NPL 1 End of Season Review

Wollongong Wolves

The fairy tale that wasn’t to be. Although the club dominated the league maintaining first spot from the very first round to the 22nd and final round they couldn’t convert their fine form into anything meaningful during the finals bowing out in straight sets 1-0 to APIA & then 2-1 to SU58 in the elimination final.

Nevertheless Wolves can be proud of their season, after knocking around the bottom half of the table for the better part of the decade Luke Wilkshire finally got the former NSL champions to awaken from their slumber and make themselves more than competitive. The club will now turn its attention to the national NPL finals series hoping to finish off the season with some silverware & with it an automatic place in the 2020 FFA Cup.

APIA Leichhardt Tigers

Three times was definitely a charm this season for APIA as they went on to pick up the crown in an action packed final over SU58, avenging their previous losses to Olympic & Manly over the past 2 seasons.  As per usual the club was solid as ever throughout the regular season rising to 2nd spot early and keeping pressure throughout on Wollongong’s title bid. Whilst they couldn’t overcome Wollongong in the regular season conceding 7 & failing to put a single goal past them it made no difference in the end as they disposed of them 1-0 in the semi to book their place in the final.

A Sean Symons strike late into extra time killed off a fatigued SU58 securing APIA’s first post-season silverware since the demise of the NSL. Other honours received by the club was the golden boot (including finals) courtesy of Chris Payne & x2 players in the team of the year featuring Chris Payne & club legend Franco Parisi. 

Blacktown City

All credit must surely go to long serving manager Mark Crittenden for proving the doubters, including us over at The Clean Sheet wrong. We thought this year would be a transitional year at best for Demons given key departures at the start of the season but it wasn’t to be as Blacktown climbed up the ladder & cemented themselves into 3rd spot, securing their finals spot with some time remaining. The unthinkable didn’t eventuate though as they were knocked out of the finals in a thrilling 7-3 defeat to SU58. 

Regardless the future at Lily’s looks bright with both the U/18’s & the U/20’s not only taking out their leagues but also getting to their finals with the U/18’s taking out the double & the U/20’s losing only by luck of the penalty shootout. So we’re keen to see what Critto can do with the next batch of youngsters coming through

Sydney United 58

A season where a coach not named Mark Rudan got to keep his job for the length of the season. 

Although shaky form in the latter half of the season meant SU58 only secured their finals spot on the final day of the season having to fend off Olympic & Mount Druitt in the process coach Miro Vlastelica & the Sydney United faithful can be proud of their post season exploits knocking off Blacktown & favourites Wollongong whilst battling injuries, suspensions & even fixture congestion as they had an FFA Cup tie against WSW scheduled just 3 days before their decider against APIA.

Although the final wasn’t played at Edensor the club got the next best thing as a good chunk of the strong 6426 crowd attempted to drive them on from start to finish as they went down to a determined APIA 2-1 in extra time. 

The club mustn’t get complacent in re-building for the 2020 season. United have a more than competent backline lead by the loyalist Tom Manos, returning favourite Tomi Uskok & the reliable Matt Bilic but will be looking to beef up the midfield given the retirement of 22 year veteran Petar Markovic & the need to fill the gap that Nick Stavroulakis left given no replacement was brought in as he departed during the mid-season window. Glen Trifiro is also thought to be on the outer as we’ve heard rumours of another club within the area chasing his signature to play & coach for next season. We expect to see a shake-up in the U/20’s that finished rock bottom, 9 points behind the nearest challengers as well. 

Marconi Stallions

Picked up the pace during the back end of the season after a slow start, winning 5 out of their final 6 games therefore sneaking into 5th on goal difference. Took SU58 all the way to extra time but were knocked out by a double from Patrick Antelmi.

