Last season BASSENDEAN CALEDONIAN won the right to a Premier League spot with a final round victory over then-League leaders Stirling Lions, and one gets the impression that they will need a similar miracle to retain their position beyond this winter. To help cope with their return to the top flight the club have recruited heavily. In come one-time Coventry City striker Mark Lennon, experienced wing-back Jason Van Rooy and Perth Glory apprentice 'keeper Tommi Tomich, along with the return of former Glory midfielder Paul Strudwick who missed much of last season due to injury. Despite the new-comers and plenty of enthusiasm at the club, Caledonian failed to show any reasons during the Night Series why they should be rated as finishing any higher than in one of the three relegation spots come August.
After finishing in the lower depths of the table last season, COCKBURN CITY were the surprise packet of the pre-season Night Series where they made the last four with some blistering results. The club have a stack of talent on show, the pick of the bunch being Antonio Naglieri (on loan from Glory), State representative Paul Cooke and striker Branimir Mikulic, who found the net six times in the Night Series. Inconsistency was the problem in 2000 when they finished eight, and it's difficult to see them improving upon that. A lack of quality depth will be another hurdle for them to overcome as the season progresses and Cockburn will find to hard to string together enough points to compete in the Premier League next year. Mind you, there is always someone that proves everyone wrong and it could well be Cockburn's turn.
FLOREAT ATHENA won the Night Series last year only for their form to then nose-dive, the club finishing ninth and narrowly avoiding relegation. One of the clubs favourite sons, John Hunter, has taken over at the helm and we've already seen a more disciplined Athena side take to the park. Long-serving players such as State representatives Troy Bernard and Doug Ithier have been joined in recent times by those coming up through the youth ranks, including talented midfielder Costa Socratous. Add to that the experience of former Inglewood United captain Ryan Newhill, lively forward Robyn Dyers and dashing wing-back Adrian Spinelli (ex-Ashfield), and Athena should be top four contenders once again. But in the back of their minds will be the spectre of last season's slump, especially after making the final again this year.
Coach Stuart Kamasz is rated as the best coach in the Western Australian competition and he's once again put together a strong squad with plenty of depth at FREMANTLE CITY. Under Kamasz, City have never finished outside the Premier League's top three and they'll be keen as mustard to get the season underway after last week's 3-2 friendly win over Perth Glory. The side is based around experienced trio Craig Surtees, Dave Evans and State captain Trim Morgan who balance out those who have progressed through Fremantle's flourishing academy system. The loss of midfielders Steve Bourne (retired) and Gary Faria (Glory) have been more than off-set by some important signings - former State midfielders Vladimir Beretovac and Dale Wingell, experienced goalkeeper Darren Willliams, utility player Daniel Trim and young Will Pryce from the Newcastle Breakers youth team. Having taken out the Premier League for the first time in their history last season, Fremantle are in a great position to make it back to back championships.
Initial indications at INGLEWOOD UNITED are that the loss of three players instrumental in a successful 2000 campaign - Steve MacDonald (to Western Knights), Gary Andrews (Sorrento) and Ryan Newhill (Floreat Athena) - appear to have had little impact. New coach Steve Parkinson has recruited heavily over the summer and brought in what amounts to a State junior team as the club enter a re-building phase with the future in mind. The move has already paid off, United making the last four of the Night Series where Scott Campbell and Andy Cornwall were their stand-out recruits. Excellent young 'keeper Oliver Taseski is expected to be an integral part of the side this winter, while the experience of captain Lee Crosby and defenders Alex Cummings and Jamie Goodman will be crucial to their chances. The club might find this season tough going, but in the long-run United will benefit greatly from the change in club policy.
ECU JOONDALUP suffered horribly last term with injury ravaging the senior squad after taking out the 1999 Premier League title. As in previous years, coach Paul Simmons used the Night Series as a testing ground so it's a little difficult how to interpret their qualifying round exit will reflect upon the winter season. Joondalup lost the bulk of their juniors over the summer months - including national Under-17 representative Anthony Danze and young State striker Louis Parkinson, both to Inglewood - which could prove fateful if their depth is again tested by injury. Former Heidelburg United and Canberra Cosmos defender Richard Watson has returned after a 12-month hiatus, while attacking midfield Abdul Kamara should also add some extra spark to the side. But even with a host of experienced players returning from long-term injury, including 1999 Leading Scorer Carl McDarby, and the likes of State players Scott Broadley, Steve White and Sandy Robertson in the ranks, Joondalup are going to find 2001 a long haul.
