Are we set for the most interesting season of National Premier Leagues 4 NSW Competition yet?
On the back of undoubtedly the most unusual season ever, the NPL 4 NSW Men’s competition is back.
All 12 teams come into this season with a shortened pre-season and many with an abundance of new faces ready to impress at their new clubs.
Will the re-named Western Rage recover from last year’s disappointments?
Can Fraser Park continue their dominance and go for more titles?
All clubs have big ambitions for this season, let’s see how they fair coming into the 2021 season.
Last Season: 9th. 3 Wins, 2 Draws, 5 Losses.
Coming off a tough 2020 season the Tigers look keen to bounce back and find the form which saw them finish one position off a NPL 3 finals appearance in 2019. They are re-united with the coach from that season Dean Bradley who re-joins the club after a one year hiatus.
Camden have returned with largely the same squad as last year but will turn to their youth players more often as they look to make a run for the finals. Key to helping out the young players will be captain Callum Rodgers and Blake Booker alongside the large portion of players retained from last season.
Key Additions: Bailey Simpson and Dean Mugridge
Last Season: 1st (Premiers & Grand Final Winners). 7 Wins, 3 Draws, 0 Losses.
The reigning premiers of NPL 4 are back to defend their throne. Fraser Park are raring to complete the double again and assert their dominance over this competition.
Unsurprisingly they enter with a nearly untouched squad from last season, with a few new recruitments from around the NPL, the key players to watch for Fraser Park this season include last season’s team-leading scorers Cam Philot and Shu Torihara who both netted five goals each in the regular season.
Look for another huge year from French import star Alexis Wenzel, a player that should be playing in a much higher division.
If Fraser Park can assert their dominance early on in the season, there won’t be much standing in their way of repeating last season’s incredible success.
Key Additions: Oliver Stickland, Paul Turrin, Jonah Caragher, Jonathan Mushaba, & David Ustimenko
Last Season: 4th, 5 Wins, 2 Draws, 3 Losses
Hawkesbury boasted a young and consistent squad throughout 2020, gaining a respectable top four finish, only to be knocked out by Fraser Park in the semi-final. They remained focused on developing their impressive youth depths in order to build for a competitive run to the finals.
Dean Bertenshaw has shown his full faith in his young side by retaining all 16 players from last year whilst adding six more youth players to the first grade squad along with two more experienced players. This youthful team is bound to make some noise and will look likely for finals spot.
Key Additions: Michael Streeter, Kieran Pace, Mattia Mannolio & Anthony Pedavoli
Last Season: 5th 3 Wins, 3 Draws, 3 Losses
Hurstville fell just short of a finals appearance in the shortened 2020 season, consequently Coach John Gagro has been putting his side through a rigorous pre-season in order to push for a deeper run into the finals and raise his sides expectations of themselves as they prepare for the upcoming season
Gagro’s men remain largely unchanged with a few additions that are sure to bolster their strong midfield and defensive stocks. The biggest of these additions is goal-keeper Michael Rutherford who along with Stephan Perak and star attacker Paul Gagro will lead the way for Hurstville as they look to go one better and make a finals appearance for 2021.
Key Additions: Michael Rutherford, Jacob Ritchie, Anthony Krkovski, Elvir Catovic & Tristan Singh
Last Season: 3rd, (Grand Finalist), 5 Wins, 2 Draws, 3 Losses.
Nepean are hungry to go better this season and again challenge for both pieces of silverware. They boasted the second best attack last season scoring 22 goals in the regular season, led by the league’s top goal scorer Mitchell McLintock (11).
Apart from losing a few players to retirement Nepean come into this season with a good portion of last year’s core being retained, six new players have been signed to the first grade team with the intention of repeating last year’s impressive run. Key to keeping this success up will be the leaders from the back including keeper Tom Hamilton and Eddie Stewart along with them leading the line up top will be Golden Boot winner Mitchell Mclintock.
Look for Dimitri Aronis to a have a huge year, a former young star in NSW, a lot is tipped to see this midfielder rise to the occasion.
Key Additions: Jade Johnson, Dimtiri Aronis, Chris Bacur, James Kolic, Robert Morsello, Damien Smith & Ben Welch.
Newcastle Jets FC
Last Season: 11th (NPL 2), 1 Win, 3 Draws, 6 Losses
The talented Newcastle Jets are aiming for the top, looking for a trophy in NPL 4. Current Jets A-League Senior Assistant Coach and former star striker Daniel McBreen is at the helm again and is looking to bleed through more youth players from the Hunter region whilst claiming their spot amongst the elite of NPL 4.
