The 2018 Men’s NPL season is finally upon us, and it is shaping up to be a brilliant year. A number of clubs have recruited strongly, while only three head coaches remain from the beginning of 2017. That is going to mean a lot of changes across the league, and the potential is there for it to be one of the most competitive seasons yet. Until kick-off on Saturday at 3pm, find out who is turning out for your club this year and what their coach has to say.
Belconnen United | Coached by Peter Mazis
2017: Finished 3rd on 34 points, won Grand Final 2-1 v Canberra Olympic
Goalkeepers: Finn JURAK, Deakin JEWELL
Defenders: Phil BORGEAUD, Cameron REINHART, Zac MAYBURY, Harry WILLIAMS, Izach CLEMENTS, Adrian MACOR
Midfielders: Taylor BEATON, Dustin WELLS, Nick DAHL, Sam WHITHEAR, Lucas MAURAQIS, Brad WATERS, Samuel HABTEMARIAM, Goran MUKEVSKI
Forwards: Jason UGRINIC, Daniel BARAC, Marty RAINES, Mate BARISIC
Belconnen United were there or thereabouts basically all season but turned it on come finals time with two wins over ladder leaders Canberra Olympic, including in the Grand Final. The biggest change in the off-season was the surprising departure of Dean Ugrinic after his triumph, before Peter Mazis was swiftly announced as his replacement and set about building his squad.
Mazis has assembled a young group while keeping some experienced heads and will be up around the pointy end of the table once more. A familiar face in Marty Raines returns after the forward departed following United’s previous Premiership win, and can add experience to a young but already seasoned squad.
Peter Mazis on his squad: “Our squad is being future proofed with quite a lot of young faces that will get some decent game time this year. The older heads in the squad have ‘adopted’ the young guys and adapted to a slight variation in playing style. There’s a very competitive spirit within the squad.”
On his 2018 goals & expectations: “We have one of the smaller budgets, but arguably the best facilities and the experience of winning last year. So our aim is to carry forward the good work of Dean and last year’s winners and fuse the eagerness of the youngsters to form a competitive squad that hopefully will trouble the bigger teams.”
Canberra FC | Coached by Paul Macor
2017: Finished 5th on 31 points, lost 3-0 to Gungahlin in Elimination Final
Goalkeepers: Sam BROWN, Jordan THURTELL
Defenders: Jay BROWN, Aiden BRUNSKILL, Ross COSTANZO, Mat GRBESA, Michael MENSAH, Thomas MILICEVIC, Christian PRATEZINA, Daniel SUBASIC, Marko VRKIC
Midfielders: Julian BORGNA, Kye EDWARDS, James FIELD, Ian GRAHAM, Ryan KIER, Jordan LAMB, Ivan PAVLAK, Matthew WATERS
Forwards: Kofi DANNING, Thomas JAMES, Michael TAURASI
2017 was an uninspiring year for Canberra FC, as they snuck into finals with the last spot only to be convincingly dispatched in Round 1 by a surging Gungahlin United. A strong start to the year including wins over Canberra Olympic and Belconnen United fell away as the side struggled, but under new coach Paul Macor, the side look rejuvenated and ready to push for the top.
Macor has kept core pieces of the 2017 side together and brought back gun striker Thomas James, who left the club midway through 2017 to join Tigers FC after a blistering start to the season. If James can link up with his teammates the way he began to last season, then Canberra FC will be a very dangerous side early. Macor’s side do not play for points until the 15th April when they take on Monaro, meaning mentality will be key if they begin their campaign up to six points in arrears.
Paul Macor on his squad: “I am very happy with my squad this season; Canberra FC always has a solid squad but with the additional players we have added it creates more motivation for players to fight for positions. It gives myself and the coaching staff a great headache to have as we have a great talent pool to choose from.”
On his Goals & Expectations: “Like every other coach in the league we want to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season to have a chance at winning silverware.”
Canberra Olympic | Coached by Frank Cachia
2017: Finished 1st on 47 points, lost 2-1 in Grand Final to Belconnen United.
Goalkeepers: Angelo KONSTANTINOU, Mason INTERLANDI
Defenders: Tim BOBOLAS, Nathan MEGIC, Nicholas BOBOLAS, Josh CALABRIA, Nick FAUST, Phil YARNOLD, Bernard RENE, Dimitri PARASCOS
Midfielders: Daniel COLBERTALDO, Roko STRIKA, Robbie CATTANACH, Jeremy HABTEMARIAM, Tom MCLACHLAN, Victor YANES,
Forwards: Nik Popovich, Domenic Giampaolo, Michael REEVE, Oliver WIEDERKEHR, Michael JOHN, Ali SAWAN, David CARDER
Last year’s Grand Final was the only slip up for an all-conquering Canberra Olympic side, but defeat to Belconnen United will have stung them. Frank Cachia has seen almost 40 goals depart leading into this season, the biggest name to being the departure of Stephen Domenici to Wollongong. But Cachia has recruited Nik Popovich to help with scoring, while the addition of Domenic Giampaolo will also help.
