MASTRANTONIO FLYS THE NEST TO JOIN THE ROBINS
It’s been a long journey for Matildas midfield Ella Mastrantonio. The 28-year-old played her junior career at Cockburn City, and played in their men’s State League under 18’s side as an over age player, before joining the W-League with Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers. But the talented midfielder’s form has been impressive and she has been snapped up by Barclays FAWSL side Bristol City ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
She will add firepower to the Robins’ midfield and provide a wealth of experience with over 100 W-League appearances and six caps for the Matildas, and she will team up with former team-mate Tanya Oxtoby, who is the manager at the English club.
“It’s an honour, privilege and a dream come true to sign for such a prestigious club as Bristol City and coming to one of, if not the best league in the world,” said Mastrantonio. “I’m so excited to be able to work with Tanya again after spending my formative years as a footballer together in Western Australia and to now be working with each other in the WSL is just incredible.
“Women’s football is absolutely skyrocketing in Europe, and especially the UK, so what better way to challenge yourself to become a better person and player than playing with and coming up against the best of the best. I can’t thank Tanya and Bristol City enough for giving me this opportunity and I can’t wait to get started to hopefully bring success to the club.”
Oxtoby is delighted to bring the midfielder into the club. “Ella is someone who had to put up with playing alongside me in Perth when she was younger, and I’ve been following her footballing journey over a number of years since I left,” she said. “She had an outstanding season for Western Sydney in the W-League last year, and I felt that now was the right time to get her across and challenge her in one of the best leagues in the world.
“It’s important when you are a club like Bristol City that the players you bring in are able to add value in the right areas. With international experience and over 100 domestic appearances in the W-League she’ll be a great addition to our squad as we look to add strength to our midfield.”
Before leaving, Mastrantonio added this heartfelt message on her twitter page. “Can’t put into words how grateful I am for joining the Wanderers and becoming part of the club and family. From what we achieved on the pitch to the amazing people involved and bonds created, it was an incredible season which I’ll forever hold close to my heart. Thank you to the club, the fans and thank you to Dean, Nulz and Meggsy for believing in me and creating an incredible environment at the club, long may it continue!
“Also, a huge thank-you to APIA, for giving me the opportunity to sign for such a historic club. Although i didn’t get to pull on the famous shirt, they treated me so incredibly well for the short time I was there. Thank you to Matteo Maiorana and all of the staff and everyone at the club. Wishing everyone all the Best for the future.” >From everyone at FootballWA – All the best Ella
ALL CHANGE AT CURTIN
It’s all change at Curtin University, with head coach Mick Philp stepping down, and he has been replaced by Tim Cash, while former Floreat Athena coach Garrett McDuling comes into the club as Technical Director of Football. Philp joined the club as a teenager in 1998, and his influence at the club is undeniable, winning championships as a player 1999 and a coach 2016.
The club thanked him and his family for their services. “The Philp family is ingrained in club culture, and Mick has been at CUFC for 18 seasons. We say a massive thank you to Mick for the time he has put in, and thank you to his family for their support Yasmin, Alice and Emily are all an ongoing part of the Curtin family. During the conversation confirming his decision, he used the phrase " I feel I am leaving the role not the club." so expect to see him around
“Reasons around his decision are related to owning a business, having a young family including coaching his daughters under 8s team and these are becoming conflicted with the pressures and time commitments of the role and the standards he set himself and the team, but Mick will be at the WNPL game this Friday night where we can thank him formally.”
For Cash it was a great opportunity. The 51-year-old has coached and played all his life. He coached a London University, amateur and master’s teams in Sydney and with Subiaco state Women and Men’s under 20 NPL, before stints at Sorrento Women and Floreat Athena under 20s and first team NPL in WA.
“Curtin University Football Club has a compelling vision and excellent facilities, and the direction of the club for male and female football is exciting and I am excited to be part of it,” he explained. “Working with Garrett is fantastic as he is a high-quality coach and we have developed a great relationship. We have just started working with the playing group and we aim to have a healthy balance of player retention and good recruitment.”
Curtin University President Campbell Ballantyne said it’s a great appointment for the club going forward. “We’re very happy to have brought in an excellent team,” said. “They are already pushing the boundaries towards reaching NPL standards and stretching us a club, it’s exciting times ahead for the club.”
Garrett will head up the club football structure as Director of Football and he is looking forward to working with his mate. “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to be appointed as Director of Men’s Football aligned with a well-established university and a great club with good facilities,” he explained. “It’s also great to be back on the pitch and to be back with Tim. I will be acting as an advisor to the club whilst working closely with Tim to ensure we help the club move forward.”
The 37-year-old has a great cv after coaching in the Brisbane Premier League before moving to Perth to study a football degree. He coached Oxley United and Rochedale Rovers (2010-2012), and coached the Australian Defence force women’s team (2011). After arriving in Perth, he was Head Coach at Hamersley Rovers (1st team in 2014), before coaching at Balcatta (u16 NPL 2015), Bayswater City (U18’s assistant 2016), Perth SC (U20 2017/2018) before a successful spell as Head Coach at Floreat Athena in 2018/2019.
Garrett did a great job at Floreat Athena, with Cash, and he said although it didn’t end the way he would have liked he had some special times there. “We both had a terrific time at the club and have fond memories of our time there,” he said. “We both felt the time was right to depart and wish them all the very best for the future.”
The pair have only conducted a couple of sessions with the squad, but they are both looking forward to the opening game of the season at Murdoch University Melville. “We have only conducted two session to date so it’s too early to say if the squad needs strengthening, but we are also in the business of developing players and with only a few days before the start of the season it will probably be the latter for now,” Garrett said.
“The first game will be a good indication of where the boys are at. They met in the night series and were not too far off the mark. I am not in familiar position, with coming in hot as I did at Athena with just a few months left to go a few seasons back. It’s tough but a good challenge and I am sure Tim will move the club forward like he did during his time at Athena.”
SMITH HOPING TO MAKE KELMSCOTT BOUNCE BACK
Kelmscott Roos will start season 2020 in the State League Division Two, looking to bounce back to the club’s former glories. The Frye Park club were in the Premier League in 1993, but after dropping out of the league for a number of seasons, they are looking to start that rise up the leagues again. This season they have handed the reins of the club to new coach Warren Smith, who takes over from Richard Bryant who stepped down in pre-season.
Smith is looking forward to the new challenge. “I’m really happy to take on the challenge as Kelmscott were left in a difficult position,” he explained. “I will be looking at getting the club back on track for the future, and the suburb of Kelmscott is a big area and I would like to work with players in the area to bring the club back to the way it was. I know this won't happen overnight.
“We have a long road ahead of us, but I’ll be doing my best to improve the club. The season ahead will be interesting, being what is going on around the world with covid-19. Kelmscott can use this short season to rebuild and set things in place for the next season. The main aim this year is to be competitive in all grades and have an enjoyable season.
“We are all in this together and we all want success back at Frye Park, it will be achievable but a lot of hard work is needed to get there. The club will require help not just from the few that do a lot around the club NOW. We need to get the community of Kelmscott and the areas around onboard also, so if anyone would like to help out in any areas please contact the club.”
Kelmscott President Dennis Warwick said they had been after Smith before, and is now happy to have got his man. “I had initially contacted Warren in 2019 in the hope of securing him for our first team coaching position, unfortunately at that time he was unable to commit to the season,” he explained. “Our MSL Reserve Coach stepped up to the first team position and due to unforeseen circumstances, he stepped down and left the club two weeks before this season start.
“Warren was still in my thoughts for the coaching position so I decided to try my luck and contacted him. As it turned out Warren was able to now commit. We have already seen a benefit to the club with Warren’s professionalism, knowledge and drive. We are excited to see what the future holds for our MSL teams with Warren being our Head Coach.”
Smith is looking forward to the start of the season and a trip to Morley Windmills first up is a great challenge. “I think it still too early to have plans as I have only been here five minutes and still seeing the club's situation. I have ideas that can be put into plans once I have settled in,” he said. “My job is to get the players playing a brand of football we all understand and want, player input is just as important as my own.
“We have to work together and things will be good in the future. I have only had four training sessions with the group so far and I like what I see there is some good young talent at the club. All players are welcome. I will not be going around chasing players. If you want to be at the club come down. I have brought in some players but they know they are not guaranteed a spot; it will be all performance based. Saturday against Morley will be interesting to see where both clubs are, and we are looking forward to getting the season on the way, it's been too long.”
BURGESS LEAVES SCUNTHORPE
Australia youth international Cameron Burgess is on the lookout for a new club after being released by English League Two side Scunthorpe United. The 24-year old spent 2019/20 on loan to Salford City, where he made 35 appearances central defence, scoring four goals.
“I’m looking to sign for a new team for next season,” said Burgess, who would consider a move to the A-League. “I’m open to anywhere for it to be the right move ... if the deal was right and the team is the right fit, I would consider anywhere.”
Born in Scotland but raised in Perth, Burgess has been playing in England for the past nine years after signing with Fulham from ECC Joondalup. The defender spent six years at Fulham, with loan spells at Ross County, Cheltenham Town, Oldham Athletic and Bury, before signing for Scunthorpe in 2017.
PLAYING AGAIN IS OUR PRIORITY: MATILDAS’ WILLIAMS
Friday was a day of celebration like no other for the Matildas after learning they will be playing a Women's World Cup on home soil in three years time. The decision from FIFA's council to award Australia and New Zealand the hosting rights of the 2023 World Cup capped off a surreal three months for the players.
A squad that is one of the hardest working in world sport was given the luxury of a three-month break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia's players can play up to 20 internationals in one calendar year, wedged either side of W-League commitments and clubs overseas.
It makes for a gruelling lifestyle and while the forced suspension of games may have been costly, it gave goalkeeper Lydia Williams the rare chance to relax. "It’s done a lot of us some good with having a break. It’s been a while since a lot of us have had a month off so it’s been good for us mentally and physically," she said.
The prolonged break bodes well for the weary Matildas, but Williams says now the most important thing is to bring the Matildas squad back into camp to begin their preparations in earnest. They haven't played together since early March and with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics cancelled, there's no date set for their next training camp.
Williams has urged Football Federation Australia to bring the team together as soon as possible and seek to organise meaningful games, which could potentially begin with clashes against New Zealand in a trans-Tasman bubble. "In the next couple of months people will be going overseas again and starting up," Williams said.
"It might be a little while before we can get teams coming over here playing on home soil leading into 2023 but obviously that will be a priority. I think the quicker we can get into club environments, be back training and back playing, back in a hub and playing games as a group of Matildas, that will be important."
KERR DREAMS OF WORLD CUP FIXTURES IN PERTH
Sam Kerr was aged just seven when as a schoolgirl in East Fremantle she watched Cathy Freeman win gold at the Sydney Olympics. Twenty years on and Kerr - considered the world’s greatest female footballer - still draws inspiration from that iconic moment.
And now the Matildas captain hopes to inspire the next generation when Australia and New Zealand host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Hailed as one of the biggest moments in Australian sport since the Sydney Olympics, Perth is set to host the world’s best players in several matches at Perth Oval.
The 22,000-capacity venue is in the running to stage group games, as well as possible round of 16, quarter-final and third place play-off fixtures. As the skipper of one of the world’s best teams and still in the prime of her career in three years’ time, it’s a golden opportunity for Kerr to lift the trophy on home soil.
Kerr, 26, lauded the event as the pinnacle of her sport, saying she would take a World Cup medal over an Olympic medal “any day”. “I’m still inspired by Cathy Freeman at the 2000 Olympics,” said Kerr, whose video message to FIFA’s Council played a crucial role in the success of the joint Australia/New Zealand bid.
“To think that our team and myself could be someone that young kids are going to look for and look up to in 20 years is an amazing feeling. I honestly think it will be huge. It’s just different having your idols play in your hometown and watching it on the big screen rather than getting up at 3am and watching it somewhere else in the world.”
Kerr admitted that having waited so long for this opportunity she was “pretty nervous” before the announcement. “It’s going to be an unbelievable thing. It’s going to be an amazing achievement and grow the game so much,” Kerr said. “We can’t wait to show the world not only how good we are at putting on sporting events, but to show the world our beautiful country and hopefully the Matildas get a game here in Perth.”
The Chelsea striker, who made her name with Perth Glory, said WA “100 per cent” deserves to host a Matildas match. “When I first started in the Matildas we could barely get a home Matildas friendly match and now we’re going to be hosting the biggest tournament in women’s football,” she said. “To do it in Perth would be a dream come true.”
The State Government has committed $3.5 million to bring Perth Oval up to FIFA standards. The details on what upgrades are required was yet to be finalised but would likely include more seating and improvements to the dressing rooms and corporate hospitality. The tournament will be played from July 10 to August 10, 2023.
WORLD CUP SET TO INSPIRE LOCAL JUNIORS SAYS DESPOTOVSKI
Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup will help find our next football superstar says Perth Glory Women coach Bobby Despotovski. The Glory legend celebrated along with the rest of the nation on Friday morning following the announcement by the FIFA Council.
The joint Australia-New Zealand bid beat out that of South American nation Colombia by 22 votes to 13. Despotovski said he couldn't wait for soccer to take centre-stage and inspire West Aussie up and comers. "We're so excited for the next generation of players all over our country to step up," he said.
"That period of 2023 the AFL, obviously our number one sport, will take second-stage. We all want to jump on the bandwagon. We all want to be excited. We all what to inspire our girls to play and what better role model than Sam Kerr. Previously in a Perth Glory jumper... in Matildas jumper... and obviously now, with Chelsea."
"In the women's side of the game, we've seen in the last two or three years, the biggest growth. We're now possibly going to see even bigger growth in the women's sport because, obviously, it's going to be a world cup here. This is your upcoming generation that is going to eventually represent Matildas.”
Despotovski said he would be doing everything he could to encourage younger Western Australian players in the lead up to 2023 so they “have best chance to put their hand up” to play in the cup. Perth has been named a host city for the Women's World Cup, which will be played from July 10 to August 10, 2023.
CLUB IN PROFILE - FLOREAT ATHENA FOOTBALL CLUB
Floreat Athena Football Club was formed in 1951 as "Athena Soccer Club". It was founded by Greek immigrants who came to Perth after World War II. It also became a place for the Greek community to socialise. The club first entered senior competition in 1953, when it joined the old Third Division "south" league of the Western Australian Soccer Football Association, which at the time was the only body controlling football in the state and was an "amateur" competition only. The club finished fifth in their very first season.
Not much changed the following year, once again in Division Three south, the club ended up once place higher in fourth position, while in 1955 the "north" and "south" leagues were merged into a fifteen team competition, this time Athena finished fifth in the new combined league.
It wasn't until 1958 when the club gained it's first league title, winning Division Three "B" and gaining promotion to Division Two. From then on the club was on the way up, in 1959 the club were runners-up in the second tier and promotion to the big league was finally achieved.
