With the grueling pre-season finally over, we welcome with open arms the highly anticipated commencement of the National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition.
This competition has been gaining in notoriety over recent years, with a series of notable participants on both the playing and coaching fronts, and this season promises to continue to grow with the momentum of past seasons.
We will miss the scintillating football delivered by Tony Basha’s Rydalmere Lions, who were rewarded for their efforts on and off the park in 2017 with promotion to the NPL 2 NSW Men’s competition, and we wish them all the very best in their endeavours, whilst regular participants at this level, the Balmain Tigers, will look to bounce back at the first attempt following their relegation to the Men’s State League.
Many of the usual suspects will be going around again in NPL 3, but more about them later, whilst the competition throws out the welcome mat to two new participants as we kick off the season this weekend.
Round One kicks off at 4pm on Saturday afternoon in Lithgow, with the Western NSW Mariners FC hosting the visit of Fraser Park FC.
The Mariners have loitered towards the base of the ladder in recent seasons, but will keen to get a quick start and avoid the bottom rungs this time around.
Coach Andrew Fearnley continues at the helm of the club, and has once again cast his net far and wide to provide opportunity to up and coming players from regional NSW towns.
Adam Scimone is the perfect skipper for many of the youngsters in the squad, always leading by example with his experience, as well as what he adds in the front third.
One of those youngsters who will benefit is the explosive Jai Regan who has a keen eye for goal, whilst Kenny McCall returns from overseas, and the hard working Josh Ward links up after spells previously at Manly United and Northern Tigers.
After agonisingly missing out on promotion in 2017 by the slimmest of margins – goal difference – Fraser Park FC return for another crack in 2018, boasting a totally different squad from last season.
Even though they were runners up to Rydalmere Lions in both the Premiership as well as the Club Championship in 2017, Fraser Park did snatch some silverware in the form of a Championship, victorious in the Grand Final against the Lions.
But the club have had a clean out of sorts in the offseason, with the majority of the playing squad – as well as the coaching staff – departing and leaving the club to regroup its resources with a view to remain competitive.
New faces include goalkeeper Marc Villaescusa, who is very handy between the sticks, whilst David von Dinklage has sublime technical ability and will no doubt terrorise defences across the league this season.
Fraser Park can get their campaign off to no better start than a win on the road when they travel to country NSW for the opening round of the 2018 season – but the Mariners will be waiting in anticipation.
There are a total of five matches scheduled for a 7pm kick off on Saturday night, with one of those seeing Dulwich Hill FC meeting Hawkesbury City FC at Arlington Oval.
Dulwich Hill played an entertaining brand of football in 2017, scoring a massive 70 goals along the way, but leaking 45 goals which saw them finish the season in fourth position, a little lower than their high expectations.
No doubt they will look to improve on their 2017 showing, and despite losing a few players in the off season – including Tommy Bentham and Luke Giverin, who have both returned to the UK – Dully have recruited rather well and will no doubt be a force once again.
Three players have made the move from fierce derby neighbours, Fraser Park, being goalkeeper, Chris Becerra, midfield creator, Goncalo Parandata, and striker Ben Vidaic, who netted 22 times in 2017 to finish runner up in the golden boot.
Two other key signings include young Jovan Blagojevic from Sydney University, a man who showed brilliant glimpses last season on his way to 13 goals, and Nathan Jagelman, of ex-Marconi and Rockdale fame. With the experienced ‘Master Chef’ himself Gosue Sama retained, you can see why Dully look especially ominous in the attacking third.
Much is expected this season from the 2017 U20s Player of the Year, Angus Chance, and with Mark Strachan pulling the reins from the bench, and the fierce tackling Sean Burke inheriting the arm band, Dulwich Hill can look forward to a big year.
Their visitors on the opening day of the season are Hawkesbury City FC, lead once again by the experienced Dean Bertenshaw. The crafty coach lead the Hawks to the brink of finals football last season – a 1-1 draw on the final day saw them pipped on goal difference – and he will no doubt look to go one better this year.
Co-captains, striker Michael McCrory, and keeper, Daniel Schwarzer, are two of the most experienced campaigners in this league, and will motivate their team from opposite ends of the pitch.
Brad Gibson links up with the Hawks from Spirit FC, whilst 17 year old Daniel Zahra is a youngster to watch, the exciting prospect joining from Blacktown City.
Hawkesbury have always proven to give any team an honest 90 minutes, so expect nothing less than that in 2018, starting with their travels to Arlington Oval on Saturday night.