A midfield group that is more than capable of supplying goals is behind them, and Olympic can be expected to be in the mix come the serious end of the season. If this side can keep up their second-best in the league defence from last season, the pressure to find a glut of goals up the other end will alleviate. This side start their campaign against Monaro in a Friday night Woden Park clash in Round Two.
Frank Cachia on his squad: “Even tonight (Charity Shield) we did that without Cattanach, Giampaolo and Calabria. There is lots of quality to come back in, and lots of good players knocking on the door. Jeremy stood up in the shield with two goals, Nik scored a goal, so we are still scoring goals. Even in pre-season, we’ve scored 16 in 4 games. It’s not like we’re struggling to score.”
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: “We’ve put together a good enough squad to compete on every front, and that is what Olympic expects now. With that though comes a lot of pressure and with that comes other teams that want to knock you over. I don’t make any brash statements about where we should end up, but we’ll give it our best shot and we’ll be up there and competing.”
Gungahlin United | Coached by Marcial Munoz
2017: Finished 4th on 32 points, lost 1-0 to Canberra Olympic in Preliminary Final
Goalkeepers: Jason DENHAM, Jakeb WISEMAN
Defenders: James FLETCHER, David JENKINS, Jack GREEN, Ryan QUARMBY, Lachlan GRIFFITHS, Nick RATHJEN, Eli HOWE, Badreldin ABBAS
Midfielders: Antoni TIMOTHEOU, Misko NAUMOSKI, Ben OBST, Augustine BANGURA, Ben BASSER-SILK, Liam WALSH, Anthony GIORGI
Forwards: Thomas MULLER, Tom KRKLEC, Mikey KATSOULIS, Michael RINAUDO, Jason O’DWYER, Yousif MOHAMED
United began last year on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline at Belconnen United, and will be out to return the favour in a repeat fixture this weekend. But Marcial Munoz’s side are not starting out as smokey’s this year; everyone knows that they can challenge the best sides in the competition. Munoz has brought a number of ex-Centre of Excellence and NYL players with him from Summer, shoring up a squad that made a determined run to 2017’s Preliminary Final.
Josh Gulevski was all set to join this side before heading to the Wanderers, but names like Mikey Katsoulis, Jason O’Dwyer and Michael Rinaudo will be read to chime in with goals as they did last season. United scored the least goals of any of the sides in the finals but had a stoic defence that ensured they were rarely outscored by much. Munoz’s side will enter 2018 as one of the form favourites to make a deep run rather than as underdogs.
Marcial Munoz on his squad: “The group of players we have assembled is largely the same, we have a mix of experience and youth with a tremendous amount of individual talent that will only make the team stronger in 2018. The players that we have brought in to the squad are players that fit the culture of the club as well as the playing style. Much the same as last year we want to impose a dynamic, attacking and entertaining brand of football with the aim of being as competitive as we can in all competitions throughout 2018.
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: “In 2017 ‘on paper’, we were a team that did not attract too much attention but as the season went on we put in some quality performances that allowed us to make the top four. This is all due to the players hunger, determination and self-belief which allowed them, for most of the season to go toe-to-toe with any team in the competition. The expectations for this year is no different to those of last year, with the aim of being competitive in all league games and going as far as we can in the cup. I do not believe that we are yet in a position as a club or a team that can attract too much attention at this stage, we are still in our infancy as an NPL club. The pressure is on the likes of Canberra FC, Belconnen, Olympic and Tuggeranong that have recruited well or traditionally make the top four. But having said that, we hope to be there in time.
Monaro Panthers | Coached by Zoran Glavinic
2017: Finished 10th on the table, 1 win in season (on final weekend)
Goalkeepers: Nathan ALFERINK, Mitchell WEEDEN
Defenders: Darly HALL, Connor FRANCIS, Edward MCCARTHY, Roy ROMEO, Anton HOSHOSKY, Sebastian SUMMERSBY-MITCHELL
Midfielders: Daniel FELIZZI, Dean TOMESKI, Robbie DEELEY,Sam ROESTBAKKEN, Mitchell JERVIS-HAMILTON, Michael PICCOLO, Jason BAXTER, Nicolas FELIZZI
Forwards: Sam SMITH, Burak KOCAK, Ole STEGAVIK
Monaro struggled through 2017, suffering a number of heavy losses on their way to the Wooden Spoon and only picked up a win in the final round of the season as they knocked off Tuggeranong United 2-1. With Zoran Glavinic in the hot seat this season, the squad has had a number of changes, and Glavinic has looked to bring in Premier League experience to mix with youth.