Newcastle have named a very familiar squad to begin 2021, however expect that to change with players going up and down from the A-League squad. Youngster Adam Zervas is sure to continue his impressive form on the back of his debut season, whilst new recruit Jordan Lennon and Captain Joe Langlois are bound to lead this team into an expected title chase.
Key Additions: Jordan Lennon & Matt Buettner
Last Season: 8th, 3 Wins, 2 Draws, 5 Losses.
On the heels of yet another disappointing season Parramatta will look to this season as another building block as they attempt to slowly return to the top, something that is synonymous with the club’s name. The club went through a clean out letting go of around half of last year’s squad, in favour of a mix of NPL talent from all four tiers.
Parramatta will look to heavily improve on last year’s results and hope new signings Jayden Young, Usher Chilba and Diego Molina will help them push for a better position and potentially push for a finals spot.
Key Additions: Jayden Young, Usher Chilba & Diego Molina
Last Season: 10th, 1 Win, 6 Draws, 3 Losses
Prospect are coming off one of their most unlucky seasons in recent memory, leading the league in draws (6) doubling the next closest to them, if Prospect can begin to convert their draws into wins this is a team that can easily finish on the other side of the table and be a real force come finals time.
They come into the opening weekend with the improbable task of taking on current premiers Fraser Park.
New recruits Henry Yau and Jayden Nikhaul could give the team the ‘X-Factor’ they desperately needed last year, whilst seasoned players like Alex Gorgievski and Thomas Kasunic are prepared to lead their side into a comeback season in 2021.
Key Additions: Jayden Nikhaul & Henry Yau
South Coast Flame
Last Season: 7th, 3 Wins, 3 Draws, 4 Losses
The Flame brought the heat in the back end of last season but didn’t have enough games left to make a significant comeback and were resigned to the middle of the table. If South Coast can remain consistent throughout the whole of 2021 it is very possible they could replicate their dream run from the 2019 season and make a lengthy finals run.
More than half the squad has been retained for the upcoming season, the Flame will be missing their skipper Matt White but have replaced him with exciting young prospect Nicholas Armand. George Kulscar has appointed the longest tenured player Matthew Mazevski as captain. Kulscar has recruited a variety of talented and experienced NPL players whilst gifting two youth players first grade contracts. With the retainment of players like Carlo and Kasey Stella, Justin Smith, Joel Dowling and Louis Connell the Flame should be able to push all the way through and challenge the top of NPL 4.
Key Additions: Nicholas Armand, Eugene Arku, Daniel Cooper and Gerard Bruscino.
Last Season: 2nd, 6 Wins, 3 Draws, 1 Loss.
The second best team in NPL 4 last season turned 2019’s disappointment into a near perfect 2020 regular season, suffering just one defeat on the final day to Camden. UNSW weren’t able to continue their form into the finals losing to third placed Nepean 2-0.
This team has remained largely untouched with the majority of last year’s squad being retained whilst a mix of a few fresh new faces are bound to create some friendly competition for spots in the starting squad each week. Last season’s leading scorer for UNSW Maison McGeehan returns to the squad looking to recreate his stellar form, whilst they may miss the impact of Des Ford and Peter Prandalos who played all but one game for them last season.
Key Additions: Mark Murphy, Gabrielle Trinco, Yoel Silvestre, Victor Anyimba, Michael Kenny, Callum Fitzptarick.
Western NSW FC
Last Season: 3 Wins, 3 Draws, 4 Losses
Another team that found it hard to find their feet during the resumption of play last year, Western NSW enter the 2021 season with a large number of changes in the squad after parting ways with 9 first graders and the result of a few injuries to first team members. They could be in for a tough start to the season which may set the tone for the remainder of the year.
Western NSW will look to build their new look squad through Captain Nikki Spice and hope he can carry a larger load while his teammates regain their fitness from their injuries.
Key Additions: Tatsuya Sato & Volkan Gudgen
Western Rage (Formerly Granville Rage)
Last Season: 11th, 1 Win, 1 Draw, 8 Losses
The newly re-named Western Rage will hope to leave last season’s wooden spoon with the Granville Rage name, celebrating 20 years of the club they have gone back to it’s original name and hopes to write a new chapter in the history books of the Rage. After one of the worst seasons on record the club cleaned out the majority of the first team squad keeping only five players from last years team.
Western Rage have strategically found with no relegation they are able to give their youth the best opportunity to grow for the next year and build a solid foundation of core first-team members. Helping this young squad grow will be George Issa, Daniel and Samuel Bortolazzo, Declan Monro and Mitch Luck, the only five to remain from last year’s bottom place finish
Key Additions: A whole new squad (Seriously)
-By NPL 4 NSW Men’s Writer Dominic Criniti