New boys, Camden Tigers FC, travel to ES Hall Park in Marsfield on Saturday night when they tackle Gladesville Ryde Magic.
Camden are in fact not new to this competition, but return after a few years in the State League, winning promotion in 2017.
Matty Viera is an experienced new signing, the ex-Mounties tough tackling defender adding some bite to a physical Camden line up, whilst Danny Martinez will bring his close ball futsal skills to the table when he lines up for the Tigers after transferring from SD Raiders in the off season.
Stephen Lloyd is an accomplished striker at this level, and will once again prove a handful for opposition defences with his presence in and around the penalty box.
2017 semi-finalists, Gladesville Ryde Magic, have strengthened in the off season and will definitely look to improve on their sixth placed finish last year.
Striker Michael Gaitatzis links up with brother – and Gladesville skipper – Chris, after having starred for Fraser Park last season, whilst Jonathon Gowdy returns from the wilderness, having previously terrorised many a full back on the wing for Sydney University.
A huge coup for Gladesville is the signature of Chris Triantis – the 30 year old having previously donned the colours of Newcastle Jets in the A-League, as well as Sydney United 58 and Sydney Olympic in the NPL top tier competition.
Gladesville Ryde Magic have often given youth an opportunity in their first grade outings, and Izaack Munoz is another to look out for given his speed and ability in attack.
With Tony Caruso taking over the coaching reins, and veteran fan favourite, Kiriakos Tohouroglou, going around again between the sticks, look out for a revitalised Gladesville Ryde Magic in 2017.
One side who did well in 2017 was SD Raiders FC, and they will hope to build on their positive maiden season in this league with a winning start on Saturday night when they host Stanmore Hawks FC at 7pm at Ernie Smith Reserve.
The Raiders too have had a player upheaval of sorts in the off season, losing the experience of both the retired Mark D’Alessandro as well as Mark Symington, amongst others.
The biggest coup for the Raiders could be the signing of ex-Socceroo, Nick Carle, as coach, and he will no doubt bring a football philosophy that’s all about attacking flair and technique.
Goran Ljuboja joins the club and has been given the captaincy, whilst other new signings include Sebastian Malfaro, Jacob Boutoubia, and Daniel Marjanovic.
In a squad boasting an average age of low 20s, one youngster keen to impress is Marko Filipovic, an attack minded player with great technique.
Stanmore Hawks have had some changes to their personnel with a view to improve on their tenth placed finish in 2017.
Arguably one of coach, Brian Baker’s, more astute signings in the off season is that of former NPL top tier striker, Neil Jablonski, recently of Hakoah Sydney City East, and just his big presence in the penalty area is bound to cause mayhem for the opposition.
It will be interesting to see Jablonski link up with young Michael Toscano, the livewire front man returning to the Hawks after a year away from Arlington, whilst Mark McAlpine will add some spark in attack with his feisty approach in the front third.
The veteran, big Sam Awad, is back again, and no doubt will be in and around the goal mouth at set pieces, having scored his fair share of goals over recent seasons via his head.
With both teams keen for a quick start, expect an arm wrestle at Ernie Smith Reserve come Saturday night.
Inter Lions SC and Granville Rage clash at Fraser Park on Saturday night at 7pm, hoping for three points to get off on the front foot following disappointing 2017 campaigns.
Inter Lions are yet another club who have almost an entirely new playing roster, marshalled by the very astute and experienced Michael Urukalo as head coach.
Captain Michael Sidoti is one of the few Lions who remain, whilst it is a home coming of sorts for prodigal sons, the Di Mento brothers. Jacob has had a full preseason under his belt after a major injury twelve months ago, adding bite to the midfield, whilst older brother, Domenic, has been one of the most effective and experienced wingers in recent seasons at this level.
Rocci Gabey adds some steel to the defence, whilst Andreas Gomez, of ex-Sutherland fame, brings creativity to the attacking third.
Inter Lions have also acquired two of the most clinical strikers of recent seasons in the NPL 3 competition – Juan Chavez and Rosario Occhipinti – two men who know their way around the penalty area and will pounce if given the opportunity.
Granville Rage are hoping for better fortunes in 2018 after going perilously close to being relegated in 2017.
Veteran 38 year old Nenos Bobo returns for another season at the Rage, whilst the Bortolazzo brothers are back, Daniel usually on the flank whilst Samuel dons the gloves in goals.
The hard working Michael Sada joins the club from Gladesville Ryde Magic, and look out for Joshua Spina, the 22 year old fit and ready to have a great season in an attacking midfield role after being dogged by injuries in recent seasons.
