New Dawn, New Name, New Teams, Same Journalist. Justin Smith is back bigger than ever and just in time to preview the NPL4 NSW Men’s competition.
On the Agenda. Change is very much afoot with clubs opting for the well-worn tropes of replacing coaches and players alike. And not even the Champions escaped such change.
Will Fraser Park be able to go one better this year and finish atop of the pile during the regular season?
How do the five, yes five relegated teams bounce back from last years disappointment?
And what will the Newcastle Jets bring to the competition in their inaugural Football NSW campaign?
All these questions will be answered over the next 22 weeks. in the meantime, let’s check in with each of the clubs.
Last season: 7th (NPL3). 12 wins, 3 draws, 11 losses.
We start things off with perhaps the unluckiest team of the competition re-structure. Camden Tigers had what can be best described as a solid season in 2019, just missing out on the NPL 3 NSW Men’s finals series. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough when it came to the club championship and they now find themselves preparing an NPL 4 NSW Men’s assault in 2020.
Key to their hopes will be the acquisition of no less than nine new first team players as well as a new head coach in Rod Henderson. That’s not to discount the likes of Fijian Under 23 international Rajniel Chand and Michael O’Rourke (fifteenth year at the club) as well as others who have stayed on for the 2020 campaign.
Signings: Cormack Stevens, Marko Jez, Keaton Bates, Jordan Cracknell, Matthew Harvey, Joel Le Beau, Byrce Dolinscak, Nathan Bertolissio, Anthony Haddad.
Last Season: 2nd (State League Men’s), Champions, 13 wins, 3 draws, 4 losses.
Turns out, no one was safe from a hectic off-season period. Last year’s champions Fraser Park come into this campaign with a distinct new look. Having lost previous head coach Renato Jelen early in the preseason, ex-Stanmore assistant Alex Araujo has had just enough time to put his on stamp on the squad.
Alexis Wenzel, Rodrigo Cataldi, Cam Philpot and Shu Torihara all return this season. Whist incoming are no less than eleven players and it could be more by the time of print. Former Balmain trio of Frank Calgano, Miki Bisceglia and Nico Muscio now call the eastern suburbs club their home. Whilst also attracting a fair share of overseas players and players dropping down to this level.
They pose a whole new but just as dangerous threat this time around.
Recruitment: Frank Calcagno, Miki Bisceglia, Nico Muscio, Anthony Musumeci, Luke Allen, Christian Desa, Gui Evangelista, Daniel Marques, Alexandre Coelho, Florent (Flo) Indalecio, Harry Fasch.
Last Season: 13th (NPL3), 3 wins, 6 draws, 17 losses.
For a club that prides itself on punching above its weight and being competitive till all is said and done. 2019 can only go down as a disappointment for the Granville Rage. Now in their 20th anniversary, they will be aiming to bounce back and play semi-finals football come August.
With only five faces returning from last season, there is a fresh feel about the squad. And so far, so good with squad harmony “coming along nicely” as the season approaches.
If they are to succeed, you’d suggest that the experienced heads of Nenos Bobo, Dragon Savic and club captain George Issa will all play a key part in leading plenty of youth around the squad.
Key Players: Nenos Bobo, Dragon Savic, George Issa
Last year: 10th (NPL3), 7 wins, 9 draws, 10 losses.
Well, they’ve seen fire and they’ve seen rain. And Hawkesbury City FC can finally see sunny days coming again. After seeing their ground flooded just weeks before the season after a forgettable 2019.
The 2020 season promises to be a big year for the club with the emergence of Callum Elliot. Elliot (19) promises to be the first player to come through their youth system (13’s – first grade). It’s a boost which could kick start their NPL4 campaign.
Apart from that, in a rare move, the team from Sydney’s far reaches has opted to top up on last year’s squad instead of a full rebuild. Coach David Bertenshaw will once again take the reins with the likes of Greg Kondek (Bonnyrigg) coming to the club as well as the return to football of James Maywin and Emanuel Ponce.
Signings: Greg Kondek, Daniel Zahra, Luke Zahra, James Maywin, Emanuel Ponce.
Last season: 5th (State League Men’s). 8 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses
If you would have offered Hurstville FC 5th place before the beginning of last season, they would have taken it no questions asked. But football is a funny thing and at times last season, they seemed destined for better things. Now coming into season 2020, they aim to be stronger, fitter and faster than they have ever been.
Yep, it’s been a tough pre-season for the playing group from southern Sydney. Coach John Gagro has pushed his side hard with the aim of being competitive no matter who they come up against.
The squad has a largely familiar feel to it with the only noteworthy acquisitions being former Gazy centre midfielder Edoardo Panizzari and Caleb Bartier from St George City. Underestimate them at your peril.
Signings: Edoardo Panizzari, Caleb Bartier.
Last season: 6th (State League Men’s). 8 wins, 3 draws, 9 losses
Stuck in neutral whilst trying to accelerate. It took me a while to come up with a metaphor for Nepean FC over the last two seasons but there it is. Despite being a considered a heavyweight of the 4th division in NSW, they just couldn’t push the gear stick into place when they needed too. And didn’t they pay for it, last season missing out on the finals for the first time since 2016.
So, change needed to happen. And in comes Joe D’Ermilio with a new squad ready to tackle season 2020 head on.