We've seen very few changes in the PERTH camp during the off-season. Defender Michael Icanovski has returned after 12 months with Bayswater City and Perry Ielati is back from a self-imposed break, while going the other is no-one of great note. The club have over the years unearthed a wealth of young talent and this season we've already witnessed the emergence of striker Andreas Oliveira who just couldn't stop finding the back of the net during the Night Series. State squad members Todd Howarth, Aaron Cole and Nick Mrdja became firmly entrenched as first team regulars last term, gaining invaluable experience playing alongside the likes of Craig Naven, Stephen Willey, and Mark Pottier who are the backbone of Graham Normanton's side once again. With a largely unchanged squad, Perth should be able to consolidate upon the foundations laid last season when they won the Champion of Champions play-off title. With depth and quality all over the park, the club hierarchy would be best advised to start clearing space in the trophy room.
Another club with a strong youth policy are SORRENTO who have also retained the bulk of last season's squad, and coach Trevor Morgan will be hoping to bring home more than just the solitary Boral Cup runners-up medal they earnt in 2000. Gary Andrews (W.A. Under-23's) and Michael Garcia (ex-Perth Glory) have already shown in the Night Series that they are quality recruits, while Sorrento junior Todd Harnwell has recently joined Glory but will spend the early part of the season on loan back to the club. Morgan was disappointed with they was they bowed out of the Night Series in the qualifying rounds, and has pointed to consistency - something they lacked badly last year - being the key in 2000. With a squad centred around players of the calibre of Ryan Jeans, Shaun Bowyer and Stuart Banks, not to mention the continual flow of talent coming through the youth ranks, expect to see Sorrento competing for a spot in the top half of the table by season's end.
The honeymoon is over for SWAN I.C. - 2001 is the season that we see what they are made of. Last year the club made the end of season Top Five play-offs in just their first season back in the top flight to everyone's surprise. This year will be a much tougher proposition after losing coach Eric Williams and their entire forward line - Elton Holmes, Dale Wingell and Nigel Aubin - over the summer months. Going on Night Series form, it promises to be a very long season for Swan. Their defence will hold the key where the lack of an experienced, calming influence could prove their undoing as it was towards the end of 2000. Also, injury to or loss of State goalkeeper Corey Hugo at any stage of the season will be a devastating blow to their hopes. New signings Scott Halpin and Peter Vukmirovic found the net with consistency in the Night Series, but Swan you couldn't help but feel they will struggle to stay in the Premier League beyond the winter.
Last season the WESTERN KNIGHTS were without a doubt W.A.'s most consistent side, taking out the Boral Cup while finishing runners-up in the League and Champion of Champions play-offs. But this season is already shaping up to tell a much different story - in their four Night Series outings Ronnie Campbell's side managed just one win to bow out in the first round. The problem appears to be finding ample coverage for the off-season departure of four key players - defender Ivan Ljubicic, goalkeeper Darren Williams, two times W.A. Player of the Year Andy Wright and outstanding youngster Joe Vaz. The only new face in the squad is State defender Steve MacDonald, and while he has already proved to be a worthy acquisition for the club, they are still a lot of big boots to fill and plenty of hard work to be done before the Knights rediscover last season's form. Captain Scott Devine and Shane McNally will lead the side from the middle of the park as Campbell draws on their youth ranks to build a squad that will serve the Knights well in coming years. Typically strong performers, they should be there at the business end of the season.
Brett's Predicted SWC Premier League Table 1 Perth 2 Fremantle City 3 Floreat Athena 4 Sorrento 5 Western Knights 6 Inglewood United 7 ECU Joondalup 8 Cockburn City 9 Swan I.C. 10 Bassendean Caledonian
For the first time in history, the First Division will be divided into two groups with the border being the Swan River. At season's end the top four teams from each region will battle it out for the sole promotional spot to the Premier League for the 2002 season.
Many of the State's traditionally strong clubs are located to the city's north. The Stirling Lions have invested a lot of time and money into this season and will be strengthened by the return of favourite son Andy Wright. Their strongest challengers will be the Dianella White Eagles and rivals the Stirling Suns who are expected to push the Lions all the way this winter. The Premier League experience of 2000 will serve Ashfield well, and with some talented youngsters on their books and will be competing with Bayswater City for the remaining Top Four play-off berth. The talent flow away from Kingsway Olympic to Sorrento is that clubs biggest hurdle these days and a mid-table finish is the best they can hope for. Perennial strugglers Perth City, Wanneroo and Balcatta will once again stump up the table.
After a great 2000 which saw them make the First Division play-offs, Queens Park are shaping up to be the south's strongest title contender. Rockingham City are the other club in the running for the South League's championship, although the loss of several players over the summer months may test their depth. Those players have moved to Armadale where new coach Billy Russell has injected a more professional attitude which should see them finish inside the Top Four. It will be between Southside United, Leeming Strikers and Morley Windmills - returning to Soccer West Coast ranks after being expelled for the non-payment of fines a few years back - as to who takes-out the remaining play-off spot. For new-comers South West Phoenix and Canning City - where the average age of the first team squad is just 20 - it will be a steep learning curve and a spot above the bottom two will be considered a great achievement.
