By Chris Webb
ANU FC v White Eagles | Saturday, 3pm @ ANU Willows
Two of Round One’s winners face off at ANU’s synthetic field with the visit of White Eagles. These two teams met at this field only a few weeks ago, in the first round of the FFA cup with ANU running out comfortable 3-0 winners. ANU talisman Sam Carters was the main tormentor that day and stopping the dynamic midfielder will be White Eagles’ number one priority. ANU’s squad remain largely unchanged from last season’s double trophy winners, and despite missing almost half their starting XI in Round One they amassed an amazing 12 goals as they completely routed newcomers Southern Tablelands United. 2017 Golden Boot winner Andrew Manley was the main beneficiary with a four goal haul.
After missing out on finals last season for the first time since electricity was invented, White Eagles are on a mission of redemption. They got that off to a perfect start with a convincing 3-0 victory over a Narrabundah side that has been impressing in pre-season. White Eagles had three different scorers, with incumbent strikers Pepe Varga and Dylan Texiera getting on the score sheet, while new recruit Hussain Fureje also grabbed a goal. Brothers and Club legends, Dejan and Milan Santrac, provide the creativity in midfield once more. They are joined in the middle of the park by the one and only Eric Bonnett, who you may remember as being the host of the ever popular EaglesTV. Free from the shackles of coaching he is also free from the shackles of the defensive line, and in his place, defensive powerhouse Dom Smedley re-joins the club after a number of seasons away. White Eagles gave a good account of themselves in the FFA cup, falling away late in the game in the oppressive heat. With a much milder day predicted this Saturday, this one is anything but straight forward for the students and already setup to be an absolute cracker.
O’Connor Knights v Narrabundah FC | Saturday, 3pm @ Kaleen Enclosed
After an exceptional regular season last year the Knights were left with a sour taste in their mouths with their grand-final thrashing, what is now known as the ‘Deans-show’. They have taken the first small steps to erasing that memory with a 2-0 FFA cup Round One win over rivals Weston-Molonglo and then a 3-0 league Round One win over Capital League newcomers Monaro Panthers. The majority of the team remains from 2017, however there were some big name losses who have been aptly replaced by incoming coach (and coaching royalty) Miro Trninic. Former Cosmos Youth player John Ison has been replaced by the impressive young Sime Rogic, who brings a similar physical presence to Ison as well as Illawarra Premier League experience. His partnership with club legend Kynan Dodd is potentially the top centre-back pairing in the league. Flying winger Josip Jadric has left to play NPL, and Jake Wilsner has been shifted to a more advanced role and has been an immediate standout for the Knights. Last year’s Golden Boot runner-up Danny Krajacic will be itching to get off the mark for the league season with the visit of the Narrabundah Bulls.
The Bulls had a disappointing 2017, but recruited well in the off-season, in a bid to make a genuine push for finals football. Round One didn’t go to plan, suffering a 3-0 loss to White Eagles, however worse than the loss of points was the potential long term lose of some key personnel. Quality players such as Daniel Di Salvatore, Marty Corujo and Tom Olsen are expected to be MIA for some time. This will put a lot of weight on the shoulders of star striker Liam Boyle, Jessie Gant and new recruit Bensah Afiabo to provide the attacking spark. Club Talisman Jose ‘Chewy’ Exposito returns for his 37th straight season in Capital League and will reunite with last season’s centre back partner Mitch Korda and top-quality keeper Alex Belperio to create a quality defensive unit. The early form guides have O’Connor taking the points here, but they are just that, simply signs of early form, and Narrabundah has more than enough quality across the park to cause an upset.
Queanbeyan City v Monaro Panthers | Saturday, 3pm @ Riverside Stadium
Following on from Liverpool and Manchester last week, it’s now Queanbeyan’s turn to host the mighty derby and come Saturday night will Queanbeyan be red and yellow or black and green? Both teams are coming off three-goal loses and will be looking for immediate revenge. Queanbeyan City are a usual mainstay when it comes to finals football in Capital League, so last season was an extremely disappointing one for the proud club. Bryan Balthazar has moved on as head coach, and has been replaced with prodigal son Goran Josifovski, who returns to the club after nearly a decade of playing NPL football. A former men’s ACT rep player, Josifovski will take on a player/manager role, and lead from the midfield. He brings with him, from NPL club Tigers FC, Brad Moore, Jack Miller and Alan Gastone who will add much needed experience to the young squad. Alex Lazarov showed he’s the clubs danger man in the final third with a first week brace, and the club will be praying he can finally have an injury free term. Newcomers John Kerszberg and Juan Pizurno remain untested, however they come with a lot of plaudits and are ones to keep an eye on.