The 1960 season saw Athena now in the top flight, but the blue and whites had a difficult start. Half-way though the season Athena were second from bottom and fighting against relegation. However, there was big noises happening off the field. Behind closed doors, the big clubs were looking at resigning from the WASFA and forming their own league, which would be semi-professional. On 11th July, 1960, some fifty representatives from eight clubs congregated at the WA Italian Club to vote for a new association and league, which would commence the following Saturday. The Soccer Federation of Western Australia was formed. Athena finished sixth in the very first professional league season in Western Australia.
During the 1960's, Athena had up and down seasons, finishing as high as third in 1961 and 1963 and as low as tenth in 1968, which meant relegation from the top flight. By the 1970's, the club moved from Wellington Square to Perry Lakes Stadium in Floreat, where the club name was changed to the now "Floreat Athena" that we know today. In 1973, Athena won what would now be known as Division One and were promoted back to the top flight and it would only get better from here. Steve Stacey as coach led the club to third in 1976 before the club won their first ever state championship in 1977 under Bill Dumbell.
1980 proved to be a difficult year for the blue and whites, finishing bottom of the league and relegation back to the second tier. However, their absence was not to last long. John Sydenham became coach and he led them to the title and promotion straight back to the top flight. This would prove to be the last season the club has been out of the big league.
After a difficult season in 1983, when the club was saved from relegation on the last day of the season, the blue and whites were once again on the way up, and this time to being one of the strongest clubs in the state. By 1985, the club had been settled at the Velodrome for a number of years, and construction began on their new club rooms. In 1986 and 1987, Athena finished in third place, before winning the very first Super League season in 1988 under coach Ken Worden. In fact, the club would have won four state titles in a row if it wasn't for a change in rules by the Federation at the time. From 1989 to 1991 a play-off series would determine the state championship. On each occasion Athena would top the table, only to miss out on the title to rivals Perth Italia. In fact, in 1990 the club went through the regular season undefeated, but missed out on making the championship decider when they went out in straight sets in the finals. Athena did win the State Cup three times in a row from 1987 to 1989, which just shows their dominance at the time.
After consistent top half finishes over the next few years, it wasn't until 1997 when the club won their third state championship, ending with a three point advantage over Fremantle City and Sorrento. They also did the double by taking out the State Cup! The club also started to renovate their headquarters at the Velodrome. The old bicycle tracks would be removed, the small pitch was to be enlarged and grassy hills put in place where the track once stood. The ground would be re-named the E&D Litis Stadium. Over the next few years, Jimmy Dunne, Michael Roki, John Hunter, Peter Koulizos and Taki Lambetsos all led the first team at one point, but it wasn't until Roki's second spell in charge when Athena had more success.
It was 2007, and Athena had one of their best ever seasons. Not losing a single game over the twenty-two league season and only drawing four! Easily winning the competition by fifteen points over rival Perth SC.
Since 2007, the league trophy has eluded them, however Athena finished runners-up twice, in 2008 and 2012. They also won the State Cup in 2016 and 2019, while adding the 2015, 2018 and 2019 Night Series cups to their large trophy cabinet.
Floreat Athena have been one of the most successful clubs in the history of our game in Western Australia, and will no doubt continue to be in the future.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS
Premier League winners - 1977, 1988, 1997, 2007
Premier League Minor Premiers - 1989, 1990, 1991
Premier League runners-up - 1989, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2008, 2012
First Division winners - 1973, 1981
First Division runners-up - 1967
Cup winners - 1987, 1988, 1989, 1997, 2009, 2016, 2019
Cup runners-up - 1984, 1999, 2001, 2010
Premier League Top Four/Five Cup winners - 1975, 1984, 1988
Premier League Top Four/Five Cup runners-up - 1977, 1986, 1989, 1991, 2001, 2002
Night Series winners - 1977, 1985, 1997, 2000, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019
Night Series runners-up - 1987, 1988, 1989, 2014, 2020
BELT UP AMATEUR LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION - ROUND TWO REVIEW
It was Week Two of the Belt-Up Amateur Premier Division and our ‘Match of the Round’ saw Kwinana United come home from the UWA Sports Park with a 4-1 win against UWA Nedlands. It was a perfect start for Mark Purvis’ side and they were ahead on three minutes with a fine finish from Lee Bates from 15 meters. It was tight game but it was the visitors who doubled their lead before the break when Sean Troop looping strike found the inside of the far post.
Kwinana scored the vital third goal on the hour when David Clark arrived late into the box with a tidy finish. UWA pulled one back with Jack Naumann heading home, but a fourth from the penalty spot from Clark sealed the three points. “We played well and I thought we deserved the three points,” Purvis said. “But when UWA got one back to make it 3-1 we had to show character to settle the game back down and see it out for the win. As usual UWA were a very hard-working side who made it difficult for us but I’m delighted to get the first win of the season.”
Joondalup United moved to the top of the table after an entertaining 4-2 win against Queens Park at Coker Park. Neil Sherwin’s side made the perfect start with two goals in the first six minutes. First Joel Ledsham shot crashed off the woodwork from Adam Taylor’s cross and Andreas Bouzinekis scored the rebound from close range. Adam Taylor made it 2-0 a minute later with a right foot shot that found the corner of the net, but Queens Park grew into the game and pulled a goal back on 13 minutes with Jawid Safari on target. But Joondalup restored the two-goal advantage when Tony Taylor’s low cross was deflected into the net for an own goal. Queens Park weren’t finished and Ricardo Fynn’s side reduced the deficit again with Byron Goodwin scoring early in the second half.
The home side had a chance to level when referee David Bruce pointed to the spot but Joondalup keeper Luke Green made a superb save from the resulting penalty. Joondalup pressed for the fourth and Adam Taylor and Adam Giannasi were both off target from close range, before they made the points safe when Tony Taylor hit a 25-yard shot into the bottom left corner. “It was a very hit and miss performance from us and the conditions were a bit of an equaliser on the day. We got off to a great start and should have put the result beyond doubt at 2-0 and 3-1,” Joondalup Coach Neil Sherwin explained. “We played some very good football at times though and our frontline knows where the goal is which is encouraging. It’s also nice to start the season with two wins as momentum will be important in a shortened campaign so hopefully, we can keep that going over the next few weeks.”
The round started on Saturday evening when South West Phoenix and North Perth United fought out a 1-1 draw at WML Stadium in Bunbury. It was the visitors who opened the scoring on 27 minutes, good pressing from forwards Alpha Sheriff and David Musa led to a sloppy pass from a Phoenix defender giving Stephen Foolchund the opportunity to fire past James Oakley. Just before half time Phoenix levelled when referee James Graham pointed to the spot and Zach Van Oosten made no mistake from the resulting penalty. The second half was sloppy with both teams cancelling each other. Phoenix pressed late looking for the winner and Alex Carter’s side were thankful to keeper Jamie Serra who pulled off a couple key intercepts and saves.
"Bunbury are a good side and their result last week would have had to have been a freak result because they played so much better,” North Perth’s Kelechi Osunwa said. “For us we are left to think about our opening 30 minutes where we had chance after chance and couldn't put any of them away, and realistically we could have been 3-1 up at half time. It’s disappointing to make the 300km round trip for only a point but it's just the start of the season and still plenty to work on and build up on too. It will be a tough game against league favourites Quinns next week and we will need to be focused for 90 minutes instead of just 30."
Quinns hosted Hamersley Rovers at Gumblossom Park and the visitors hit back late to earn a 2-2 draw. The hosts were ahead at half time with Wayne Carter scoring. Rovers had themselves to blame in the first half, missing a penalty and squandering a number of clear-cut chances, and it looked like the points were secured for David Ashworth’s when Carter doubled their advantage on the hour. But Rovers pulled one back with 12 minutes to play, a defence splitting ball saw a Gabriel Vieira raced clear and calmly went round the keeper to slot home. The comeback was completed on 85 minutes when Robbie Klenkoski’s free kick gave the Quinns keeper no chance.
“Our first half performance was excellent, all that was missing was being clinical in front of goal, missed penalty, three posts struck and two cleared off the line, then a misjudgement and we’re behind,” Hamersley Coach Howard Tweats said. “After conceding an avoidable second, the resilience, determination and heart the predominantly young side showed to stay in the game and recover a point was a true reward and deserved.”
Maddington White City won for the first time this season beating Jaguar 2-1 at Nikola Tesla Reserve. After letting a three-goal lead slip last week, Maddington were on the front foot early and were rewarded with the opener with Chris Sparks scoring. Sparks added his and Maddington’s second just after the hour and it looked game over, but the Jags had other ideas. A free kick on 78 minutes from luqman Abdirahman was turned into his own net by a Maddington defender. Jags pressed late but Maddington held on for the win.
In the final game Wembley Downs won for the first time this season with a hard-fought 1-0 win against Leeming Strikers at Butlers Reserve. The home side were missing a number of players and Head Coach Mike Ford was forced into six changes. Leeming had the most and best chances in the first half but just couldn’t convert and there was some great Wembley defending. The only goal in this entertaining game came just after half time, a ball was played out wide to Lauchie Chamberlain who beat two players came inside and sent a low well-paced ball across the goal for Ryan Morris who took the chance superbly and buried the ball into the back of the net.
Things got a little heated late in the game as Leeming pressed for the equaliser and Wembley’s Dylan Brown was sent off on 74 minutes after retaliating after bad tackle, and ten minutes later referee Liviu Katona sent off Leeming’s Scott McDowell. But the home side held on to the three points. “It’s great to come away with the three points,” Wembley Coach Mike Ford said. “It even more pleasing against a high-quality Leeming squad.”
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY REVIEW
It was the final hit outs for the NPLWA and State League sides on Saturday, with most clubs in action. First, we look at Floreat Athena, who flexed their muscles in style, thrashing fellow NPL side ECU Joondalup 5-0 at the ECU Football Stadium. Ante Kovacevic’s side hit the front on the half hour with former ECU winger Liam Murray scoring, before Dean Evans audacious lob from 35 meters doubled their lead on the stroke of half time. Second half goals from Jesse Fuller, Robert Harding and an own goal wrapped up a convincing win and gave ECU coach Kenny Lowe a few headaches.
There was two other all NPLWA games and first at Alfred Skeet Reserve Armadale beat Gwelup Croatia 2-1. A Gwelup old boy, Angel Andres gave John Reilly’s side the lead on 14 minutes, and the Spanish striker doubled their advantage seven minutes later. Second half substitute Sam Flores reduced the margin late, but Taki Nicolaidis’ side couldn’t find the equaliser and the hosts held on for the win. At Percy Doyle Reserve Sorrento hosted Perth Glory, and it was the visitors going home with a 3-2 win. A Charlie Leech brace and an own goal set Richard Garcia’s side on their way. But Sorrento hit back after the break with Cameron Teece reducing the margin, before Ollie Annis gave Jamie Harnwell’s side a sniff. They had chances late to draw and go on and win it but failed to find the target.
Balcatta fought back from 3-0 down to beat Rod Banjac’s Dianella White Eagles at Dianella Reserve. In front of another big crowd, the host hit the front with Chris Rizidis scoring. Josh Appleby was then brought down in the box and Milan Vulin converted a penalty, before Milan Ognjenovic made it 3-0. But Balcatta fought back and helped by two own-goals and a Callum Stocks strike they drew level. The winner came from new signing Henry Durr, whose long-range effort was worthy of winning any game.
Bayswater City travelled to Kingsway Reserve and came home with a hard fought 3-2 win against Olympic Kingsway. Chris Coyne’s side were cruising with goals from Luke Salmon, Gordon Smith and Daryl Nicol. But Olympic hit back on the hour and two quick goals from Ajak Riak made it interesting for Gary Williams’ side, but Bayswater held out for the win. In other game involving an NPL side, Rockingham City were held to a 0-0 draw by Joondalup United at SafeRad Stadium. The other NPL teams, Cockburn City, Inglewood United and Perth SC were not in action.
In other pre-season games new State League side Kingsley Westside travelled to Hilton Reserve and a brace from skipper Jayden Drummond saw them beat Fremantle City 2-0. Quinns eased past Canning City 5-1 at Gumblossom Park. The hero for Ian Ferguson’s side was new recruit Sam Wynne, who bagged all five goals, while teenager Rowan Steed scored for Canning. Goals from Joe Cardoso, James Burns and Alec Robinson gave Wanneroo City a 3-1 win against Stirling Lions at Macedonia Park, while Subiaco beat Joondalup City 1-0 at Rosalie Park.
Swan United’s poor pre-season continued with a 1-3 defeat against Balga at Swan View Park. John Conti gave the visitors the lead, before John Monterosso levelled from the penalty spot. But second half goals to Quinn Connelly and a long-range lob from Jake Verini gave Danny Cain’s side the win. Mandurah City eased past Curtin University 6-1 at Peelwood Parade. Lee Stewart bagged five goals for the Dolphins with Joe O’Brien adding the other, Ricky Saini scored Curtin’s consolation. UWA Nedlands beat Inglewood United under 20’s 5-1, with Lloyd Prout scoring four and Liam Kessell scoring the other.
WORLD CUP WILL TAKE FOOTBALL "TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL" IN AUSTRALIA SAYS KERR
Australia captain Sam Kerr believes a new generation of Matilda's will be inspired to play football following Australia and New Zealand being granted joint hosting rights of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The joint was given the nod by FIFA’s ruling council, who voted for the Australasian bid over Colombia.
Kerr was ecstatic with the result, which promises to turbocharge interest in women’s football across the two countries. “The opportunity to play in a home FIFA Women’s World Cup is something every footballer dreams of and I am looking forward to seeing those dreams come true,” Kerr said.
“Playing for the Matildas in Australia will be the highlight of my career and an opportunity to inspire girls, both in Australia and New Zealand, and all over the world to play football. We have seen great progress in the women’s game and Australia-New Zealand will take the game to a whole new level.”
AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND TO HOST 2023 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
After three years of lobbying across the globe, Australia and New Zealand have been chosen as joint hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The joint campaign becomes the first southern hemisphere bid to host the Women's World Cup, as well as the first bid from Oceania to host a men's or women's World Cup.
FIFA’s ruling council voted for the Australasian bid over Colombia, its only rival. in the end the joint bid triumphed by 22 votes to 13, with only the European and South American nations backing Colombia after council members watched video pitches from the two bidders.
Football Federation Australia president Chris Nikou believes our unique geographical location was a key strength for the successful bid. “The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand will be ground-breaking in many ways,” Nikou commented.
“Not only will it be the first ever co-confederation hosted FIFA World Cup and the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in the Asia-Pacific region, but we will unlock the huge potential for growth in women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We would like to thank FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation, Oceania Football Confederation, the Australian and New Zealand governments and all those who have supported the bid.” 2023 Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams playing in three “hubs” in Australia and New Zealand.
IN CONVERSATION WITH CHEESY (MATHEW CHEESEMAN) - PART ONE
In this time of upheaval with the COVID-19 around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the football season given the go-head by the governing body and the season resumes next weekend. We’ve been doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with past-players, coaches, players and people in the game from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s ‘In conversation’ we catch up with former West Australian referee Mathew Cheeseman. In part one of our interview we chat to Cheesy on his time in the game in WA and A-League.
