Through The Rough – Football NSW’s Round of 32 FFA Cup Entrants

As so it was decided that after 148 Football New South Wales football clubs entering, only five survived the qualifying rounds (joined by Sydney United 58 FC) to make it to the Round of 32 of the FFA Cup. A total of 101 grassroot clubs alongside 47 NSW National Premier League (NPL) and State League clubs fought on cold weeknights and late weekend afternoons to try to stake their claim in the Australia’s premier knockout football competition. With teams coming from far and wide from places such as Gosford to Wagga Wagga, Wollongong to Mudgee and Rydalmere to Narellen, all teams trained and fought hard along the way showcase their talents and prove they deserve to be in the cup. Despite the braving of the elements and the odd shock win or two, only five clubs (Blacktown City FC, Hakoah Sydney City East FC, APIA Leichhardt FC, Bankstown Berries FC, Hills Brumbies FC) alongside current NPL Champions Sydney United 58 FC made the cut and now have the right to face some of the best teams that the nation has to offer.

Blacktown City FC
Blacktown City FC qualified with a convincing 3-0 win over Illawarra Premier League (IPL) side Bulli FC, thanks to a Mitch Mallia brace alongside a finish by James Andrew. The Blacktown boys started their journey in the fourth round with an away win hammering of Kerrawee Kangaroos FC 0-6, followed by a 2-0 win over Eastern Suburbs Football Association side Lokomotiv Cove FC at home. This was then followed by an extra time win 2-1 over NPL Men’s 2 side Mt Druitt Town Rangers FC, which saw Danny Choi score a wonderful free kick against the Rangers. A place in national competition beckoned for the NPL Men’s 1 side but IPL side Bulli FC stood in their way. In what was an expected win by many, Blacktown won the tie 3-0 and sealed their spot in the FFA Cup for a fourth time.

Hakoah Sydney City East FC
Some might say the Hakoah Sydney City East FC didn’t always have it their way, with two penalty shootouts and extra time needed for the team to enter the Round of 32. The Eastern Sydney based club entered the qualifying in the fourth round with an extra time demolition of NPL Men’s 3 side Inter Lions, defeating the Concord side 1 – 6 after the game was tied 1 – 1 at full time. A 4-2 penalty shootout was then needed for Hakoah to defeat fellow NPL Men’s 1 side Manly United FC, with the Northern Beaches side taking Hakoah all the way to the edge after the game couldn’t be won after a 1 – 1 draw after extra time. A penalty shootout was once again required to get past IPL side Albion Park White Eagles FC, with a thrilling 3 – 3 encounter during 120 minutes of play not enough to separate the two sides, as Hakoah advanced once again 4-2 on penalties. A seventh round 3-1 win over Rockdale City Suns FC was the only normal time win the Eastern Sydney side had in the qualifying rounds, a game which saw goals from Jordan Mundell, Oliver Green and Andre de Jong and both sides ending with 10 men after a red card for each team was issued.

APIA Leichhardt FC
The Tigers enter the national knockout tournament after a very entertaining 2-1 extra time victory over lower tiered opponents SD Raiders FC. APIA entered in the fourth round and progressed by defeating local side Leichhardt Saints 3 – 0 the Leichhardt derby (of sorts,) before dispatching Killarney Districts with a 4 – 0 away win. The six round saw the Leichhardt based side take on an out of form Bonnyrigg White Eagles FC at Bonnyrigg Sports Club, coming out the victors with a 2 – 0 win over the White Eagles. APIA were made to work for their spot in the Round of 32, as SD Raiders pushed the Tigers right to the very end. The Raiders took a shock lead in the first half with a John Fahmi spot kick putting the Southern Districts club ahead, before a last gasp penalty in added time given by referee Kris Griffiths-Jones gave APIA a foot back in the game. The spot kick was duly put away by Michael West, forcing the 1000 plus strong crowd into anxiety and elation (depending who you supported.) The game was destined to end with a penalty shootout before Paul Galimi popped up with a last minute header past Raiders’ goalkeeper Tomi Romic to seal the game 2-1 after extra time.  The Raiders’ custodian kept the NPL Men’s 3 side well and truly in the game, with his incredible heroics and saves allowing the Raiders a fighting chance to qualify. As football can be a cruel game sometimes, it was not meant to be and the Leichhardt based side qualified for the FFA Cup through the skin of their teeth in what was a memorable game for both sides.

Bankstown Berries FC
The NPL Men’s 2 side claimed what was perhaps the biggest scalp of the qualifying rounds, defeating a much fancied Sydney Olympic FC 1 – 0 thanks to 23 year old Jake Bradshaw’s goal in the 78th minute of play.  The Berries defeated East Gosford FC 2-0 in the fourth round and then dispatched Dunbar Rovers FC with a 2-0 away win in the fifth round, followed by a close 2-1 away win over Dulwich Hill FC. In what many expect to be an easy sweep for Sydney Olympic FC, who had come into the final qualifying round on the back of wins against Mosman FC (7-1), Picton Rangers FC (3-0) and barely beating a weakened Parramatta FC (2-1), many though the winners of this Greek Derby would be the boys in blue from Belmore. How wrong they were. Bankstown Berries put on a valiant effort against their much fancied opponents, with their efforts paying off as Bradshaw’s solitary goal saw the Bankstown side win 1-0 and book their spot for the first time in the FFA Cup.

Hills Brumbies FC
Another team from the NPL Men’s 2, Hills Brumbies FC entered in the fourth round of qualifying with convincing 6-1 away win against Eastern Suburbs Football Association side Glebe Gorillas FC. The Hills based side crushed NPL Men’s 3 side St George City 8-2 away from home, in what would be a trend of putting at least more than five in the back of the net. Round six of qualification saw the Brumbies take on IPL side Wollongong United, but the Lions were no match for the Brumbies, falling to a 3-6 loss at home. The free-scoring Brumbies once again faced off against an IPL side but played their first home game all qualification against Kemblawarra Dapto Fury FC, who they themselves defeated NPL Men’s 3 high flyers Fraser Park FC in the previous round. The Fury proved no match for the Brumbies as the game ended 5-2, with the game being 4-0 at half time thanks to goals from Greg Giovenali, Nikolas Dimitriadis, Peter Cejka and Nathan Rayner. The win sees the club enter the Round of 32 for the first time after a disappointing fourth round exit in the 2016 edition of qualification.

The draw for the Round of 32 of the FFA Cup will happen on June 29, 2017 with The Clean Sheet covering the progress of the NPL teams.

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