So who will win promotion? With the stronger clubs located in the north, it is difficult to see anyone from south of the river coming out on top. Once we get to the play-offs stage, the Stirling Lions and the Stirling Suns should float to the top and fight it out for promotion. My tip is for the Lions to make their return to the top flight, a competition they dominated in the early 1990's as Stirling Macedonia.
Fremantle City will be favourites to win back to back championships this season, even though they would have hoped for a better night series performance. City coach Stuart Kamasz has his team well prepared and as long as their stars stay injury free and Trim Morgan keeps putting in the goals then a second title may well be on the cards.
Perth have had an impressive night series performance and are continuing their good form since taking out the champion of champions title in October. Perth will be hoping players like Pottier, Howarth and Mrdja will keep the pressure on Fremantle City and challenge them for the title. The other night series finalist, Floreat Athena, should be the big improvers of the season after finishing a disappointing 9th last year, as should Sorrento, who struggled for parts of last season and were even flirting with relegation mid season, before a late surge almost put them into the top 5. Sorrento will be looking for on loan Glory player Todd Harnwell to score many of its goals.
The Western Knights have had an ordinary night series, but should challenge for a top 5 spot, with other contenders being Inglewood United and Cockburn City.
ECU Joondalup will be hoping for bigger things this season, the club had a bad run of injuries last year which put them in danger of relegation during the middle of year. But even with some players back their night series form has been disappointing, they may struggle to make the top 5 once again this year.
Swan I.C. were the surprise packets last season, they had a great start and managed to finish 5th and made the play-offs. But its difficult to see them to do that again, and they may be more in a relegation fight then a play-off one this season.
Bassendean Caledonian are back in the top flight for the first time since 1993 after a great season last year, they won promotion to the Premier League with a last gasp win over runner-up the Stirling Lions. But Caledonian will obviously find it a lot harder this season. They've already found the going tough in the night series by only scoring 3 goals and losing every game. Calies will be hoping that players like Jason Van Rooy, Paul Strudwick, Gary James and Ivica Markovic will help them avoid relegation.
Jacob's Predicted SWC Premier League Table 1 Fremantle City 2 Perth 3 Floreat Athena 4 Sorrento 5 Western Knights 6 Inglewood United 7 Cockburn City 8 ECU Joondalup 9 Swan I.C. 10 Bassendean Caledonian
The First Division starts with a new format this season, north and south, the top four in each zone will play-off to decide who gets promoted to the Premier League.
In the north zone, the Stirling Lions should be the favourites, and probably go on to win the promotion play-offs. The Bayswater City Panthers, who are out of the top flight for the first time since 1983, should challenge the lions for top spot in the north zone, as should the Stirling Suns. Ashfield are going at it alone for the first time in several years after the end of their partnership with Bunbury, but they should do well enough and maybe finish in the top 4. The Dianella White Eagles and Kingsway Olympic may finish near mid table and might even make the top 4. The strugglers will probably come from Wanneroo City, Perth City and Balcatta.
The south zone consists of 8 teams, and looks to be more easier than the north zone. Rockingham City are back in the First Division after relegation from the Premier League, they should do well, and with Queens Park will challenge for top spot. South West Phoenix are the old Bunbury part of Ashfield/Bunbury and they should make the top 4. Armadale will be hoping for a big improvement this season, with a new coach and new players, a spot in the top 4 could be on the cards, but Southside United and the Leeming Strikers might not be far behind. Morley Windmills are back in Soccer West Coast after a 4 year absence, and they may find the pace a bit to strong for them, the other new team is Canning City (Cosmos) and they will most likely struggle.
Predicted SWC First Division Table (North) 1 Stirling Lions 2 Bayswater City Panthers 3 Stirling Suns 4 Ashfield 5 Dianella White Eagles 6 Kingsway Olympic 7 Wanneroo City 8 Perth City 9 Balcatta Predicted SWC First Division Table (South) 1 Rockingham City 2 Queens Park 3 South West Phoenix 4 Armadale 5 Southside United 6 Leeming Strikers 7 Morley Windmills 8 Canning City
WAASSA Premier Division1 Fremantle United 2 Hamersley Rovers 3 Shamrock Rovers 4 ECU Joondalup Amateurs 5 Balga 6 Forrestfield United 7 Murdoch University 8 Mandurah City 9 Kwinana United 10 Morley Windmills Amateurs 11 Spearwood Dalmatinac 12 Perth Azzurri
WAASSA First Division1 Cockburn City Amateurs 2 Subiaco 3 WA Maccabi 4 Geraldton La Fiamma 5 Belmont Villa 6 Colo Colo 7 University of WA 8 South Perth United 9 Cloverdale Chindits 10 Carlisle 11 Canning/Langford 12 North Perth United
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This page was last updated on the 24th February 2006