Cheeseman burst onto the scene in WA, and was respected around the traps by players and coaches alike, with the way he let the game flow and interacted with the players, and he was rewarded with three consecutive ‘Golden Whistles’ as the best referee in the league, and he loved every minute of it. “Well firstly, it is an absolute pleasure to talk to you and thank you for the kind words,” he said. “I must say that throughout my refereeing career I never officiated to try and win awards or praise. As much as the recognition is appreciated, I have always been a firm believer that the players and coaches are the stars of the sport and who people come to see, not the officials.
“I never played the game at any competitive level and had no desire to do so, but I had always been an avid spectator from a very young age and saw refereeing as a way to get involved in a sport I loved. During my journey I attempted to learn as much as possible not just from my refereeing colleagues, but from the players, coaches, and elders of the game alike. I spent a fair bit of energy in building a strong rapport with anyone and everyone from the second I entered a venue to the moment I left, and invariably I was one of the last to leave.
“This helped me extensively in understanding the game from other points of view, which I built into how I officiated. I am grateful and have the upmost respect to all those who were willing to share their time and thoughts with me, whether it be talking about decisions, tactics, or the history of the game. This ultimately allowed me to enjoy my time around the grounds, and hopefully that shone through in my attitude towards the game and its participants.”
Away from the pitch Cheeseman worked at Football West and spread the word around WA, and he said his time there was amazing and he worked with some great people along the way. “I loved my time at Football West, as it gave me the opportunity to share my passion for refereeing with people from all across the state,” he explained. “When I started there in 2006, football in WA had just gone through the amalgamation process of all the various governing bodies, and the integration of refereeing was the last piece of the puzzle. From my initial appointment, to then seeing a full Referees Department established with former World Cup referee Eddie Lennie at the helm, there was amazing progress made in a relatively short space of time.
“I’m quite an operationally minded individual, so I took great pride in ensuring the operations side of officiating ran smoothly, but what made my time there so enjoyable were my amazing colleagues across all departments, as well as every single opportunity I had to assist with developing the best referees possible. From monthly coaching nights, to running courses, and delivering regional development programs visiting all areas of the state, it was that aspect and seeing the progress and enjoyment of others that kept my enthusiasm up. And of course, working for Football West gave me some additional flexibility to combine both my on and off duties, however many an email were sent and administrative functions performed from all corners of the globe.”
The 35-year-old went on to run the line in the A-League, and his consistent performances were rewarded in 2012 when he was appointed an assistant for the A-League Grand-Final between Roar and Glory in Brisbane, something he never saw coming. “My appointment to the A-League assistant referee panel in 2006 as a 21-year-old was a great surprise, and I vividly remember being at the World Cup in Germany supporting the Socceroos when I received the email from Football Federation Australia [FFA] congratulating me on my selection,” he said. “I was fortunate at the time that two of our WA-based assistant referees in Patrick McCaffrey and Stephen Muldoon had retired, and after some good local performances I was given the opportunity.
“To say I was nervous going into my first match (Perth Glory v Sydney FC, 10/09/2006) at such a young age was an understatement, but I was given great support by my colleagues and my confidence grew with every appointment. The 2011/12 season culminating in the Grand-Final was obviously a highlight, and although I knew I was having a good season and was appointed to a few matches outside of Perth during the regular season – a rarity for an assistant referee – the announcement of my appointment to the Grand Final was again a complete shock. At the time, and even to this day, myself and the referee Jarred Gillett were – and remain – the only officials to be appointed to an A-League Grand Final without being or having previously been on the FIFA international list at the time, so that is something I am extremely proud of.” - Next week Cheeseman talks about being added to the FIFA international referees list in 2013, the injury that ended his refereeing. He also gives his advice to youngsters who are looking to become a referee, and what he’s up to today.
BELT UP AMATEUR LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION - ROUND TWO PREVIEW
It's round two of the Belt-Up Amateur Premier Division and this week's Footballwa ‘Match of the Week’ takes us to the UWA Sports Park on Sunday where UWA Nedlands entertain Kwinana United. (3.00pm) The last time the two sides met at the venue was in round one last season when the hosts started their season with a bang, running out 5-2 winners with Mitch Barrington bagging a hat-trick. Both sides drew last week, and for Kwinana United it was like a loss after throwing away a two-goal lead against Wembley Downs, but Head Coach Mark Purvis said it was a positive performance. “Last week was pleasing considering we have lots of new faces throughout the club,” he said. “I wish we could have seen it out for the three points but it wasn’t to be and we move on.”
With no promotion in the competition this season many believe games wouldn’t have the same intensity, but Purvis said that isn’t the case. “We all wanted promotion this year but if the competitiveness of the first game was anything to go by then you’d never know it was off the table,” he explained. “The players are competitive and no one likes to get beat, so I’m sure every game will be played with maximum intensity.
“As a club we certainly want to improve on our ninth-place last year but as I’ve said we are a brand-new group with many of the group not played at this level before, this can take time to gel, but we’re up for the challenge.” Purvis said a trip to UWA is never easy and he’s expecting the same on Sunday. “UWA have always been a tough side whenever I’ve come up against them with previous clubs and am expecting no different this time around,” he said. “We want the three points and we know we will need to be at our best to get them.”
UWA came home from Jaguars with a well-earned point last week and coach Arthur Hiemstra said he and Manny Arapis were happy with the performance. “It was a decent start to the season and we played better than we expected if I’m honest,” Hiemstra said. “We’re still a bit short in match fitness, however there were some promising signs and with the quality we currently have in the squad there is plenty to work with.”
“We’re focused on enjoying our football and to be as competitive as possible. Prospects are better than last year as we will not suffer from the mid-semester break during which we traditionally always lose players and points. I believe that a top five finish should be achievable which would be a good year on year improvement.”
Hiemstra said they had a positive result in their first game last season, ironically against Kwinana, but didn’t win again until round four, he hopes to change that come Sunday. “I’m looking forward to playing Mark and seeing what he has done with the Kwinana side over the past period,” he said. “The past two seasons we have always done well in the first encounter, only to lose in the second. I hope history doesn’t repeats itself.”
The round starts on Saturday evening when North Perth United makes the trip to WML Stadium in Bunbury to take on South West Phoenix. (6.00pm) It wasn’t the best of returns for the Phoenix in the opening round losing heavily at Hamersley Rovers, so they will be hoping to bounce back in front of their supporters. For North Perth last week, it was a ‘get out of jail’ card, coming from 0-3 down to snatch a dramatic 4-3 win against Maddington White City and Head Coach Alex Carter said they can’t keep doing that each game. “Giving a three-goal head start wasn’t the ideal way to start the season that’s for sure, but if you score more than the opposition you don’t lose too many games of football,” he said. “It’s a new squad so we are going to take a bit to gel at both ends of the park. We need to be a bit grittier in defence in particular and sometimes that means not being pretty.”
North Perth are one of the favourites for the title this season, but with no promotion or relegation it’s not a concern for Carter, he wants his player to continue their improvement, starting against a good Phoenix side on Saturday. “That for us has no bearing on how we want to be known to apply ourselves each week. We had the opportunity in the past to accept promotion so this year is no different,” he explained. “We move on to our next game looking to continue where we left off last week. I’m sure Bunbury will put out a much stronger team this week being at home, so we are under no illusions. We don’t want to be heading back to Perth in the middle of the night knowing we left the points down there.”
In other games on Sunday at 3.00pm, Wembley Downs host Leeming Strikers at Butlers Reserve, Queens Park entertain Joondalup United at Coker Park, while Maddington White City take on Jaguars at Nikola Tesla Reserve. In the final game Quinns will be looking to bounce back from their lose at Joondalup United when they host Hamersley Rovers at Gumblossom Park. Howard Tweats started life as Rovers’ coach with a big win against South West Phoenix last week, while David Ashworth’s Quinns were beaten in the local derby against Joondalup United. Quinns assistant coach Lee Garnish said it wasn’t the result they were looking for.
“It defiantly wasn’t the way we wanted to start our season,” he said. “We feel that we didn’t play our brand of football, we were slow off the mark and didn’t take our chances with hitting the bar and post. But to be fair Joondalup played well and in the end were the better team on the day.” Garnish said games against Rovers are always tough, and with them coming off a big win he said Sunday will be the same. “There are no easy games in the league, and we’ve had some competitive games last season with Hamersley and we’re expecting the same again on Sunday,” he explained. “It will be nice to play at home in front of our supporters and we’ll and looking to bounce back from last week.”
GRAYSON READY TO ROCK AND ROLL AT LARK HILL
You can’t take the smile of new Rockingham City recruit Alex Grayson, after his beloved Liverpool moved closer to their first title since 1989-90. The 28-year-old, who spent a number of years in the Liverpool Academy before moving to Perth, said it’s about time they took their place as EPL Champions. “I came to Perth in 2012, and I had 10-years at the club from the age of six to 16,” he explained. “I’m a lifelong Reds fan and delighted how we’ve gone this season and to be fair we’ve been the best team by far.”
After his time in UK football came to an end, he headed to America to attend the University of Pittsburgh, before joining Mandurah City as a player/Coach. Injuries curtailed his playing but he said it was a great club to be involved with. “My time at Mandurah was very enjoyable and the people are fantastic and there is a very welcoming culture,” he said. “On the pitch it was difficult but the load was always shared by the people in and around the club.”
It’s a new start in 2020 for the striker on and off the pitch. He was signed by Rockingham City and he has looked at home in the NPL bagging goals in the pre-season and there will have another addition soon in the Grayson family. “For me personally the restart at Rockingham has been great and like Mandurah it’s a great club with some fantastic people involved,” he explained. “I have a daughter due in four weeks so it's great to be closer to home. I originally joined their junior NPL coaching staff alongside a few top coaches and I am now thoroughly enjoying putting the boots on again.”
Rocky drew at Bayswater City last week, with Grayson on target, and they are in action again this weekend against Joondalup United as they prepare for the new season and Grayson said the young side have impressed him. “With the changes in league structure, I thought it may have an adverse effect, but the lads have thieved under Gary (Christie),” he said. “However, everyone has accepted the new format and it feels great to play alongside guys who are all in it for the same reason. I think that unity will give us a great edge to go and compete beyond our years.”
KOREAN MIDFIELDER SOO-BEOM EXITS GLORY
Perth Glory’s defensive stocks have taken another hit after Kim Soo-Beom became the latest player to leave the A-League club. The speedy wing back, who played 11 games this season, has returned to South Korea to join Gangwon FC and joins centre back Gregory Wuthrich on the departed list.
Wuthrich returned to Switzerland during the A-League’s coronavirus shutdown and he has decided to stay at home. The future of forward Joel Chianese is up in the air following reports he had signed with Indian Super League club Hyderabad. Glory’s campaign resumes against Central Coast on 18 July in Sydney.
GLORY DEFENSIVE STOCKS HIT WITH KIM LEAVING
Perth Glory defensive stocks have been hit again with Korean Kim Soo-Beom leaving the club to join K League 1 club Gangwon FC. The defender joined Glory in July from Jeju United on a one-year deal, and the 29-year-old made 11 appearances for the club, recording one assist, before the season was shut down in March.
Glory's other off-contract players include Gregory Wuthrich, Ivan Franjic, Joel Chianese and Tando Velaphi. Wuthrich has returned to Switzerland, and won't be returning to Australia, while Chianese is reportedly a target of a number of clubs. Glory coach Tony Popovic is likely to turn to some of his young guns in the build-up to the re-booted A-League campaign.
The loss of Soo-Beom and Swiss international Wuthrich is a huge blow defensively, while veteran Dino Djulbic is on the long-term injury list and will not play this year. With a 22-man squad going to Sydney for the packed six-game schedule that starts on July 18 against Central Coast Mariners the door has opened for some of Glory’s younger talent.
Young Socceroo and Glory scholarship player Josh Rawlins, 16, yet to make his A-League debut and New Zealand international Dane Ingham, 21, looking for his first start, are both likely to boost backline numbers in the travelling squad. Forward Carlo Armiento, 21, who signed from Adelaide United in February could also be in line for his first Glory game.
Rawlins played for Australia at various age levels and was in the 2019 under-17 World Cup squad in Brazil that qualified for the round of 16 but failed to make the quarter finals. He made his senior Glory debut in the high profile friendly against Manchester United last year and was named in the squad for the Asian Champions League but did not play in the 1-0 loss to Tokyo. Meanwhile, Ingham, capped seven times for the Kiwis, signed pre-season from Brisbane Roar on a two-year deal but has made just one appearance from the bench this season.
Glory are not able to sign players from rival A-League clubs until the season is over but fringe Socceroos forward Andrew Nabbout is expected to move from Melbourne Victory next season with winger Joel Chianese linked to Indian Super League club Hyderabad. At least 16 players have already been locked in by Glory for next season which, under the terms of the $32 million contract, will begin in December and finish in July 2021 - the first step in a likely switch from a summer to winter season – Watch this space!!!
JACKS BRING WARLAND HOME
ECU Joondalup Soccer Club have added talented defender Riley Warland to their squad for the 2020 NPLWA season. The 17-year-old started his football at the Campus, in the clubs successful Youth Academy, before spells at Perth Glory and at English Championship side Fulham last season. He said when Jacks Head Coach Kenny Lowe contacted him the decision to return home was an easy one.
“My return back to the campus was an easy and positive move for my myself, due to the coach being Kenny Lowe, Warland explained. “I have a great relationship with him, and obviously the club having such a great history with players coming up through the academy and going overseas and being successful I thought it was the right move for me at this time.”
Warland returned home from Fulham last season and played for the Glory in the NPL, but things didn’t work out with an A-League contract but he has no regrets. “After I returned home; I did have a spell with the Glory A-League squad for pre-season, but I didn’t find myself getting enough game time, so ultimately, I had to make an executive decision to leave the club for more game time,” he said. “That decision has led me to enjoy my football a lot more, especially at such a great club like ECU who have made me feel really welcome, and I have a lot of history here as I played a lot of my junior career here.”
Jacks Head Coach Kenny Lowe said Warland is a great signing for the club. “Riley is great lad and he isn’t a bad footballer too,” he said. “I worked with him at Glory when he was in Youth side and he was a talent, and he went to the Fulham Academy and didn’t look out of place. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him over there, but he is an ECU lad and it’s great for the club to get him back and he hasn’t missed a beat since returning to the campus and he gives our squad a lift as we prepare for the re-started NPL season.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for clubs to get ready for the new season, but Warland said Lowe and his assistants David Butterfield and David Tough will have them ready. “The virus has definitely thrown a spanner in the works, but that hasn’t stopped the boys from putting in the hard yards and really working hard for the first game of the season,” he said.
“I personally believe that this team could go really far, there’s a lot of talent and a lot of young boys coming through which is really positive to see for the future of the club. I’m really looking forward to see how we go in the first game of the season against Cockburn City, I think it’ll be a great game.”
