Monaro Panthers FC head into the 2023 National Premier League (NPL) season brewing with confidence after a historic 2022 campaign.
The Panthers claimed the domestic treble [Charity Shield, Federation Cup and Grand Final] last season which included their first Grand Final victory in over twenty years. Former assistant coach Ian Worthington will take over as Head Coach following the departure of Frank Cachia at the end of last season.
Worthington has a wealth of coaching experience under his belt over in his home country of England, previously coaching in the youth academies and under-21’s squads at Manchester City, Burnley, and Bolton Wanderers.
Worthington said that his previous experience has prepared him immensely for a head coaching role.
“I always look to transfer my leaning from what I’ve learnt over in England. It’s a fantastic environment to work in professionally”, he said. “The day-to-day professional environment I’ve worked in differs from the semi-professional environment; you’ve got to cram more in and get through things quickly.”
With a change in personnel at the top, the Panthers have looked to implement a succession plan which will make them a successful NPL club for many years to come, with Worthington stating that things must start from the back.
“If we look at this year’s goals and targets, we look at building a solid, organised defensive platform”, he said. “I’d like to see that defending is an important part of our game, and we build on from there by being more fluid throughout the front and middle areas.”
Success for Monaro hasn’t just come from the first-grade side with the club enjoying profitable results with the under-23’s as well as their youth teams, and the Panthers are eager to the rise of their talented young players.
“We [Monaro Panthers] aren’t just a first-grade club,” Worthington said. “We’ve had great success with our under-23’s over the last few years. They won the Grand Final like we did, and we’ve got some talented young boys coming through our system.”
During the off-season Monaro were looking to fill some big holes in the squad with the departure of some of their key players during the summer transfer window. Key departures included Josh Calabria to Melbourne, Darren Bailey to Griffith and Andre Carle going to Adelaide; three players that played a major part in the Panthers’ success last season.
Spirits are high coming into the 2023 season for the defending champions with the Panthers adding some extra firepower to their squad during the off season in the form of highly talented midfielder Roko Strika, as well as recruiting some talented young and experienced players into the squad. Strika is widely considered one of the top players in the NPL in Canberra and look to transfer his playing experience in Europe into the Panthers side.
Highly regarded rising star Connor Mynott-Smith will add another layer of creativity and flair to the Panthers’ midfield with the club excited to continue the development of the young prospect. The re-signings of last years NPL Player of the Year Jordan Thurtell, star striker Michael John and Gabriel Cole will give the team an extra boost with the Panthers aiming to take the fight to the top teams in the league and to go onto greater heights in 2023.
Worthington and the Panthers want to prove to the league that last season wasn’t just a one-off.
“When people say, ‘you need to achieve what you achieved last year’, I disagree with that,” he said. “We need to go one better. We didn’t win the minor premiership last year, so we aim to win that this year.”
The Monaro Panthers will kick-off their NPL title defence when they face Tigers FC on Saturday 1 April at Riverside Stadium in Queanbeyan. You can catch all the Capital Football NPL action all season long live on BarTV Sports.
WORDS: Dion Stergiopoulos