Being competitive across the season will be Monaro’s main goal, but a tough start will give a litmus of where the side is at. After a bye in Round One, the Panthers face Canberra Olympic and Canberra FC in consecutive rounds before the Rhinos arrive in town towards the end of April. A strong mentality and a guiding hand will be needed from Glavinic through the early days of the season to make sure the squad remains motivated if results don’t fall their way.
Zoran Glavinic on his squad: “We have made several changes to our squad, and brought in experience which seemed to be missing over the last few years. Dean Tomeski, Robbie Deeley, Sam Smith, all who have experience playing at NPL level as well as a number of exciting new visa players. A number of last year’s squad are also returning, and we believe this blend of youth and experience is a good mix that will only help the club to have success this year.”
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: We have made many changes and the club wishes to return to the successful days and continue to be proud of our 50 years in Football. With the introduction of full time Technical Directors in both Men’s & Women’s Football, a new football committee which consists of ex-players and they look after the needs of the first grade, we have new coaching staff, new signings, changed training venues and a return to our real home at Riverside. This will make the squad improve and help work towards our goal for 2018 which is to be competitive in every game played.
Riverina Rhinos | Coached by Gabriel Abdula
2017: 1st season in league, finished 9th with 7 points
Goalkeepers: Jone Ralulu
Defenders: Darren BAILEY, Ally MACLEOD, Danyon ARNOLD, Adam LEESON
Midfielders: Joseph PREECE ©, Andrew VITUCCI, Jacob DONADEL, Luke SANTOLIN, Andy GAMBLE, Michael MUSITANO, George PAVESE, Erkki JUNOLAINEN, Niumaia TAGI
Attackers: Nathan BATTOCCHIO, Kyle GREAVES, Roy CATANZARITI, Artur RATTEL
The Rhinos had a tough introduction to NPL Football in 2017, evidenced by their Round One 6-0 thumping at the hands of Canberra FC at Deakin Stadium. But the Griffith side steadily improved throughout the season, picking up a win and four draws as they finished ninth on the table. Head Coach Gabriel Abdula has taken the reins this season after serving as an assistant in 2017, and his side have a chance to get off to a strong start this year.
The Rhinos face Tuggeranong in Griffith in Round One, Gungahlin in Griffith in Round Two, before a bye and a clash with Monaro round out the first month of the competition. If the Rhinos can take advantage of weary travelers, this side can be a smoky to climb up the table.
Gabriel Abdula on his squad: “We have quite a similar squad to last year, but the players that have been brought in have strengthened our group. They come with experience of playing at high levels of football and will look to have an impact in this year’s competition. I feel pretty confident with this squad that we can perform better than last year.”
On his 2018 Goals & Expectations: “Our first year in the NPL was always going to be tough, but in saying that we competed well against all the teams and didn’t finish bottom. This year we will look to be a lot more competitive and have a stronger approach to the competition. I know that all clubs in the competition may have strengthened, but we will still look to win every match we play in. End of the day, we aren’t here to be a number, we are here with the potential of winning the competition. As a minimum, we want to finish mid-table of this competition.”
Tigers FC | Coached by Gaby Wilk
2017: Finished 6th on table, missing finals by four points
Goalkeepers: Jakob COLE, Nash CODY
Defenders: Tony SPASESKI, Osman FOFANAH, Osman DARAMY, Michael GURNEY, Nicholas ZAKOSKI, Jared TONINI
Midfielders: Michael KITA, Domenick COUCCIELLO, Jeremias IBARRA, Goran MILATINOVIC, Nik NOVESKI, Tony MARAFFARI, Christian JUNNA
Forwards: Juan CLAZON, Kyle ORMENO, Mark SHIELDS, Nikolas KALFAS, Alex OLORIEGBE, Martin Gabriel GARCIA CROME
Gaby Wilk’s side only missed finals by four points in 2017, but it felt like an underperformance for a squad that was largely full of talent and promise. This year is no different, but Wilk is confident that his side can carry those expectations without worry. The acquisition of Niko Kalfas and Alex Oloriegbe boosts an already strong front line, with Juan Clazon sure to add a creative element to the forward group.
Jakob Cole returns from a year away to give Tigers a strong option between the sticks, and a defence loaded with experience will be tough for many teams to get on top of. Wilk’s side look strong across the park with a good midfield too, and it would be surprising to see this group miss finals. Tigers had little trouble dispatching poor sides last year, but often struggled when up against top four opposition. If this side can be strong across the board with their results this year, then they will prove more than a handful for everyone in the competition.