CHIANESE LINKED WITH GLORY EXIT
Perth Glory’s Joel Chianese has been linked with a move to Indian Super League club Hyderabad FC. The 30-year old winger, who joined Glory in 2016, is off-contract at the end of this month and is reportedly set to head to the sub-continent.
However, a Glory spokesperson said while there is an interest in 30-year old Chianese, he has not signed a deal with any new club. The attacking midfielder has managed nine goals in 60 appearances for Glory in the past four years. Hyderabad replaced Pune City last year in the Indian Super League, after Pune City was dissolved and the club moved to Hyderabad.
BELT UP AMATEUR LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION - ROUND ONE REVIEW
The 2020 Belt-Up Amateur Premier League started with a bang on Sunday with North Perth United coming from 0-3 down late in the second half to beat newly-promoted Maddington White City 4-3 at Woodville Reserve. It looked like an upset was on the cards when the visitors raced to a 3-0 lead. First Sam Morrow scored after only nine minutes, before Chris Sparks doubled their advantage sixty seconds later. It was 3-0 on 12 minutes, with Sparks bagging his second. Things didn’t look good for United but on 78 minutes they found a lifeline when referee Anthony Walsh pointed to the spot and Kelechi Osunwa made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
They reduced the margin again five minutes later with Jean Foolchund scoring. The home side had the wind in their sails and three minutes later they found the equaliser through Javier Pineres Mestre. It was frantic end to the game with both sides looking for the winner, but in the second minute of stoppage time Maddington were reduced to ten men when Nicolas Pardo was sent off. The ten men couldn’t hold on three minutes later United won it with Jack Lavis firing home to set off wild celebrations on the pitch and in the crowd.
North Perth United Head coach Alex Carter said it was one hell of a game, when his side woke up. “The first 20 minutes you thought we were playing Barcelona, with the amount of time, space and respect we gave to Maddington was horrible to watch,” he explained. “I had to do something desperate and unfortunately made a double substitution and after that we slowly started winning more balls in the middle and getting ourselves physically into the game. The Second half we decided to play a bit on the counter attack, and I think the boys conditioning was there for everyone to see late in the game as we looked like we could play another 45.”
The other new boys in the league Queens Park, started life with a heavy 6-0 loss against Leeming Strikers at John O’Connell Reserve. The hosts hit the front on six minutes, Leandro Fernandes won the ball in the middle of the park, beat a player, before hitting low and hard strike into the bottom corner from 16 meters. It was 2-0 on 21 minutes, a ball was played to David Palin who turned and played Lucas Pickering in on goal, his shot was saved by the keeper but he followed up to score the rebound.
Queens Park conceded two late goals in the half to make their task even harder. First on 40 minutes Palin slipped the ball in again to Pickering who finished first time into the bottom corner of the net. Then in stoppage time it was 4-0, a first time cross by Pickering was met at the back post by Ben Greaves who side-footed into back of the net. The hosts were after more and it wasn’t a surprise when they added a fifth on the hour. Michael Maratea crossed from the right Palin lost his marker to head home. Palin added his second and Leeming’s sixth on 77 minutes. A clearance from Jordan Jones, was missed by the Queens Park defender, and Palin ran free on goal, dribbled into box and finished low across the keeper into the bottom corner.
Strikers player/coach David Palin was delighted with his side’s performance. “It was great to get off to a flyer, last year against Jags we were on the other side of the score line, so it was important that didn't happen,” he explained. “From the first minute to the last we didn't give Queens Park any time to settle into the game, I thought the players showed a real determination and discipline throughout and it reflected in the score line. Overall, it was great to have the season finally kick off and now we can look forward to Wembley next week.”
Hamersley Rovers started life under new coach Howard Tweats with a 6-2 win against South West Phoenix at Carine Open Space. Rovers were ahead on five minutes when Liam Hudson beat the full back picking out the arriving Brandon Rector who's first-time volley struck the post which rebounded of a defender into the goal. The home side doubled their lead on the half hour Hudson again got away on the right, beat the full back with his cross picking out Robbie Klenkoski who slotted under the keeper.
They added a third early in the second half Cosimo Figliomeni picked the ball up and drove to the box beating three defenders before being brought down and referee Liam Dunn pointed to the spot. Figliomeni picked himself up and calmly dispatched the resulting penalty. The Phoenix pulled one back on 52 minutes with Marc Eldridge scoring. But Rovers’ three goal advantage was restored on the hour when some great lead-up play which included numerous passes released Declan Hudson into the area to calmly finish past the keeper into the corner.
Phoenix pulled another goal back with Kieran Quinn converting from the spot, but Rovers weren’t finished and made it 5-2 when Gabriel Viera scored from the spot after Declan Hudson was brought down. They wrapped up the scoring five minutes from time with Declan Hudson finishing clinically drove down the left where he played an intelligent reverse one-two releasing him on goal, entering the area he confidently fired into the bottom corner. “Pleased to see the game for all return in earnest,” a delighted Tweats said. “It’s always good to start with a victory, despite the positive score line this first competitive outing has given us an outlook as to where we are. As a group we know we can show more, today’s game gave us the information to set off in that direction.”
Joondalup United kicked off their season with a hard fought 3-1 win against local rivals Quinns at Beldon Park. The hosts started brightly and took the lead after only ten minutes. A scramble in the box saw Mark Walsh set up Adam Buckley, he took one touch before hammering a left foot shot into the net from 10 meters. United had their chances to double their lead but failed to convert and it was Quinns who levelled on the half hour. A corner into the box wasn’t dealt with and the ball went in off the United keeper.
After the break both sides looked for the lead but it was the home side who went ahead again just before the hour mark. Tony Taylor played in Buckley and he raced through on goal to finish calmly to the goalkeeper’s left. The home side were reduced to ten men on 71 minutes when Rowdy Yates was shown a second yellow. But the home side shuffled the pack and they added a third moments later. Taylor turned his man inside out on the right and put in a superb cross that was converted by Andreas Bouzinekis at the back post.
“We were good value for the win and the players showed fantastic character when we were reduced to ten men thanks to what was a very poor decision, to put it politely,” Joondalup Coach Neil Sherwin said. “Adam Buckley proved that he’s still one of the best finishers around and Tony Taylor slotted right into the team with two assists. I thought our defending was excellent throughout and you could tell that the win meant a lot to the lads. We took the game to Quinns from the first whistle and have set the standard for the rest of the season. Also, it was great to have such a big crowd at Beldon Park and they would have enjoyed what was a great game of amateur football.”
Jaguar and UWA Nedlands fought out a 1-1 draw at Herb Recreation Centre. It was the home side who were ahead on 11 minutes with Malek Domkoc scoring from the penalty spot after Paul Sopp was brought down. But UWA hit back to earn a point with a penalty of their own on 36 minutes, Lawrence Lewis converting. “Games against Jags are always close encounters, so I was very happy with our organisation and the number of chances we created,” UWA Coach Arthur Hiemstra said. “We had the better of the play in the first half but the second half was much more open and even we fell short on our conversion, partially because their goalkeeper made some cracking saves and had some help from the goalpost in the second half. It was great to be out there again and I’m always happy taking something away from Jags.”
In the final game Kwinana United and Wembley Downs fought out a 2-2 draw at Kelly Park. “I thought we played really well and scored two goals,” Kwinana coach Mark Purvis said. “I was very happy with the way we played considering the disruption to our preparations. I thought we deserved the three points but full credit to Wembley they never gave up, showed a great attitude and scored two very late goals to get a point, and even had a chance to snatch it but for a great stop from the keeper. We will learn a lot from this game and hopefully take them lessons into next week.”
It was Kwinana who opened the scoring on 26 minutes, with Dom Sumner on target. They doubled their lead on 32 minutes with David Clark converting from the spot. It looked like being a long day for Wembley when Karl Gorman was shown a second yellow card on the hour and sent off. But the ten men hit back and Juraj Galba made it 2-1 five minutes from time and four minutes later Matt Devereux levelled to give both sides a share of the spoils. “A great comeback after being two down from two avoidable goals,” Wembley coach Mike Ford said. “Kwinana a very tough team to play against at their ground and both teams had chances - Martin Sullivan hit a cracker to win it late, but the Kwinana keeper pulled off a fantastic save. Both teams had chances during the game and we certainly came away happy with the draw.”
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY REVIEW
With the league season kicking off in two weeks, most clubs played pre-season friendlies this weekend and all had good hit outs as they prepare for the season opener on July 4. Gwelup Croatia continued their good pre-season with a 5-1 win against Stirling Lions at Macedonia Park. Ndumba Makeche was the star for Taki Nicolaidis’ side bagging four goals, with Jon Stynes adding the other. Lions consolation goal came from Lawrence Shuruma.
Floreat Athena hosted Carramar Shamrock Rovers at E&D Litis Stadium and ran out 4-1 winners. Noah Shamaki bagged a brace, with Ludovic Bio and Robert Harding adding the others for Ante Kovacevic’s side, while Paul Morrison scored for Rovers. It was an all NPL clash at Frank Drago Reserve with Bayswater City being held to a 2-2 draw by Rockingham City. The hosts led 2-1 at half time with Jarrad Mort and Alex Grayson scoring, with Gomo Dukuly scoring for the hosts. Bayswater levelled after the break through Danny Jones to give both sides a share of the spoils.
There was another all NPL clash at Percy Doyle Reserve with Sorrento beating Balcatta 4-1. Cameron Teece was the hero for Jamie Harnwell’s side, bagging a hat-trick, while Jaxon Tamata scored the other. Michael Zimarino scored the goal for the visitors. ECU Joondalup hosted Forrestfield United at the ECU Football Stadium and ran out 3-1 winners. Bayley Montgomery-Brown gave the hosts the lead but Rhys Loxley leveled moments later for the visitors. ECU hit the front just before half time with Danny Hodgson on target, before Dor Jok added a third for Kenny Lowe’s side to seal the win.
Armadale hosted Western Knights at Alfred Skeet Reserve and John O’Reilly’s side won 1-0, with new Spanish striker Angel Andres on target for the hosts. Cockburn City travelled to Rosalie Park and came home with a 3-0 win against Subiaco. On target for Scott Miller’s side were Kristian Santich, Riley Woodcock and Ryan Pratt. In other friendly games over the weekend Joondalup United made the trip to Burrendah Reserve to take on Canning City and came home with a 2-0 win. Callum Speed and James Oldryd scored the goals for Nick Jennings’ side.
Mandurah City hosted Fremantle City at Peelwood Parade and the Dolphins ran out 3-2 winners. Joe O’Brien scored twice for the hosts, with Lee Stewart adding the other, while Dantae Greer and Charlie Betts scored for the visitors. Joondalup City made the trip to Curtin University and came home with a 6-3 win. Gareth Hamilton bagged a brace for Nigel Smith’s side, with others to Liam McGurk, Jacob Lester, Liam Peacock and Paddy Doyle. Jay Lake, Liam Goerke and Ricky Saini scored for the home side.
Quinns hosted Morley Windmills at Gumblossom Park and won 4-1. Sam Wynne bagged a hat-trick for Ian Ferguson’s side with Richard Howles scoring the other, while Kamando Sikazwe scored for Morley. Dianella White Eagles hosted Ashfield at Dianella Reserve and ran out 3-1 winners. Bobby Vulin bagged a doubled for Rod Banjac’s side, with Chris Rizidis scoring the other.
Wanneroo City hosted UWA Nedlands at Wanneroo Reserve and the visitors came away with a 2-1 win. Dhamon Kalamaras gave UWA the lead before Jamie Burns levelled, but Geordie Papathanassiou secured the win for Michael Janssen’s team. Balga hosted Kelmscott Roos at Princess Road Reserve and they fought out a 2-2 draw. The scorers for Balga were Josh Conti and Jake Verini, the scorers for Kelmscott are not available. Finally, there was an entertaining 0-0 draw when Olympic Kingsway hosted Westside Kingsley at the Kingsway Reserve.
CLUB IN PROFILE - ECU JOONDALUP SOCCER CLUB
ECU Joondalup Soccer Club was formed in 1992 as Joondalup City and their seniors first played in the "Echo League", which was a Sunday social competition played in the Perth metropolitan area. Juniors were added in 1993, playing out of Glumblossom Park. Even though officially a separate club, there was a loose affiliation between the Joondalup City juniors and seniors. The junior club of that time ended up becoming the Quinns FC we know today.
After a few years in the Echo League, the seniors applied for entry into the Professional Soccer Federation (Soccer West Coast). The club would make their debut semi-professional season in 1995 in Division Two under coach Paul Simmons and played next to the Joondalup Arena. The club were one of the favourites for the title, and up to the very last game of the season it looked like they would be champions. Top placed Joondalup were to play third placed Bunbury United and were one point ahead of them. In second place, Perth City had the same points as Joondalup and were hopeful of getting the title. As it turned out, Perth City won their game, while Joondalup lost to Bunbury. This meant the northern suburbs outfit dropped to third place and out of the promotion spots. As it turned out, Bunbury United were to merge with Ashfield the following season, which meant Joondalup City still ended up being promoted!
It was 1996, and the club were now in Division One. They were one of the favourites, however the club only had two wins after six games, but had at least drawn the other four. Following round six the club won their next eight games straight and were still undefeated in the league. It wasn't until round nineteen that Joondalup lost their first game, going down 4-2 to Morley-Windmills. With one game to go, the club was level on points with Fremantle City, but had a better goal difference. However, there was to be no repeat of the previous season, and Joondalup City were crowned champions and promoted to the Premier League after a 4-0 win away to Cockburn United.
After only two seasons in semi-professional football, Joondalup City were now in the Premier League in 1997 and playing their home matches inside the Joondalup Arena. Their very first game in the top flight was at home to Kingsway Olympic, which ended in a 1-1 draw. The club ended up finishing in eight position in their first season in the big league.
It was to get better from here. In 1998, Joondalup finished as high as third in the regular season before losing to Sorrento in the Minor Semi-final of the championship play-offs. They also won their first major trophy, winning the State Cup after beating Kingsway Olympic 1-0 in the final. The following year would end up being the biggest in the club's history. Not only did they make the move to the Edith Cowan University campus as their new home ground and changed their name to ECU Joondalup but they also ended up being champions of the state for the first time, they won the title after beating arch-rivals Sorrento away from home. A great achievement by the club and coach Paul Simmons considering the club was playing social league football only five years earlier.
The early 2000's saw the team finish mid-table, however the club won major honours again in 2002, winning the State Cup for a second time after beating Future Glory 2-1. In 2005, Joondalup had a difficult year, ending in eleventh position and were not safe from relegation until the last day. The first team continued to have up and down seasons during the following ten years, finishing as high as fifth in 2010 under Steve Amphlett, but also as low as eleventh in 2008. Eric Williams, Stuart Currie, John Brown, Willie McNally, Chris Nicholson, Alan Vest, Steve Amphlett, Paul Simmons and Salv Todaro all coached during this period, and it wasn't until 2013 when there was some stability in this role when Dale McCulloch took over as senior coach during the 2013 season and ended up in eighth spot. The club's very own juniors has also started to make a big impact since moving to the campus, being one of the most successful junior clubs in Perth.
