Belconnen United and Tuggeranong United will have the honour of kicking the new National Premier League season in the capital when they meet at Greenway Enclosed this evening writes Jeremy Magan. Both teams will be out to make their mark after a busy off-season that saw both lose a few experienced players in the annual transfer merry-go-round.
Off his first pre-season at the helm, United boss Paulo Romero has the opportunity to show the progress his squad has made in the past six months and finally start to reap the fruit of his hard work when the season stopped last year. An upset on the season opener would be an ideal start for the Tuggies.
A new season starts, and a new coach sits on the Blue Devils’ bench. For the third year running, Belconnen have called upon a new manager to lead the team. Former Tuggeranong men’s player, Scott Conlon would do well to imitate his predecessors in their maiden outings (9-0 for Ahmed Ugool in 2020, 7-1 for Michael Zakovski in 2021), but an emphatic win to begin the season would be the perfect way to push away any doubt about the Blue Devils capability.
Wagga City Wanderers, led by the longest-serving coach in the NPLW in Scotsman Sam Gray, are likely in for a tough match-up on Sunday when star-studded Canberra Olympic make the interstate trip to Gissing Oval. Gray has dealt with a heavy turnover in the off-season but is confident his team has added enough strength to climb up the ladder in 2022.
The young Wanderers will have their hands full though when they host a serious title contender at home. They did see off Canberra Olympic last in August 2019, but the visitors’ roster has changed dramatically since. The team coached by Nicole Begg made a splash in August when they announced the signing of some of the best players in the competition.
All eyes are on Olympic in 2022. Begg and her team know the burden of getting result will weigh in from day 1. Playing in the Riverina is never easy, but it will give Michaela Thornton and co. their first chance to show they are a team more than a collection of individual talents.
Fresh off an emphatic win in the Charity Shield, reigning champions Canberra Croatia’s road to a three-peat begins with a real challenge on Sunday afternoon at Deakin Stadium. They know too well how hard a season start against the Canberra United Academy can prove to be as it took an injury time goal by Brittany Palombi last season for the home team to save a point. Zoran Glavinic’s debut on the Deakin bench promise to be entertaining.
The Academy will be led by a new face as well. Former U17 coach Sarah West has taken over 1st grade in the off-season and will be put to the test straight away. Facing the twice NPLW, and reigning Federation Cup and Charity Shield, champions on their turf can be a harrowing task.
Canberra United Academy have proven in the past that getting points in Deakin is not impossible, but it requires a team at 100% of their ability for a full 90 minutes. The Academy players have their work cut out for them.
Friday 1 April 2022
Tuggeranong United v Belconnen United (Greenway Enclosed, 19:45)
Sunday 3 April 2022
Canberra Croatia FC vs Canberra United Academy (Deakin Stadium, 14:30)
Wagga City Wanderers v Canberra Olympic (Gissing Oval, 14:30)
Gungahlin United v West Canberra Wanderers – Match Postponed
MATCHES ARE STREAMED LIVE ON NPL.TV