Their pre-season has been about merging three groups (Long term Nepean footballers, return of some lost to the game and a healthy stack of youth) of players into one unit. The question is, how quickly can they accelerate into the new campaign.
Signings: Matt Viera, Slaven Lboja, Michael Borazzio, Brendan & Mitchell King, David & Brendan Allen.
So, we get to the newbies of the Football NSW league system (At least on the men’s side). Not sure you would have heard of them before now so let me introduce them… Alright all jokes aside, Newcastle Jets have entered the chaos of the NSW fourth division.
And they should come in battle hardened after a “full” season of NYL over the summer. Led by coach Daniel Mcbreen, the youthful Jet’s progressed as a unit over the short summer campaign. The message from Mcbreen, if you are good enough age shall not be a barrier. So, expect to see the likes of 16-year-old Adam Zervas feature alongside some more “experienced” faces within the squad.
Promotion must be the goal for this giant club (for this division), and if they adjust quick enough. It’s hard to look past them.
Last Season: 12th (NPL3). 6 wins, 2 draws, 18 losses
What a spectacular descent this has been. Parramatta FC, a club synonymous with the top tier of the NSW state system, now find themselves in the bottom tier. Relegation has become an all too common occurrence for the club but at least now, they can only go one way (up).
With an eye on rebuilding, they have appointed former Albanian youth international Gert Disha to take in include familiar faces to the league Masudi Elongo, Michael Fakiye and Gabriel Gomes. Whilst being joined by Chris Godoy, Clement Waoci and Ben Welsh who perhaps more familiar to followers of the tiers above.
Preseason results have looked good for the club. Maybe finally things have turned the corner?
Recruitment: Masudi Elongo, Michael Fakiye, Gabriel Gomes, Chris Godoy, Clement Waoci, Ben Welsh.
Last Season: 7th (State League Men’s). 6 wins, 7 draws, 7 losses
More of the same. That’s the goal for Prospect United SC as they embark on a new era for the club. Based out far in Sydney’s West, a trip to Willian Lawson Park has to be one of the most dreaded away fixtures in the competition.
Unlike many of their existing colleagues, they have resisted the urge to make many changes coming into the newly named competition. Coach Darren Camilleri returns once again, reigning golden glove Daniel Farias will once again be between the sticks, it all sounds familiar right?
Well. not exactly. The additions of proven attackers Cristian Leiva Martinez and Henry Yau from the Western Condors give the team some bite going forward. Another team you don’t want to underestimate (particularly if you’re Nepean FC).
Recruitment: David Muller, Cristian Leiva-Martinez, Henry Yau, Samuel Head, Joshua Lim, Alex Gorgievski, Liam Polinsky, Bryce Maxwell, Jade Jonnson.
South Coast Flame:
Last Season: 4th (State League Men’s), 8 wins, 5 draws, 7 losses
Few were predicting that South Coast Flame would come within a game of last year’s grand final. Yet there they were, putting together an enthralling run throughout the second half of the 2019 season. Now it’s about consolidating before pushing on towards better things as this young group gets another year of action under the boot.
In perhaps one of the more surprising coaching changes of the off season, Neil Mineef stepped aside to be replaced by former Socceroo George Kulcsar. Key players Matt Mazevski, Hiroaki Ushijima and captain Matt White return.
Whilst striker Sandy Lowcock and experienced defender Carlo Stella (both from Port Kembla) add some quality at either end of the field.
Signings: Carlo Stella, Sandy Lowcock, Alexander Pappas, Luke Debrot.
Last Season: 10th (State League Men’s), 6 wins, 3 draws, 11 losses
If ever a team needed an off-season, it was UNSW FC after a turbulent season last time out. They just kept finding ways, to not pick up wins in games they really should have. Now after a bit of self-reflection, changes have been made.
Once again, they will be led by coach Gabriel Knowles who returns for his third season in the hot seat with perhaps his strongest squad to date. The trio of Kevin Lopes (striker), Naruyuki Kato (number 10) and Christian Martinez (centre midfield) stand out as the marquee signings.
However, the squad has been strengthened across the board. Add the retentions of captain Josh Chahal, 2019 State League golden boot Nima Beik and keeper Connor Winn amongst others. A clear statement of intent has been issued.
Signings: Luke Burke, Claudio Fabiano, Peter Prandalos, Matt Cuda, Naruyuki Kato, Kevin Lopes, Christian Martinez, Ian Hillier, Raul Carizzo, Keeghan Burke, David Booth.
Western NSW FC
Last Season: 14th (NPL3). 3 wins, 2 draws, 21 losses
Being a regional club in the Football NSW system can be tough. And that’s not touching on the fact that Western NSW FC only managed three wins last time out. But as with many things in life, you can either let it get you down, or you can use it as a chance to start afresh. And that’s what Western NSW seemed to have done.
The aim this season for the club is to establish themselves as a mid-table threat with their gaze set on the long term. As such they have recruited a youthful squad. In the front third Damien Booth stands out as a key acquisition whilst elsewhere on the pitch you’d suggest Bryce Daton, Ashton Webb and Jesse Boness will come in more than handy.
Signings: Damien Booth, Bryce Daton, Ashton Webb, Jesse Boness.
By Justin Smith