New coach Dale McCulloch had a difficult next two seasons, with eighth and tenth placed finishes, but 2016 marked a big improvement at the campus, with Joondalup in the title hunt until near the end of the season, and finished third, only two points behind the champions, which was their best season since their 1999 state title. The club had sixth placed finishes in 2017 and 2018, before a relegation scare in 2019 when Joondalup ended up being four points clear of bottom placed Stirling Lions.
2020 is hoped to be a big improvement by all at ECU Joondalup. The club signed former Perth Glory head coach Kenny Lowe as their new first team boss, and with a number of new signings expect many wins at the campus this season.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS
Premier League winners - 1999
First Division winners - 1996
Cup winners - 1998, 2002
Night Series runners-up - 2007, 2011
In this time of upheaval with the COVID-19 around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the football season given the go-head by the governing body for the end of the month. We’ve been doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with past-players, coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s tenth ‘In conversation’ we catch up with new Sorrento midfielder Clark Keltie.
Keltie was a trainee at Sunderland as a youngster, before joining Darlington in 2001 and went on to play over 240 games for the Quakers. He joined Rochdale in 2008, before spells at Lincoln City, Icelandic Premier League sides Þór Akureyri and Víkingur Ólafsvík. He then headed to Western Australia in 2013 and joined Perth Soccer Club helping them to the 2016 NPLWA title, before stints at Bayswater City, Gwelup Croatia and now at Sorrento.
The 36-year-old, like all football players around the world is happy to have the game back, and ready for a re-start on July 4 when his new club Sorrento travel to Rockingham in the opening NPLWA fixture. “As every footballer will tell you, there are many highs and lows throughout your career but I’ve experienced nothing quite like this,” he said. “It's been a challenging few months that’s for sure, especially with the uncertainty of it all but we have to look at the positives in that there will be a season going ahead soon.”
In 2017 it looked like the football career of Keltie might come to an end after a troublesome foot injury saw him away from the game for two seasons. “At the start of that season I was having some pain in my right foot and it wasn’t going away,” he explained. “I played the first three games and then an MRI scan showed I had a navicular stress fracture. I had surgery three times on the foot including screws and bones grafts. It was an awful two years for me personally and obviously I’m not getting any younger, and I was unsure if I’d be able to play again, thankfully I’ve healed well and ready for my next challenge.”
Keltie left Perth and headed to Chris Coyne’s Bayswater City, but things didn’t go to plan and injuries curtailed his opportunity at Frank Drago Reserve. He then joined State League Division One leaders Gwelup Croatia in the middle of the season and helped the club to the title. “Yes, it didn’t work out well for me at Bayswater as my body kept breaking down after the recovery from the injury,” he said.
“I was one week away from starting the night series and tore my quad, and then again just before the start of the season. An incredibly frustrating time and with visa spots and the points system being so valuable, I had to give up my position. Then Gwelup contacted me at the half way stage of the season and I was eager for a fresh start and an opportunity to work with Taki (Nicolaidis) again. It was a decision that paid off well, as the club went on to win the league and go into the NPL for the first time in their history.”
In 2020 it’s a new challenge for Keltie, and when Jamie Harnwell called it was an easy decision to head north. “Sorrento are obviously a well-known and well-established club here in WA, coupled with the fact Jamie is in charge, it was an opportunity I was keen to explore, and the chips and gravy aren’t bad either,” he joked. “We haven’t really been able to get going yet, but I’m optimistic we can give it a decent crack this year. I was unavailable last week when we had a friendly against Floreat Athena but it sounded like a good workout for the side."
BELT UP AMATEUR LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION - ROUND ONE PREVIEW
Football is back this weekend with the Belt-Up Amateur Premier League kicking off on Sunday and our ‘Match of the Round’ takes as to John Connell Reserve where Leeming Strikers host newly promoted Queens Park (3.00pm). Leeming finished last season well winning six of the last seven games to finish fifth, and player/coach David Palin said they are looking forward to get back into action. “The restart has gone really well for us, numbers have been really strong at training, and even with a two month pause the boys have come back and hit the ground running which has helped us continue working on our game plan and structures quickly which will hopefully help,” he explained.
“We were lucky to get two good games in last week against Southern Spirit and Balga, both games provided good tests, all the guys got 90 minutes heading into this week’s game so we feel ready to go. It’s been a relief not only for our club but everyone involved in football to be back and playing. It’s been a strange time and to have the normality back of football has been a real positive. Football West come under a lot of scrutiny at times, but they deserve a lot of credit in hard times to have the competitions up and running so quickly, the referees have taken a hit to their pocket to assist clubs financially which I think is a great gesture and help. It just shows how strong the football community is, and how desperate everyone is to get back out there for the season.”
Palin said he’s watch Sunday’s opponents and they look a good side, and he knows his team need to be at their best. “Apart from winning the league as an indicator I didn't know too much about Queens Park, but I went and watched them against East Perth and they looked like a side that could definitely play and will cause sides problems this year, so we will have to be on our toes and ready to play on Sunday,” he explained. “With the delayed start the excitement levels of going out there this weekend is probably higher than any other first game of the season that I can remember, the boys can't wait. The season is a little shorter but the prize is still the same, were ready as a team and hopefully we can start with three points on Sunday.”
Queens Park won the Amateur Division One by seven points from Maddington White City, with both sides replacing Belmont Villa and Ellenbrook United in the amateur top flight. Head Coach Ricardo Fynn said it’s been all systems go since the announcement of the restart. “The club are relieved to be returning to competitive football. Although we understand that promotion and relegation is off the table, we still want the lads to be competitive and put their best foot forward,” he said. “Our restart has been positive, but our preparations have been challenging with losing a couple of players to state league clubs, but we are also excited about some players who have come on board, particularly the younger players.”
They prepared for the league campaign with a game against Stirling Panthers last week and Fynn said it was a good workout. On the weekend we played a Panthers team that was very organised and competitive,” he said. “To be fare we were outplayed in the opening 30 minutes and went 2-0 down, but we re-grouped and in the second half we settled and ended scoring three goals and should have got more, nothing separated the teams and perhaps a fairer reflection would of been a draw.”
Fynn knows they will be up against it this season but he said they are ready for the fight. “We have lots of work ahead of us,” he said. “We play the best five times in the premier league twice and to kick off against Leeming is the best fixture for us to cut our teeth. We know the class and pedigree we face in Leeming, but it's a game that I'm looking forward to and one that the boys are certainly looking forward to testing themselves against a proven Leeming outfit.”
The other promoted team, Maddington White City, make the trip to Woodville Reserve for the early game, when they take on one of the favourites for the title, North Perth United. (1.00pm) North Perth Head Coach Alex Carter said a number of people have written off their chances of the title, but is happy just to back on the park, this after a flying start to the Night Series. “For us the Covid-19 break couldn’t have come at a worse time, as we were flying during the night series and had a fully fit squad with very little injuries,” he said. “I know a lot of people are the local football scene have written off NPU in 2020, so we will be motivated by that to prove to people that we can again, be up there challenging with basically a whole new squad.”
Carter said Maddington will be a good side this season, but hopes his players can get their season off with a win. “Like most, we have had to treat the resumption like a new preseason, but the boys are buzzing for the round 1 kick off against newly promoted Maddington,” he said. “I watched them a few times during night series, and a Cesar had them well tuned. It will be a fierce contest no doubt and we will be looking to making Woodville a very tough place to come play football once again.”
All other games in round one kick off at 3.00pm, and South West Phoenix begin life in the league with a trip to Carine Open Space to take on Hamersley Rovers, Jaguar entertain UWA Nedlands at Herb Graham Recreation Centre, while Kwinana United host Wembley Downs at Kelly Park. In the final game it’s a local derby when Joondalup United host Quinns at Beldon Park. Joondalup took on Curtin in a friendly last week and coach Neil Sherwin said it was good to get back to competitive football but need to improve.
“It was nice to get a win over Curtin who are a good young side, scoring five goals is always confidence boost and we could've had a few more. However, we were sloppy at times and got punished so we'll need to tighten up at the back heading into the league season,” he explained. “Our new signings are starting to get on the same wavelength in the final third and we've the ability to play some really nice football. Competition for places is very high which is a nice headache to have as a coach.”
Sherwin said games against Quinns are always competitive, and he is expecting more of the same on Sunday. “We're happy to have Quinns twice this season because the lads love playing in the derbies and both sides know each other very well,” he said. “We haven't picked up enough points against them in recent years and they're probably favourites for the title, so we have a couple of big incentives to put in a performance and start the season with a win. I'm expecting a physical contest and if both teams play to their potential then it'll be a great spectacle for anyone who comes down to Beldon Park to watch.”
JONES REJECTS AL NASSR EXTENSION
Goalkeeper Brad Jones has rocked Saudi Arabia champions Al Nassr by rejecting a contract extension according to sources at the club. The 38-year old veteran has been the top performing number one in the country since arriving from Feyenoord in 2018, playing a major role in the Riyadh club’s title success last season and the club’s defence this year.
Jones’ two-year deal expires at the end of this month but the season - which still has eight games to be played - is currently postponed and is expected to be finished in September. The club has offered an extension to 5 October but the former Socceroo reportedly wants a one-year deal as leaving later this year would mean most transfer windows around the world will be closed.
“Many clubs in Saudi Arabia are facing this problem especially with foreign players,” a Al Nassr source said. “If they stay until the end of the season then they will find it hard to move elsewhere and it can be a dilemma for all parties. He (Jones) is the best goalkeeper in the league and it is vital that he stays until the end of the season if Al Nassr are going to win.”
With eight league games to play, Al Nassr, who have conceded the least amount of goals in the league with Jones keeping 11 clean sheets, are in second place six points behind leaders Al Hilal. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation advised clubs last week that players whose contracts expire at the end of the month must be offered extensions or new deals before being able to train ahead of the planned 4 August league resumption.
GLORY AIM TO BECOME A-LEAGUE ROAD WARRIORS
Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic is adamant the team can still walk away with this season's A-League title despite being dealt a short straw on the fixture front. Glory will be forced to play their remaining six regular-season fixtures in the eastern states due to Western Australia's hard border shutdown.
Popovic has faith that his team can win the A-League title. "Can we still win it? Yeah, nothing will change from our perspective in terms of going there to win it," Popovic said. "We want to win. We're not going to dwell on the fact we're not going to have a home game."
"We've accepted it. We'll go there and view it in a positive manner and try to make it as comfortable and enjoyable for the players as possible. If they can go out on the field every day with a smile on their face - we have talented players and we want them to shine in this period."
The remaining 27 matches of the home-and-away season will be packed into a 28-day period before launching into the finals series. Glory, who are currently four points adrift of fourth-placed Brisbane Roar but have two games in hand, will play an average of one game every four or five days.
Popovic says the loaded schedule is something the players crave. "This is what they've always dreamed of," Popovic said. "They always tell us that they'd love to play three games a week, they'd love to experience the European culture of playing 40 to 50 games a year. They'll experience that now in a short period."
IREDALE BACK HOME AFTER CARLISLE EXIT
Former Perth Glory and ECU Joondalup defender Jack Iredale has headed back to Perth after the English League Two season was ended prematurely. The 24-year-old has been back in Perth for a couple of months after Carlisle’s season, like all football around the globe was put into lockdown, and he said it’s been good to have a break in the midst of the COVID-19 chaos. “It’s been bad in the UK, so it was good to get home and spend some quality time with my family and friends, especially after three seasons over there,” he explained. “I was in constant contact with my family and Jon McKain from the PFA in Australia regarding the situation of borders closing, but to be fair the club (Carlisle) were fantastic with allowing me to come back home which was the safest option for me.”
Iredale was born in Scotland in 1996 and moved to New Zealand before headed to Perth. He played his early years at Perth Glory, after a stint at the AIS in Canberra. He was frustrated not to be given an opportunity in the A-League with Glory so decided to head overseas for trials. He spent two months at ECU Joondalup in the NPL before signing for Scottish Division Two side Greenock Morton in 2017. He played 37 times for the Cappielow Park side, and also went on loan to Queens Park, then in 2019 English League Two side Carlisle United signed the talented defender.
It was another step up for the defender, but he enjoyed his time at Carlisle, and said it was hard work, but he enjoyed every minute of it. The club announced last week that ten players were to be released when their contracts end at the close of June. Along with Iredale were Adam Collin, Kelvin Etuhu, Louis Gray, Mike Jones, Keighran Kerr, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Harry McKirdy, Mo Sagaf and Stefan Scougall.
Carlisle Chief executive Nigel Clibbens told the club website: “The normal end-of-season process for contracts has been thrown into confusion, which is unsettling for players and difficult for clubs and coaches. Discussions have taken place between the PFA and the EFL about extending the deadline for notifying players to late June to try help deal with this, but so much remains unclear. We are releasing our information now, even though every player remains furloughed – but under contract – until 30 June.”
Iredale said he is looking to head back to the UK when the 2020-2021 season is sorted out and has a few irons in the fire. “Unfortunately, my time at Brunton Park has come to end, but that’s football. A change of coach didn’t help my causes and the coronavirus has hit all lower league clubs hard,” he said. “There’s been contact with a couple of clubs in the UK, but it’s a hard situation with them not knowing many details about next season making it difficult to plan.”
“It was a huge opportunity for me and it was a big challenge. A typical day there would consist of training in the morning, a possible gym session in the early afternoon and then would find ways to stay occupied whether it was going to get food or chilling out. I’ve kept myself fit back in Perth thanks to the Boys at 2hfd. I’ve really starting to ramp up training and get back into daily sessions with them. Trying to kick a ball as much as possible too, and once I go back to the UK, I’ll be ready to go.”
A-LEAGUE TO RETURN ON JULY 16 AS GLORY HIT THE TRACK
With the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season resuming on Thursday 16 July, Perth Glory hit the training track for the first time since the league was shut down on March 21, as they prepare for the resumption. Glory Head Coach Tony Popovic is adamant that his squad are relishing the prospect of a busy fixture schedule.
With six regular-season games to complete the Glory are currently fifth spot on the table, and are likely to be in action every three or four days in what is shaping up to be a thrilling sprint towards the finals. Speaking ahead of Thursday's return to full training, the Head Coach asserted that the games coming thick and fast will be welcome news for his players.
"This is what they've [the players] always dreamed of," he said. "They always tell us that they'd love to play three games a week and experience that European culture of playing 40 to 50 games a year and they'll experience it now in a short period. I think if you asked all the players, they'd be excited by that. Playing games one after the other is something that all footballers enjoy.
"We'll do whatever we can as a football club to best prepared on and off the park to give ourselves a chance of competing with the best and winning games. We have six games remaining, so along with three other clubs, we have the most games to play. The whole squad will be important, but the squad's always been important for us and it'll probably come to the fore in this period. We certainly won't be match-fit going into Round One, but neither will our opponent, so we'll just be the best prepared we can be and go out there with the mindset of winning a game of football."