Gaby Wilk on his squad: “We have lots of new faces around, unfortunately the time had come for some older players to retire, and while it is sad to see them leave they will always be remembered as great players. It was tough trying to replace those players, but I feel very confident with the team we have for 2018 and can’t wait to see what the season brings. These new young players are excited and committed to working hard, and they know they have come to a club that is constantly working to achieve wins and great things.”
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: My expectations for this year are very high and I am confident that my squad will meet them. As always, we expect and want to be on top and to win it all. While we didn’t meet that last year, I was still happy with how they did and now they know what to do differently this year to avoid it happening again. With a new team this will be challenging, and they will have to work harder than most teams with so many new faces, but I feel confident in each player and for the team to work well together this year.”
Tuggeranong United | Coached by Mitch Stevens
2017: Finished 7th on the table, missing finals on last weekend
Goalkeepers: Rory LARKIN, Tom BARTON
Defenders: Matt KING, Marco GAYER, Mitch STEENBERGEN, Liam HIGHMORE, Cam DOHERTY, Sean KIDDEY
Midfielders: Josip JADRIC, Danny ROBERTS, Ben MYNOTT, Jamie VEARNCOMBE, Shane MURRAY, Jono TUREK
Forwards: Fernando JORQUERA, Andrew SLAVICH, Aisosa IHEGIE, Eddie COGGAN, Danny CRKOVSKI, Tom PAGETT
A slow start to 2017 eventually cost Tuggeranong United a finals berth, as not picking up a win until Round Five forced them to fight for a spot on the final weekend. Stevens has already said this year that the mantra will be to fight from day dot, and has recruited strongly heading into the season. Danny Crkovski is shaping to be a focal piece of the attack after his showings for Woden-Weston last year, and a brilliant strike in last Friday’s Charity Shield.
Shane Murray also impressed in that outing in midfield including setting up Crkovski’s strike and will be an important part of the setup this season. A trip to Griffith in Round One gives United the chance to get off to a strong start, before they meet Tigers FC & Belconnen United in quick succession.
Mitch Stevens on his squad: “We’re excited, if everyone is fit. If we have the people that we should have on paper, then we will be something. Otherwise it could be a bit tough at times.”
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: “To change our mindset, to believe that we can win every football match we enter. I say to the guys over and over, that we don’t want to be in a position where we go into the last match against Monaro needing to win. Let’s qualify for finals, take it from Round 1.
Woden-Weston FC | Coached by Rey Castro
2017: Finished 8th on the table with 14 points
Goalkeepers: Mitchel KAYE, Willem LEJEUNE
Defenders: Adam DI FRANCHESCI, Connor BILL, James GAZY, Omari KENDAH
Midfielders: Elli DARWICH, Aaron CASHMAN, Ohio ASIKHIA, Joe LAWLESS, Martin DENG, Deng Aleer DENG, Ibrahim KHODARY
Forwards: Michael ADAMS, Frederick OLAIDE-YINKA KEHINDE ©, Phakedi MENDAH, Kenrick BEAUTH
For a short period during the middle of last season, Woden-Weston heated up and began to pick up results and momentum. A 3-0 win over Gungahlin United shocked much of the league and signaled intent, but the side dropped off afterwards as they went down to Belconnen and Canberra FC. This year, new Head Coach Rey Castro will be hoping that the side can find consistency throughout the year rather than in patches.
The departure of Danny Crkovski leaves a sizable hole, but Castro will be confident that recruitment has alleviated that. Frederick Olaide-Yinka Kehinde has announced himself in flashes the past couple of years as a talented player, and 2018 could well be the year he asserts himself as one of the brightest talents in the competition. Woden-Weston have the right blend to potentially be an exciting outfit, but if results are not forthcoming then the Wanderers may be in for a challenging year.
Rey Castro on his squad: “This year we have a good mix of experienced players, who are leading new youngsters by example. We have been able to assemble a competitive team that is full of ambitious youngsters, and we’re certain a few of these players will step up and hopefully look for further challenges both interstate and nationally. We have had a good pre-season and the squad is looking forward to beginning competition. The club is very supportive and players feel comfortable when they realise their team mates and coaching staff truly believe in a way of playing and are 100% committed to the team.”
On his Goals & Expectations for 2018: “We have objectives that don’t necessarily stop in 2018, we are expecting to build a strong football identity for the club. The 2018 objective does not change from pre-season, we will work on focusing on one game at a time, and we want to play well so all of us get the opportunity to continue growing in the sport. It hasn’t always been easy and pre-season had its ups and downs, but credit to the boys, because of their effort and commitment to training we have been able to attract great and exciting new players so 2018 is shaping up as a great season for us.”