While Monaro are new comers to this league, the Panthers squad is essentially the team that played Capital League for Canberra Olympic in 2017. Former NPL players such as Joel Valtonen, Nick Mihalakis and John Stone lead the Monaro team, who are replenished with some young talent from Monaro’s NPL youth set-up. Not that it needed it, but this game has a bit of extra spice, as two of the key players from last year’s Olympic squad who didn’t make the switch to Monaro, will instead be lining up for Queanbeyan; silky midfielder Chris Nakitis and burley striker David McCarron. With the likelihood of Stone marking McCarron, fans are already anticipating the burly Irishman’s claims that “you know nufin’ John Stone”.
Weston-Molonglo v Canberra Olympic | Saturday, 3pm @ Waramanga
Third place hosts second in this blockbuster as Weston-Molonglo host Canberra Olympic at the football wonderland that is Waramanga. After the failures to progress through the semi-finals last season, theMagpies have taken swift action axing the underperforming Chris Webb and replacing him with the coaching duo of Mase Tate and Pep Lopera who were previously at the helm of sister club Woden-Weston’s NPL20s side. It’s no surprise to see that many their former pupils have followed them to the CL set-up, including former WWFC first graders Chris McEwan, goalkeeper Josh Wade and NPL captain Ben Greig, the latter two both returning to WMFC. The club has lost their striking duo of Tom Pagett and Ciaran Rayment to NPL football and injury respectively and the responsibility of goals falls somewhat on the shoulders of the incoming Andrew Sellers. He has found his feet early grabbing a hattrick in a solid 5-2 opening weekend victory, with mainstay attacking threats Jarryd Clifton and Adam Johnston also grabbing goals. Marc ‘Rory Delap’ O’Neill provides an x-factor for the Magpies and is an excellent acquisition from White Eagles.
Their visitors remain an interesting prospect; with the entirety of 2017’s squad moving on, the (grand-finalist) Olympic reserve grade squad make the step up to first grade. While an unknown entity coming into the season, they have announced themselves as true title contenders, with a thumping 6-2 win over one of the league’s pre-season favourites Queanbeyan City. Former Canberra United player David Carder was the main tormentor, with the lanky winger bagging himself a hattrick of goals. The Olympians have talent across the park, with Michael Sydney a true maestro in midfield and the clubs own technical director Tom Crossley providing invaluable leadership on the park. The jury is still out on Olympic, and this week will go a long way to confirming whether they truly are title contenders, or just a flash in the pan.
Southern Tablelands United v Brindabella Blues | Sunday, 3pm @ Cookbundoon
Another newcomer Brindabella makes the familiar trip to Goulburn, as they made this trip many times in the past few years in State League One to face a Goulburn Strikers side which had many faces that now appear for this week’s opponents, the newly created Southern Tablelands United. Both sides are coming off heavy defeats, however in comparison, the Blues result was a narrow loss compared to the Steamers’ ten-goal shellacking. Brindabella, through new coach Jeremy Butler have recruited some new faces as they make the step up from state league to capital league, most notably Chris Ruiz from Monaro’s NPL side, and the extremely gifted English midfielder Tom Hirst, who last played for Woden-Weston in the NPL. While disappointed with last week’s results, the Blues will just want to show evidence of improvement in what can best be described as a building year.
While Goulburn are also in a similar position of wanting to consolidate this season, they will have all eyes on them, as to how they react to last week’s opening match. Several current players were involved in Goulburn Strikers’ ill-fated 2011 ACT Premier League season, which saw the club ship close to 200 goals, and they will be desperate to not have a repeat of that painful season. Write them off at your peril, as in truth this side has a lot of premier league experience and talented players in key areas, and if they can keep majority of key players fit, they will more than likely cause a few upsets along the way.