Melbourne Victory v Western United at AAMI Park is the first-up fixture, with full details of the other games expected to be published shortly. FFA's Head of Leagues, Greg O'Rourke, explained that there are multiple draw options still being considered due to the possibility of border and travel restrictions being further eased in the coming weeks. But he went on to confirm that regardless of any such easing of restrictions, Glory and Wellington Phoenix will both play out their remaining fixtures in New South Wales.
"We have developed multiple draw options for the completion of the regular season," he said. "All options commence with Victory taking on Western United at AAMI Park followed by a game between the table topping Sydney FC against third-placed Wellington Phoenix at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium the following day. The reason for having multiple draw options – which our clubs are across – is due to the fact that over the next few weeks there may be additional relaxations in border restrictions and travel movements in Australia, which may enable our clubs from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia to remain and play in their home cities, rather than relocating to New South Wales to complete the season.
"Regardless of which option we ultimately take, Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory FC understand that they will complete the remainder of their regular season matches in New South Wales, with games to be played at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah, and McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. We are confident that we will be able to release the revised draw for the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season soon."
O'Rourke also confirmed that FFA's discussions with long-term partner and host broadcaster Fox Sports regarding arrangements for the coverage of the remaining games are ongoing and that there is a possibility of fans being allowed to attend. "Last Friday our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that Stadiums with capacities of 40,000 people or fewer could be permitted to host up to 10,000 people," he said. "We will continue to work closely with the Federal and State Governments, as well as our venues, to consider how we can accommodate as many club members and fans as possible at matches when the competition resumes.
"With our Finals Series still the best part of two months away, we are keen to keep our options and thinking open regarding how and where that may be held. Leading our decision-making in August be how we may be able to maximise the experience for members, fans, and commercial and broadcast partners, and rewarding the club that wins the right to host the Grand Final, subject to travel restrictions at the time."
Glory’s squad is assembling ahead of the big kick off but is still short of some of their imports, and Popovic went on to express his delight at seeing the squad at Glory HQ to begin their preparations for the season resumption in earnest. "Three months is a long time not to see the players and have a training session," he said, "but we all understand that COVID was something which affected the world and we have to be grateful that we've come out the other side where we can start moving forward.
"We're all happy and relieved that we're now at this point where we can back to what we love doing. Being back here today is a happy feeling for everyone. We'll enjoy working hard together and look forward to an exciting month ahead in Sydney." The Head Coach confirmed that James Meredith will return to training shortly after completing his quarantine and that fellow-defender Osama Malik has recovered from injury.
TAGGART HITS BACK WITH GOAL
Socceroos and former Perth Glory striker Adam Taggart was the toast of the K-League last season becoming the top scorer in the competition for Suwon Bluewings, but it’s been a different story in 2020 for the 27-year-old. His club are hovering just above the relegation zone and he came under fire from the club supporters after showing displeasure after being subbed in the clubs 2-2 draw with Gangwon on Saturday.
But Taggart, who spent two spells at Glory, hit back on Tuesday evening scoring his first goal of the season to help the Bluewings to a valuable three points in a 2-0 win against Seongnam. But his disappointment of being subbed off at half-time by under-pressure boss Lee Lim-saeng in Saturday’s defeat, the striker made headlines in the South Korean media as he watched the second half from the empty stands at Suwon World Cup Stadium, an action that was interpreted by some as showing displeasure at the substitution.
Taggart said it was not the case. “I want to apologies to fans for my wrong action in sitting in the stands in the second half of the last game,” Taggart said in a message written in Korean on social media. “In Australia, it is no problem to shower then sit in the stands if you are taken off at half-time but I didn’t know that it was different in Korea and I made a mistake. I didn’t mean any disrespect.”
Reaction seemed to be mixed among Suwon fans with some criticizing Taggart’s action but plenty of concern that coach Lee, who said after the game that he replaced the Australian for tactical reasons, seems unable to get the best out of the top striker in the league last season. Taggart has said he would love to try his chances in Europe again, this after a stint at Fulham in 2014, has been monitored by big-spending Chinese and Middle Eastern clubs, has been hauled off in five of the six games so far this campaign and came on in the second half in the other.
On Saturday the Socceroo striker watched on as Kim Min-woo’s late strike against Gangwon gave Suwon a much-needed point. But he would have put a smile on the Bluewings supporters faces when he scored the opener on Tuesday, with Min-Woo adding the second in a 2-0 win. Taggart and his coach know they are in fight to avoid relegation, but both are confident they can avoid the drop. “We are going through a difficult time at the moment and we are trying to do our best to get back to winning ways,” Taggart added. “I love and respect Suwon fans.”
Kim said after Saturday’s draw that Taggart just needs a goal, and he obliged on Tuesday, sweeping home clinically after been sent clear. “His goalscoring instinct is there in training and it just seems like he is feeling the pressure a little mentally,” Kim said. “If he scores just one then that burden will lift and Taggart will be back to his old self.” We all hope he is especially Socceroos coach Graham Arnold.
FFA PAY GLORY PLAYER DEBTS
The A-League’s plans to restart the season next month have been overshadowed by the revelation that Football Federation Australia has been forced to loan Perth Glory a substantial sum to clear its debts to its players. As the league announced its first two fixtures of a whistlestop schedule to complete the campaign, the precarious nature of some clubs’ finances meant a number of players will have to wait days to be paid.
Perth chief executive Tony Pignata told 'The Australian' newspaper that his players would receive their entitlements on Wednesday now that money had been loaned from FFA. It is understood Glory owe a significant portion of the near $1m in leave, superannuation and other matters that the clubs had promised to clear by Wednesday under the short-term pay deal struck to finish the season.
Privately several A-League clubs have noted that they have to pay entitlements to players despite reduced TV income and the loss of gate takings and match-day income. A number of clubs have received loans from FFA in the past to cover cashflow problems. The 2019/20 A-League season is scheduled to resume on 16 July.
CLUB IN PROFILE - DIANELLA WHITE EAGLES SOCCER CLUB
Dianella White Eagles was founded in 1978 as Mount Lawley Serbia. The club entered the Amateur Soccer Association where it had immediate success when it won the Amateur Consolation Cup that season.
The committee decided to enter the old Fourth Division of the semi-professional league the following year, and in it's very first season as a professional outfit, the club finished in sixth spot under coach M.Rnjak and had some of the biggest crowds in the division.
It wasn't until 1983 when the club won it's first promotion, with Vlada Velickovic as coach. After a season long tussle with Fremantle Benfica, the club had to settle for the runners-up position, and were promoted. Dianella also won the Top Four Cup and had Allan Halliday as top goalscorer with twenty-two goals.
The club initially found the going tough in what would now be called Division Two. After a ninth spot finish it 1984, Serbia were lucky not to be relegated when they ended up in eleventh position in 1985.
1987 was a big year for the club, when they moved to their current ground at Dianella Reserve, with their own licensed clubrooms. The club also changed their name to Dianella Serbia. On the pitch, it wasn't until 1990, when Dianella were once again promoted. Neil Blunt became the division's top goal scorer with thirty-four goals and helped Dianella to runners-up in the league.
In 1991, Dianella were in Division One for the first time in their history, and under coach Gerry Wardle, they had a great first season. Finishing in sixth spot with Neil Cooke scoring twenty-four goals along the way. But it was to get much better for the club. The following year they finished in fourth spot under Mike Leigh before Peter Swain took them to their first ever league title and promotion to the Premier League.
Dianella finally made the big time in 1994, but with four teams going down it was set to be a tough first year, with the club going straight back down. The following season back in Division One Mike Brazil took over, and the club also decided to change their name from Dianella Serbia to Dianella White Eagles.
In 1996, Jeff Faulkner was head coach and they ended up in the top four. With the top flight being expanded this meant Dianella was back in the Premier League, but unfortunately once again it didn't last long in the big league, this time lasting just two seasons.
Veselin Zmukic would start his first stint as coach in 1999, and the club from this period to 2012 finished anywhere from third to tenth spot in Division One. Taki Lambetsos, Petar Drca, Jimmy Pearson, Glyn Shaw, Marc Wingell and Jamie Goodman all coached the club at various stages.
It wasn't until 2013 that Dianella had their first serious chance of the title since they won it twenty years earlier. The club had to win their last game away to arch rivals the Western Knights to win the championship. But it wasn't to be, after a 2-0 loss, Dianella had to settle for runners-up. The following year there was a big change in fortune with many players leaving, Dianella ended up second from bottom but stayed up after winning the relegation/promotion play-offs.
The following years Dianella had up and down seasons, and this finally led to relegation in 2018. This meant that Dianella would be in Division Two for the first time in twenty-nine years, and it didn't get an easier with Dianella only finishing one spot from bottom and just avoiding relegation to the Amateur League.
Dianella hope to have a much brighter year in 2020 with new coach Rod Banjac who has had success with Forrestfield United in recent seasons.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division winners - 1993
First Division runners-up - 2013
Second Division runners-up - 1990
Third Division runners-up - 1983
Night Series Lower Division runners-up - 2015
A-LEAGUE SET FOR RESTART
It looks like Perth Glory will continue their Hyundai A-League season after Football Federation Australia today issued the following statement regarding the extension of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season:
Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced that an extension of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season until 31 August 2020, had been finalised following extensive discussions with the Hyundai A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).
FFA Chief Executive James Johnson acknowledged the agreement and said "I’d like to thank the players and clubs for their commitment to re-starting the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season. These are extremely challenging times and I’d like to acknowledge the leadership shown by all to ensure our loyal supporters across Australia will be able to see their favourite teams back in action again soon.
"When the A-League was suspended on 24 March, our players had been paid for the full ten months of the season equating to 83% of their contracted salaries. Our players have shown great solidarity and have agreed to take a reduction in pay for the additional three months of the season to ensure that it can be completed.
"We have all had to readjust to this new landscape and this has meant coming together to make sacrifices for the greater good of the game. The resumption of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season is another step forward for the reactivation of football, and we look forward to a return to training and competitive action,” Johnson added.
Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA) Chairman Paul Lederer said he was excited that professional football is now set to return. "This is really great news for football fans across Australia, and I am so pleased that their patience has been rewarded, and they will soon get to experience what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season.
"The clubs are very excited to get playing again, and to be able to deliver the game to our wonderful football community, especially at a time when grassroots football competition will be back in action.”
FFA Head of Leagues Greg O’Rourke was also delighted with the agreement, and said “We’d like to acknowledge the executives of the PFA and Hyundai A-League clubs for their collaboration and work in getting this deal done to take us through to the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season. We can now focus on the testing of all players for COVID-19 before a return to training for the clubs this week. We look forward to continuing discussions with our broadcast partners regarding broadcast details of all matches."
FFA will announce details of the revised draw for the remaining 27 matches of the regular season shortly, which will be contested over a period of 28 days, plus the five Final Series matches. It’s still unsure if Glory will play in a hub in Sydney, but it looks like they will until the WA borders are opened.
PRE-SEASON GAMES THIS WEEKEND
Football is back, and with the league season just around the corner most clubs played pre-season friendlies this weekend. With the exception of League Champions Perth SC, Perth Glory and Inglewood United the rest of the NPL clubs all had good hit outs as they prepare for the season opener.
Bayswater City made the trip to Nash Field to take on Western Knights and Chris Coyne’s side came away with a 4-0 win with goals from Daryl Nicol, Jason Mirco and new signings Gomo Dukuly and Luke Salmon. Armadale were also on the road, and they came home from the Ashfield Arena with a 2-0 win against Ashfield with Angel Andres and Roberto Soares scoring.
It was an all NPL game at Percy Doyle Reserve with Floreat Athena beating hosts Sorrento 2-1. Chris Saldaris and Ludovic Boi were on target for Athena, while trialist Zdenek Bezdek scored for the Gulls. Balcatta made the short trip to Macedonia Park and beat Stirling Lions 3-0. On target for Bobby Taneski’s side were Roberto del Borrello, Jonathan Corness and Alex Castiello.
ECU Joondalup hosted Joondalup City in a local derby at the ECU Football Stadium and won 3-1. The visitors lead at the break with a great strike from Jonny Hulme, but second half goals from Riley Warland, Ben Hinshelwood and Ethan Brooks gave Kenny Lowe’s side the win.
Newly-promoted Gwelup Croatia traveled to Grandis Park to take on Carramar Shamrock Rovers, and left with a 4-0 win. Taki Nicolaidis’ side were ahead early when Hasani Sinclair scored from the penalty spot, but the home side had a perfect opportunity to level when they were awarded a penalty but Lachy Parker saw his spot kick crash off the post.
The visitors doubled their lead on the half hour with Daniel Stynes on target, and after the break Stynes bagged two more to complete his hat-trick and give Gwelup a comfortable win. Rockingham City were also in the winners’ circle with a 6-0 win against Curtin University at Lark Hill. Former Mandurah City player/coach Alex Grayson bagged four, with others to Luke Collins and Jethro Yumange.
In other games on the weekend Canning City beat Fremantle City 2-1 at Hilton Park. Canning skipper Sam Loveless and Ryan Moran were on target for Chris Finlayson’s side, while James Harmer scored for the hosts. Quinns FC beat Wanneroo City 1-0 with Richard Howles scoring the decisive goal from a free kick.
Joondalup United edged out new state league side Kingsley Westside 2-1 at Beldon Park. Jamie Gibson and Jay Lang scored for the hosts, while Joel Gillespie was on target for the visitors. Swan United hosted Morley Windmills at Swan View Park and the visitors ran out 3-1 winners. Scott Wrightson bagged a brace for Morley with the other from Abu Dulleh, while Chris Marshall scored for Swan.
Balga hosted Amateur Premier League side Leeming Strikers at Princess Road Reserve and they fought out an entertaining 2-2 draw. Kristen Despotovski opened the scoring for the hosts before David Palin levelled for the Strikers. Balga regained the lead before the break with Jake Verini scoring from the spot, but Ben Greaves leveled to give both sides a share of the spoils.
WA FOOTBALL IS COMING HOME
After a number of years of uncertainty Football in Western Australia is celebrating following today’s announcement from WA Premier Mark McGowan that the State Government has pledged the $16.25 million balance to build a State Football Centre at Queens Park, in the City of Canning. The news, which comes just a week out from the start of the 2020 season, guarantees the sport in WA will have its own Home of Football for the first time.
“The World Game has been without a ‘home’ for too long here in Western Australia,” McGowan said. “The facility will cater for all levels of football, from grassroots community programs to high-performance games and be the best place for elite training. When complete, this Centre will help develop WA’s next stars of the game, like Trent Sainsbury and Sam Kerr. We look forward to collaborating with Football West, the Federal Government and the City of Canning, to get this project under way as soon as possible, to help support WA jobs and the COVID-19 economic recovery.”