Peter Tsekenis has been kept on & even rewarded with a new 3 year contract, something rare at this level of the game so obviously Marconi are looking to build something with ‘Tseka’ at the helm but there is no doubt that they would be expecting a better finish than just sneaking into the finals & getting dumped out at the first hurdle especially given how the club hasn’t been afraid to get the chequebook out since making their return to the top flight.

Capped off their season bowing out with a respectable 2-1 loss to Melbourne City in the Round of 16 in the FFA Cup.

Sydney Olympic

Big downturn in fortunes for last season’s champions, every week it felt like their finals hopes were on the brink and eventually they ran out of games as they missed out on the finals for the first time since 2016, also failed to qualify for the FFA Cup for the 4th consecutive season in a row losing out to Marconi in the final round of qualifiers. 

Olympic face a big off-season ahead in terms of squad development with talk of 43 year old stalwart Paul Henderson hanging up the gloves & Central Coast Mariners circling for Alejandro Sanchez do Olympic go for an established keeper or do they give backup Eze Consoni a chance to prove himself? Can they find a striker to replicate the Spaniard’s goal scoring record? There’s also the question of Hagi Gligor whilst undoubtedly talented the midfielder has been crocked for the past 2 seasons with consecutive ACL injuries, is he given a 3rd and final chance or do the club cut their losses?. All this of course depends on the decisions of new management with Abbas Saad stepping down at the end of the season & Terry Palapanis being swiftly ushered in as his successor it will be interesting to see if he brings his favourites that he’s worked with at previous clubs over to Belmore. 

Manly United

Not much to add for Manly after they failed to make finals football for the 2nd season in a row. Fared somewhat better in the FFA Cup where they finally got an interstate tie narrowly going down 1-0 to Brisbane Strikers in the Round of 16.

Mount Druitt

Another team that benefited from an astute mid-season transfer window picking up John Roberts & Mirjan Pavlovic along the way who fired them up to mid-table safety. As we said in our mid-season review the pressing matter Rangers need to address is getting some re-enforcements in at the back as their gameplan seemed to rely on A) hoping they would out-score the opposition by scoring 3 if they scored 2 & B) Hoping that Carlos Saliadarre would pull off world class saves every week.

Rockdale City Suns

A season full of ups but unfortunately more downs for the chronic underachievers of the league. Seemed to come good after the sacking of Paul Reid getting up to 3rd on the ladder but then hit a slump later on during the season leading to the sacking of Nick Porreca & the 3rd managerial appointment of the calendar year.

Marquee signings such as Panni Nikas & Josh Da Silva struggling to get consistent minutes on the pitch which undoubtedly contributed to their erratic form throughout the season. We’re eager to see how they approach the off-season, with the club still looking for their first piece of silverware in the top division do they try again with the same core players putting this season down to bad luck or do they burn it all down & go for a complete re-build?

Sutherland Sharks

Found themselves in a relegation battle early on during the season but managed to pull away from danger after conducting some business in the mid-season transfer window plus with some help from the 2nd placed U/20’s.

No club champ next year & already losing 2 of their mid-season signings in Liam McGing to Wellington & Charles Lokolingoy to Hong Kong Pegasus respectively means Sutherland can’t afford to be complacent in re-building in the off-season unless they want to find themselves in the exact same position come next year. 

Sydney FC

More of the same from the academy team this season, finishing either 11th or 12th for the 3 years previous they’ve been in the top division and it was no different this time around as they finished 11th. Have rewarded Marco Tilio, Ryan Teague & Harry Van Der Saag with promotions to the senior squad for the upcoming HAL season.

Hakoah Sydney City East

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Not much changed for Hakoah after finding themselves rooted to the bottom of the ladder by the mid-way point of the season it’s where they ended up by seasons end. The 6th placed U/18’s tried to give them a glimmer of hope of at least keeping the relegation battle competitive alas it was of no use as Hakoah’s fate was sealed well before the season came to a close. Will start life in NPL2 under new management with long serving manager Gavin Rae getting the tap on the shoulder once their fate was sealed.

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