Three points away on the road will be just what the doctor ordered for Granville if they are to start the campaign on a positive note.
St George City FA welcome the visit of Dunbar Rovers FC to Jubilee Oval on Saturday night for a 7pm kick off in one of the matches of the opening round.
St George City FA had a marvellous maiden season in the NPL 3 competition in 2017, finishing in third position on the ladder before getting within ninety minutes of the grand final.
The coaching team of head coach, Manny Spanoudakis, and Aytec Genc, offer a wealth of football experience like no others, and they will no doubt be looking to steer the club to even better outcomes this season.
The club are in the midst of evolving top class training facilities at Peakhurst Park, including a synthetic pitch, and have a real focus on development, hoping to turn a handful of players into NPL top tier and even A-League prospects.
Michael Loupis is one of those youngsters, having signed from neighbouring NPL top tier side, Rockdale City Suns and he offers speed and a powerful left foot shot amongst other attributes.
Two key signings within a host of new faces have joined from Fraser Park – Alex Euripidou provides speed on the flanks, whilst Alvaro Malmierca is a silky attacking midfielder with an eye for a perfectly weighted through ball, not to mention the spectacular long distance strike.
St George FA’s opening day opponents are Dunbar Rovers, a formidable foe any day of the week, and a club who will be eager to get off to a good start after a 2017 season that fell below their own high expectations.
Mike Dixon will once again be calling the shots from the dugout, with the flamboyant Andrew Doddy captaining the side. Doddy is well known in this division, given some of the spectacular goals he has scored and created in recent seasons from a central attacking midfield role.
New signings for the Rovers include the experienced Paul Orgad from Hakoah Sydney City East, lightning quick striker, Yoel Silvestre, from Rydalmere Lions, Eric Tomesek from Inter Lions, whilst James Brodnik will attract attention, the versatile midfielder joining the club from Port Kembla, an Illawarra Premier League side.
Michael Karagiannis, Pat Lloyd and Henry Kamleitner are also all handy acquisitions having transferred from Hurstville FC in the off season.
Expect a strong showing from the visitors on Saturday as Dunbar aim to spoil the St George City FA party at Jubilee.
Round One concludes with a solitary match scheduled for Sunday evening at 7pm, as new boys, Bankstown City FC play host to Sydney University SFC at Jensen Park.
It seems a long time ago now that Bankstown City Lions were strutting their stuff in the NPL top tier competition, and the proud club would no doubt be hurting, and eager to commence their incline from the get go.
Jeff Suzor has taken on the responsibility of bringing back the glory days for Bankstown City Lions, and his experience from the dugout will be complemented by the support of Adrian Meneses and Frank Mikuletic.
Jeff Issa adds some experience to the line-up in midfield, Mirza Sehic and Mitsuki Nakada have joined from SD Raiders, whilst Nathan Lopino has come across from Fraser Park.
Sydney United 58 have provided two players – the experienced Ante Tomic, and young Ante Markovic, the latter a composed centre back. The energetic Carl McMahon is an astute signing, and will take his spot between the sticks, looking to keep the ‘students’ scoreless on his debut against his former club.
Sydney University have quietly gone about their business in pre-season, looking to catch everyone unawares as they plan an early assault on the league.
The coaching staff includes ex-Dunbar Will Cullen at the helm, whilst Sydney Uni’s prodigal son, ex-captain Tommy Hyde, moves from the boardroom to the dugout in a smart transition for the club.
The arm band goes to the experienced Robbie Deasy, joining from NPL 2 side St George, after previously doing a great job for Dunbar Rovers at this level.
Deasy will be joined in attack by Scott Tonkin, a proven striker at this level, and a player who adds height, good feet and a nose for goals around the penalty area.
Other new signings include combative midfielder, Michael Sealy, Andrew Green, Adam Smith and Stephen Liu, all from Dunbar Rovers, Gavin Wenyon from Balmain, and Dominic Arcella, who will add experience and leadership across the middle of the park.
A youngster to keep an eye on is the tall Conor Quilligan, who shows composure on the ball and great technique in the centre of the park.
Well there you have it…..the preparation is in its final moments, the new balls are pumped, and the playing strips are hanging in the change rooms.
Which teams will start the season in red hot form, taking the ascendancy on the others as they storm to the top of the league during the early rounds?
And which teams will stumble and need to play catch up from the outset?
What we do know is that yet another exciting season awaits in the National Premier Leagues 3 NSW Men’s competition, so let the action begin!