The WA Government’s financial commitment matches that from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and will ensure Stage one of the Home of Football can now be constructed. Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray said it is a great initiative for football in WA and will help inspire our next generation of talent. “The State Football Centre is a project that has been spoken about for decades and finally it is becoming a reality,” he said. “Football is the most popular team-based competitive sport in WA, with more than 45 per cent growth in participants since 2006. Football West has been advocating for investment in administrative and training headquarters to support this growth, which the McGowan Government is pleased to support.”
Football West Chairman Sherif Andrawes said the new Home of Football would benefit all of the sport in Western Australia. “We are delighted with today’s news and grateful to the Premier and his Government because we know how much a Home of Football will mean to football in WA – it is a game changer,” Andrawes said. “Football in WA has waited a long time for a home for football, but we have kept believing and now WA football has its reward. Football West would like to thank both levels of Government and the City of Canning for their support. This is a day of celebration. The facility will be a Centre of Excellence for our talent squads and a home for our community football programs, referees, regions and coaches.”
The State Government-led project is set to be completed in time for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which Australia and New Zealand are bidding to jointly host. FIFA will make its final decision on the winning bid on June 25 this year. Football West CEO James Curtis also hailed today’s announcement and the importance the facility will play as part of a successful 2023 Women’s World Cup bid. “We saw this week that FIFA rate the Australia-New Zealand bid very highly and if it does come Down Under,” he said. “Perth will be at the forefront to host matches simply because we’ll have the Home of Football. You can only imagine how many millions a World Cup in our own backyard will inspire.”
The facility will also attract serious overseas investment through training camps and exchanges trips leveraging off Football West’s successful Asian Engagement Strategy as well as play host to visiting sides such as Chelsea and Manchester United when they come to town. “That revenue will be pumped back in to the sport in Western Australia and will be hugely important for our clubs because the money generated will help us provide assistance and reduce the burden on clubs, players and the broader football community,” Curtis added
“The knock-on effect of that is facilities elsewhere will improve. We also know that if we are able to host events such as international youth tournaments, the benefits on both the tourism front and in sports diplomacy are immense. We have seen that from our own experiences of sending teams to Asia. On the back of this announcement, a strong bid and only days away from kicking-off for our competitions across Western Australia, it’s a great time to be involved in football in Western Australia.”
State Football Centre Fact File – 1) Provide a location for high-performance training, community programs and house Football West’s administration facilities. 2) Be capable of accommodating up to 700 spectators through permanent seating on a regular basis with the ability to expand capacity up to 4,000 spectators through temporary seating. 3) Include two pitches capable of high-performance and high-intensity usage, including supporting infrastructure such as change rooms and a gym. 4) Include the future provision for accommodating an A-League franchise. 5) Will be able to host State, national and international competition as well as provide a location for high-performance training for visiting international teams. 6) Include a sports science component to support player, coach and referee development programs. 7) Deliver a demonstrable project in keeping with the environmental sensitivities associated with the site. 8) Deliver a project that is consistent with the master planning of the surrounding Queens Park Open Space.
In this time of upheaval with the COVID-19 around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the football season given the go-head by the governing body for the end of the month. We’ve been doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with past-players, coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s ninth ‘In conversation’ we catch up Northern Redbacks Head Coach Conrad McKelvie.
McKelvie played his junior football in WA, progressing to playing Metro League for UWA Nedlands for many years eventually turning to coaching when he seriously injured his knee. He coached the UWA Metro team to the title before taking over the reins of the women's team at the club for about 10 years, before he made the move to the Redbacks.
The women’s game in Australia has gone through the roof with the success of the Matildas and the continued rise of the W-League, and McKelvie said it’s great for women’s football in Australia. “The Matilda's success has been fantastic, and the W-league is a great outlet, but we have a long way to go in women's football,” he explained. “Growing the W-League season length is one I believe they should look at, and making sure, that we continue to grow the game locally is paramount.”
He said there is another opportunity to raise the profile of the game in Australia with the joint FIFA World Cup bid with New Zealand, and if win the bid he believes it will lift the women’s game to another level. “Absolutely, having any high-profile football competition in the public eye is fantastic and better still a great opportunity for the current generation of Matildas to achieve success,” McKelvie said. “However, we need to make sure that whatever gains are made in the form of the profile of the game, translates to local clubs, otherwise it's just an opportunity wasted.”
Talking of the local game McKelvie said the COVID-19 has put the game on the back foot, but with the new NPLW entering its first season, he and the club are excited to be part of it. “I'm excited about the NPLW if only because the game at the top level has been crying out for a more professional approach for years,” he said. “There will no doubt be teething problems, but I know that all the clubs are working extremely hard to be ready. The COVID-19 hasn’t helped but the club have been great.
“The management team at our club has kept in touch with the players individually to make sure they were handling social distancing and restrictions. Obviously, it was a trying time and football takes a back seat to whether your players are OK. From a conditioning point of view, they had a program to follow while they were away from football, as we ramp up preparations for our first game of the season against Subiaco on July 5.”
The Redbacks are one of the most successful women’s club in the state, winning nine league title in the last 20 years and they will be one of the teams in the running this season, although McKelvie believes the league will be tight in its inaugural season. “We always work hard to compete every season, this one will be an interesting season, more of a sprint than a marathon, which will make it very interesting,” he said. “I think half the clubs will be in contention for the league title this season which will be fantastic for the game that has been dominated by a small group of clubs for a long time.”
McKelvie has worked with and against some quality players in his time in WA football, and he said to pick the best was a tough choice. “Firstly, the best player I coached would have to be Demi Vance,” he said. “She has represented Northern Ireland at full international level and is currently playing for Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. She played three seasons for Redbacks and she was supremely talented technically and had a fantastic attitude, one of the best wingers the league has ever seen in my opinion.
“The best player that I’ve coached against is a real difficult one, but there are two players that always stand out for me amongst the current crop of players. Firstly, Shannon May. She is an underrated player at W-League level and it's been great to see her finally given a long run anchoring the midfield for Perth Glory. She is always a threat you have to be aware of because she is one of those talented individuals that can just bring a whole team together through her positioning and vision.
“Another player who always causes the opposition headaches is Kat Jukic. I think she is one of the most technically talented players WA has produced, and without a doubt one of the most dangerous players, and we found out on a number of occasions you cannot switch off for a second when she is on the pitch.”
MACIAS BACK IN THE US AND READY TO PLAY
Former Armadale striker Uriel Macias is going to have to wait a little longer to represent northeast Indiana again, after COVID-19 curtailed his plans. The West Noble graduate was set to play for Fort Wayne FC in its inaugural season in the Great Lakes Conference of the National Premier Soccer League this year, but the league cancelled its 2020 season for all of its conferences on March 26 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Macias, was playing in for the Reds when Fort Wayne FC was officially announced, but he was hoping to stay at Alfred Skeet Reserve for another year, but he got a little homesick and wanted to find a team he could play for that was closer to his hometown of Ligonier. “A lot of my friends were tagging me in posts and sending me messages that they were making a team in Fort Wayne and that I should play for them,” Macias explained.
Before heading down under, Macias played for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the USL Championship, which is in the second tier of the American soccer pyramid. “When I was playing in Colorado with the Switchbacks, I was a little homesick but not much because all of the guys there, their main job was soccer. I was friends with them. I hung out with them, so it wasn’t that bad,” Macias said.
“In Australia, a lot of the other players their second job was soccer, and their first was the one where they made the most income in. I was just there on soccer income. During the day, I was gone most of the time because I didn’t have a side job or anything. So, I was alone all day because the guys were working and I would go on little trips to explore Australia by myself. I think that’s what got me the most, because I was by myself most of the time, so I was like, ‘I think I want something a little closer to home, a little more close-knit.”
Macias played 13 NPL games for the Reds and bagged four goals, and while in Perth stopped with Reds Senior Coach John O’Reilly, who said he was a perfect guest and one hell of a player. “He was a good lad and he gave me the best recipe for homemade authentic Mexican tacos,” Reilly explained. “As a player he came with a really professional attitude. He would arrive early and leave last, and always wanting to hit shots after training, which in turn encourage other players to get on board. His fitness was low when he arrived due to being off season in the U.S, but he worked hard to get it back and this showed in the last seven games, which was our turning point in survival last year. His hat trick against Cockburn City was down to the hard work he had been putting in.”
Although it was lonely at times, Macias said he did enjoy himself in Australia and he hopes he can do it again.. “The guys were great. The team was good. We had a couple of rough patches, but it was a great time,” Macias said. “I would love to go back and explore again.” Before his trials for Fort Wayne FC, Macias went to a couple of trials for teams in the USL. He said those didn’t go too well. That’s when Fort Wayne FC general manager Greg Mauch called him to come to an invite-only trial.
However, a week before the trial with Fort Wayne FC, Macias had another trial with a team in Michigan. If he would have been picked up by them, then he wouldn’t have gone to Fort Wayne, but he got injured and it allowed him to make the move to a team closer to home. A week after he scored two or three goals at the Fort Wayne FC tryout, Macias was offered a contract. “I was pretty excited. I’d finally get to represent the 260. That was cool to come back where I played before,” Macias said. “Everyone seemed nice. It seemed like it was going to be a good team, we we're all going to have a lot of fun and hopefully show out.
It’s going to be a long time before Macias and the rest of the Fort Wayne FC play their first match together. Macias said he’s going to stay in the area and play in another league to keep in shape. “I was pretty bummed out. I was ready to get out there and show the team what I could do, show the fans what I could do and have a good season as a team,” Macias said. “I wanted to be a part of this team and be a part of this family.” During his time with the Chargers, he scored 112 goals in 53 matches with IUPUI, he scored 15 goals and four assists.
O’NEILL REFLECTS ON 'UNBELIEVABLE' SOCCEROOS DEBUT
This Sunday marks the anniversary of national team debuts for West Australian's Brandon O’Neill and Ryan Williams. The duo were part of a youthful Socceroos side that face Korea Republic in front of 55,000 supporters in Busan, a match O’Neill remembers fondly.
“It was just an unbelievable experience,” O’Neill, who currently plies his trade in Korea for K-League powerhouse Pohang Steelers, told Socceroos.com.au “I could’ve played the worst game in my life and I still would’ve been happy because the experience was just awesome.”
That game came shortly after O’Neill’s Sydney FC had won the A-League Grand Final via a penalty shoot-out in Perth. “It was an unbelievable time in my life,” O’Neill explained. “Winning the A-League Championship in my hometown and then being called up to the Socceroos. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
An experienced Korea Republic outfit claim a 1-0 victory but there were promising signs for the future of Australian football. None more so than the performance of O’Neill, who was tasked with breaking down any attacking threat from a vastly talented Korean side boasting English Premier League and Bundesliga experience.
After giving an honest account of himself in his first taste of international football, O’Neill is eager to represent the green and gold again. “Every chance I get I want to stick my hand up and experience that again,” he said. “It’s an honour to be selected by your country but to be in that level of professionalism too is awesome.”
O’Neill and his wife Nicola have settled into their new life in Korea following the 26-year old’s transfer to Pohang in January. After COVID-19 affected start to the season, O’Neill is now looking at his performances in Korea to catapult him back into Socceroos contention.
“I came here (Korea) to put myself in uncomfortable positions and to get better,” he said. “A huge driving point is to be back in the Socceroos fold and that makes me work harder every day.” Pohang sit sixth in the twelve-team K-League - only four points off top spot - with five games played.
INJURY SET-BACK NOT AS BAD AS FIRST FEARED FOR HENA
After a promising start at new club Olympic Kingsway, winger Hamza Hena suffered a knee injury in State League Night Series Final, which looked like keeping the 22-year-old out of action for the season. But his injury wasn’t as bad as first thought and with the season being put on hold due to the covid-19 lockdown, he’s almost ready for action with the season not far away. “It happened in the first half of the Night Series Final against Western Knights,” he explained.
“I turned and somehow cracked my knee, and after an MRI it turned out to be a fully torn ACL. Obviously, it's never good news, but I'm a massive believer in everything happens for a reason. After much deliberation and with everyone's support from family, friends, coaches, teammates and doctors I decided to go non-surgical treatment and so far with less than 3 months since the incident, I'm way ahead of recovery schedule thankfully.”
Olympic Head coach Gary Williams said the winger has added strength to his squad and is happy the injury is healing well. “Hamza joined us late in January for the pre- season preparation and performed exceptionally well,” he said. “He brings pace, balance and goals to our side and had his best game against Stirling Lions in the quarter final of the night series. He also scored in the semi-final against Fremantle before injuring his knee in the final. Thankfully the injury is not as serious as first feared and he trained last night which was our first session back. He has mixed well with our group and I am informed another month of rehab will see him back contesting for a place in our starting line-up.”
The speedy winger played his junior football in his home country of Jordan, and represented his country at both under 19’s and 21’s. “Al Ahli was my childhood club I pretty much grew up and played there since I could kick a ball,” Hena said. “I made so many memories and achievements with that club, won my first league championship, got my first national team call up and represented the first team when I was 16. I definitely hope that before my career is done that, I'll be able to repay Al-Ahli for everything they've done for me in one way or another.
“As much as I've enjoyed playing club football in Jordan, Spain and Australia nothing really beats the feeling of representing your country internationally competing against the best in Asia. The dream remains to one day take Jordan to our first ever "World Cup" appearance as that will forever be in Jordan Football's history but also leave a trail to what the expectation should be for the coming generations.”
Hena played for Al-Ahli in international tournaments, before heading to Australia and he’s enjoyed his time at all the clubs he’s played for here. “Yes, representing Al-Ahli nationally in the Jordanian League, and internationally "The Gothia Cup" in Sweden as well as "Costa Blanca Cup" in Spain were both great experiences,” he explained.
“Since coming to Australia I've had two seasons with Inglewood United under Andy Keogh and Andreas Olivera, where we finished second twice and I learnt so much from both seasons. I also played a season at Floreat Athena in between those two Inglewood seasons, and it was great to embrace the Greek culture behind that prestigious club, and I’m hoping to leave my mark this year with Olympic Kingsway.”
Head Coach Williams has Olympic Kingsway heading in the right direction, and now the season has been given the go-head after the COVID-19 lockdown, Hena believes they have the players to make the NPL. “The main focus and goal for us this season was promotion, especially with the professionalism and facilities the club have they deserve to be among the best,” he said. “But with the news there will not be promotion or relegation this season, we will look to improve on last seasons position on the table.
“For me personally I hope to be back on the pitch as soon as a I can to do my bit to help the side. The COVID-19 is something we’ve never seen before and no one would ever wish for such thing to happen but on the bright side of the situation it's given me more time to properly rehab my Knee without the pressure of wanting to get back quickly or the feeling of missing out, so in a way it's been a blessing in disguise for me.”
AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND WOMEN’S WORLD CUP BID BOOSTED
Australia’s chances of hosting a football World Cup has been given a massive boost this week after the Bid Evaluation Report demonstrated that the two nations, Football Federation Australia [FFA] and New Zealand Football [NZF] would host an exceptional FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. Following FIFA’s inspection visit in February 2020, the Bid Evaluation Report – published on Wednesday – confirms that FFA and NZF would host a technically strong tournament across all key areas.
