on July 22 in Round 20, and what a spectacle it was. A full house witnessed an epic duel, with Rydalmere Lions prevailing 2-1 through goals by Matthew Mayora and that man once again, Russell Farrell, whilst Michael Gaitatzis replied for Fraser Park.
Both sides have plenty of talent on show, and the following players could very well prove the trump card for their respective sides on the day.
Ahmad Elrich – the experience of Ahmad Elrich comes to the fore especially when the going gets tough. Taking over the armband from injured skipper, Matthew Mayora, the ex-Socceroo has seen plenty in football, and guides his younger charges around the paddock with some telling touches and intelligent play on the ball, especially in the attacking third.
Amaury Gauthier – the league’s top marksman has been deadly this campaign, with 32 goals to show. Often the final piece of the Rydalmere Lions attacking jigsaw, Gauthier has an uncanny calm in and around the penalty box, and is clinical when presented with an opportunity.
Addison Sayan – the only ever present in the club’s 27 match campaign thus far, Sayan is a real box-to-box midfielder with a huge appetite for work, often suffocating the opposition midfielders, before being quick to release and send his team mates forward with telling passes.
Nicholas Dimitropoulos – the Fraser Park skipper is a real leader on the park, consistently vocal with instructions, and fierce in his demeanour. Dimitropoulos has been an ever present for Fraser Park and is a key reason why his team have the league’s best defence, and will once again prove a tough hurdle to overcome for Rydalmere.
Ben Vidaic – with 22 goals in 24 games to his name, Vidaic is your traditional number nine. Vidaic can hold the ball up effectively, play his team mates into space when the option presents itself, but is also sharp and can sniff out a chance within the penalty area.
Alvaro Malmierca – a creative midfielder with an eye for the spectacular – evident with his 25 yard piledriver in last week’s semi final win – Malmierca is very technical, always showing himself to receive the ball before splitting open opposition defences with precision passes.
The 2017 PlayStation®4 National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition has been an exciting and enthralling contest, with plenty of goals, upsets, and some quality football.
The competition is now one to revered and admired, with ambitious clubs, determined players, and hard-working volunteers. It all comes to a head on Sunday afternoon, when Rydalmere Lions and Fraser Park do battle for Championship glory, so get out to Sydney United Sports Centre to see who will get their hands on the coveted trophy.