The report confirms that the Australia-New Zealand Bid received the highest overall average score of 4.1 out of 5 and was “the most commercially favourable proposition”, taking into consideration the financial commitments made by the governments of both countries towards the operational costs of the tournament. If the joint bid is successful then Perth is set to host games following the backing of WA Premier Nark McGowen and the State Government. Alongside excellent infrastructure, the travel hub concept and player-centric plans would also minimise travel times, while the modern stadia and high-quality football facilities would ensure players can perform at their best.
Through innovative match scheduling across four time zones, the As One Bid will deliver matches at times favourable to broadcasters in established as well as emerging markets. Australia and New Zealand’s long history of working together on major events and their close inter-governmental co-ordination in key areas such as security and transport, mean that the competition will be delivered seamlessly.
FFA Chairman Chris Nikou was pleased with the report. “I am delighted that we have scored so strongly in FIFA’s Bid Evaluation Report and been described as offering ‘the most favourable commercial proposition,” he explained. “We are confident that our combination of technical excellence, record breaking crowds, commercial certainty, a warm embrace from our 200 different cultures and genuine impact across the region where the legacies will be profound will prove a compelling offer to FIFA and its confederations.
“We are two nations from two confederations, united in proposing a historic and exciting step forward for world football. It will be a tournament of firsts. The first ever co-confederation hosted FIFA World Cup™, the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to be held in the Asia-Pacific region, and the first ever to be held in the southern hemisphere. As One, we believe this represents a compelling offer to the global football family.”
NZF President Johanna Wood also added her pleasure with the announcement. “We hosted a very successful inspection visit and we are delighted by today’s FIFA Bid Evaluation Report which reinforces our belief that we would host a technically excellent FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™” she said. “The report demonstrates many of our key strengths and we are very pleased to have received the highest overall average score of 4.1 out of 5.
“If successful, we will place the interests of the greatest female footballers in the world at the centre of everything we do, to deliver a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ the global football family can be proud of. With technical excellence, commercial certainty and a historic tournament of firsts, Australia-New Zealand offers FIFA a unique opportunity to move the dial for women’s football. We have proven this before and can be trusted to achieve this again. In addition, we are nations proud of our commitment to equality and fairness and would embody a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ built on common humanity through football.” The FIFA Council will vote to decide the host of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ on 25 June.
WA FOOTBALL SET TO RETURN
After three months in lockdown the WA football community can look forward to getting back on the park after Football West announced the fixtures for competitions that will hopefully get under way in under over the next three weeks. The governing body also announced a number of significant steps to help ease the burden on clubs and players leading into the 2020 season.
Football West’s focus is fixed firmly on making the game accessible and a great experience for all. This is why they are determined to play our part in reducing the pain felt by our clubs and, in turn, by our players, coaches, referees and others. You can check out all the details at - https://footballwest.com.au/2020-season-fixtures-and-financial-support-details/
The Sunday Amateur league is first to restart on June 21 and there are a number of intriguing first round fixtures in the Premier League. Newly-promoted Queens Park and Maddington White City are on the road, Park making the trip to Leeming Strikers, while Maddington meet North Perth United. South West Phoenix are also on the road after their return to the league, with a trip to Hamersley Rovers. In other games Joondalup Utd take on Quinns FC, Jaguar FC host UWA-Nedlands, while Kwinana United meet Wembley Downs.
Next up is the NPL and the NPLW. Current Champions Perth SC open the season on Friday July 3 when they travel to Bayswater City. Newly-promoted Gwelup Croatia play their first ever NPL game when they host Inglewood United the following day. The rest of the first-round fixtures are Cockburn City entertaining Perth Glory, Balcatta make the trip to Floreat Athena, ECU Joondalup host Armadale, while Rockingham City welcome Sorrento. The new NPLW kicks off on July 5, with Perth SC hosting Fremantle City, Curtin University entertain the Hyundai NTC Women. Last season’s Champions Northern Redbacks welcome Subiaco, while Murdoch University Melville host Balcatta.
The State league also kicks off on July 4, and in Division One newly-promoted Quinns FC play their first-ever game in the Division when they travel to take on last season NPL relegated side Stirling Lions. The other promoted side is Swan United and they have home ground advantage in the first round when they meet Western Knights. In other round one fixtures Forrestfield United welcome UWA Nedlands, while Ashfield host Joondalup United. Fremantle City entertain Subiaco, while Olympic Kingsway host Mandurah City.
In Division Two Newly-promoted Kingsley Westside host Wanneroo City, while Morley Windmills start life in Division Two with a home game against Kelmscott Roos. Meanwhile Dianella White Eagles begin life under new coach Rod Banjac with a trip to Carramar Shamrock Rovers. In other games Joondalup City host Balga, while Murdoch University Melville entertain Curtin University, and in the final game it’s a local derby when Gosnells City host Canning City. All the fixtures are available on the ‘Fixtures and Results’ tab on the top menu.
CLUB IN PROFILE - CURTIN UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL CLUB
The Curtin University Football Club was founded in 1992, when they joined the Fourth Division of the Amateur competition. In their first season under coach Justin Carpenter, the club finished in a respectable eighth position. For the rest of the 1990's, Curtin played between the Fifth and Third Divisions, and it wasn't until 2005 when the club got their first major break.
Under coaches Tanuj Sharma and Geir Jacobsen, Curtin finished in sixth spot in the Third Division. Normally this would be considered just a mid-table finish, however with the Amateur Premier Division being expanded to two conferences, it gave the club the break they needed, and with it promotion to the Second Division for the first time in their history.
Micah Sluczanowski coached the club in their first season in Division Two in 2006 when the club climbed to fifth spot. The following year, Campbell Ballantyne became coach and was determined for promotion. After five seasons in the division, Ballantyne got his wish in 2011. Curtin did finish fifth, but due to a number of amateur clubs higher in the leagues moving to the State League, the club gained promotion.
By 2012, Curtin were on the up. Their first season in Division One finished just short of promotion, with the club in third position. The following year Curtin would make no mistake, not only did they gain what would have been promotion to the Amateur Premier Division, but also became league champions for the first time. During the season, the club also applied to join the expanded State League Division Two and their application was successful by Football West.
In 2014, Curtin University were now in the State League, juniors also joined the club ranks after a merger with nearby Victoria Park Rovers. On the pitch, the club had a great year. Their first ever State League game was away to Joondalup City with a 1-1 draw. Under coaches Campbell Ballantyne and Daniel Jones, Curtin finished in fourth spot, which included some big wins along the way.
Kevin Burton took over as coach in 2015, before Ballantyne once again took the reigns in 2016. In both years the team ended in tenth position. Mick Philip took over in 2018, and after a ninth and tenth place finish respectively, he will be hoping for a bigger year in 2020. Curtin also became the first club in WA to offer equal contracts to both their State League men's and NPL women's teams.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS
KERR WINS ENGLISH LEAGUE TITLE
Sam Kerr has tasted Women's Super League success in her debut season with the English Football Association awarding the title to Chelsea. The FA board reaching a majority decision on Friday to award the Women's Super League based on a points-per-game basis after the English season was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using this calculation Kerr's undefeated Chelsea were named league champions, edging out runners-up Manchester City with a points-per-game of 2.6 to 2.5. Both teams were awarded England's two Champions League spots, meaning Kerr will play in Europe's top club competition next year.
The news came on the same day Kerr completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a Perth hotel following her returning from London. The 26-year old took her talents to England in November after signing a lucrative two-and-a-half deal with football giants Chelsea.
WUTHRICH SPLITS FROM GLORY
Defender Gregory Wuthrich has announced his departure from Perth Glory via social media. The Swiss youth international revealed on Instagram that he won’t be re-joining the club to see out the 2019/2020 season after returning to Europe following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“It’s an unfortunate end to what has been an amazing year in the A-League!,” Wuthrich posted. “Thank you Perth Glory for giving me the opportunity to do what I love most. A BIG thanks to all the Perth Glory fans, the coaching staff and my teammates.”
Despite Wuthrich’s announcement, Glory remain hopeful of re-negotiating a return for the big back, whose loss will a put a dent in their chance of a second consecutive Grand Final. For that to happen they will need to act fast as the re-booted A-League is expected to start in mid-July.
Wuthrich, 25, represented Switzerland from Under-15 to Under-21 levels while playing his club football for Young Boys and Grasshoppers. He joined Glory in September last year and 18 A-League appearances, scoring one goal.
In this time of upheaval with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with past-players, coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s eighth ‘In conversation’ we catch up with former Western Knights and Perth Glory keeper Tommi Tomich.
The talented keeper played all his junior football at Western Knights and made his debut with the senior team as a 16-year-old in 1997. He became the number one keeper in 1998 and helped them win the league and top five finals, the first in the clubs’ history. He was signed by Perth Glory in 2000, and was loaned out to Cockburn City and Bassendean Caledonians, before signing for NSL side Melbourne Knights in 2003. He returned to Nash Field in 2004, before Perth Glory came calling again in 2006 and the shot stopper played 18 games in the A-League in a two-year stint. He then headed north to ECU Joondalup, before announcing a move to South Melbourne, and he also had loan spells at A-League clubs Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United.
The 40-year-old has now hung up his gloves, but is grateful for his career in a game he loves. “I’ve absolutely enjoyed playing every minute in those years at all levels that I’ve played in,” he said. “Yes, I had lots of ups and downs as you would expect, but I’ve met a lot of incredible people and some of the best team mates I could ask for, I honesty had so much fun on and off the field.”
In his time in WA football, he only wanted to play for Western Knights, and he said he always calls Nash Field home, but saying that he enjoyed his time at ECU. “For me it was always strange to play for different state league teams other than the Knights, it was always home for me,” Tomich explained. “I will always consider Knights my team and cherish my time with the club. I also really enjoyed my time at ECU, we had a good young team with good people running the club, who made me feel comfortable and when I decided to make move to South Melbourne mid-year, they were very understanding and made it easy to transfer over.”
When he made the step to the next level, Tomich said he relished the challenge in the NSL and A-League. “For me the Melbourne Knights move was a dream come true,” he explained. “I managed to break into the first team where I made my NSL debut and I was traveling interstate, training every day, living the life as a fulltime footballer. To play in the last NSL game for a club with such a rich history, and I grew up watching and wished one day I would play for is really special to me.”
“The time I spent in the A league was truly amazing, and to play against the best players in big stadiums all around Australian and to have it all on TV was something else. Then at South Melbourne it was another great challenge for me. There was a big difference between the two Victorian clubs, because I played with one in the NSL and other in state league, but I obviously had a job while I was at South, but even though they were a state League level they kept there professionalism and it felt like you were in the NSL.”
We asked the best goalkeeping coach he’d had in the game and his highlight in football and his answers both had a WA theme. “I’ve had some great keeper coaches in my career, but Willy McNally was on top of the list,” he explained. “I spent the most time with him, he was there the whole time I was at the Glory even back when I signed as a third-choice keeper in 2000. I worked with him a few times at junior and senior WA state teams and he was my coach at ECU, which was the main reason I signed there.
“I felt like he could always get the best out of me the way he would motivate me and push me at trainings and how he was always so positive towards me even when I would make mistakes, his training sessions were always class he knew how to work us hard but have fun at the same time. My highlight was at Nash Field, my home. All the trophies I won with the Knights, especially the league title in 2004. I was 24 at the time I just got back from my stint with Melbourne Knights with full of confidence and continued my form into that season and had one of my best years.”
Tomich was enjoying watching the football now he has retired, but with the covid-19 pandemic stopping the game he hopes it’s back soon. “It’s defiantly a strange and scary time for all of us at the moment, but with football and everything else starting to come back you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, by the end of the year hopefully we can back to some normality,” he said. “I stopped playing a couple sessions ago I just wasn’t enjoying it as much anymore and decided to move on to life after football. I had a baby boy and started playing basketball three nights a week and also getting into a bit of cycling to keep me fit.”
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES DEAN
This week Dean Apelgren retired from semi-professional football, ending a glittering career, which many believed should have seen the defender play more A-League football. The 34-year-old loved every minute of his football journey, and said it was a hell of a ride.
“To be honest, I don’t know how to sum my career up. I was fortunate to play with, against, and for some of the best players and coaches the state has seen,” Apelgren explained. “I won a lot of trophies and lost a lot of games, I achieved more than some but not remotely as much as I had planned. I was lucky with some of the opportunities I was given and, I guess, unlucky with injury. All I know is, it was one hell of a ride!”
Injuries curtailed his career, and it probably cost him a A-League contract at Perth Glory in 2004, something the defender said hurt at the time. “Injuries have had me contemplating retirement every year for the past decade or so, but one of the main things that kept me coming back for more was the banter and comradery with my team-mates and coaches,” he said. “My time at the Glory was great, but it was also hugely disappointing.
“I spent almost my entire life obsessing over the sport and doing everything I could to make it as a professional. I was 18-years-old, was a part of an NSL side that won the double. Then the NSL became defunct and I was forced to go back to the state league while they formed the A-League. My run of injuries then began, and I was never given another opportunity and the dream was over as quickly as it started.”
Apelgren began his football at Fremantle City, before heading to Glory, and has at stints at Inglewood United, Floreat Athena, Perth SC, Canning City, Western Knights, Gosnells City, Subiaco and finished in the NPL with Rockingham City, where he played the only game of the 2020 season. He helped Perth SC to the 2011 league finals series, were they thrashed Sorrento 7-0 to win the league, but again he missed the run-in due to injury.
“The biggest drawcard for my move to Perth was the opportunity to win,” he said. “I had sat out for 12 months after foot surgery and worked hard to finally play my first games for the club. I then had a horror knee injury and was forced to sit out. Watching the boys win was bitter sweet, but was thrilled that we won, but I would’ve killed to be out there.”
The defender has played all his football in Western Australia, but many players head over East to play in the NPLVIC, but when one of the biggest clubs in Victorian football came calling Apelgren had to turn them down. “While I was at Athena, I had passed up an opportunity to move to South Melbourne,” he said. “They are a great club and it would have been great move, but my back was giving me a lot of grief at the time, and I just didn’t think I could give it a proper crack.”
He has been blessed with some talented coaches on his journey, and said he learnt a great deal from them all, that one day he can take into his coaching. “This is a tough one, as I’ve had a lot of great coaches and have learnt a lot from every single coach from my junior days until today. I’d say the ones that I learnt the most from though, were Alan Vest, Mich D’Avray, Michael Roki, Rick Slade and Ron Tindal,” Apelgren said.
“I’ve always thought I would coach once my playing days were over, but I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet. For now, I’ll be playing masters with my dad, we’ve always dreamt of playing together so now we have the opportunity.” Good luck Dean and thanks for the memories.
HUGHES BACK AFTER ROSS COUNTY RELEASE
Former ECU Joondalup midfielder Declan Hughes has returned to WA after being released by Scottish Premier League side Ross County. The 20-year-old was a victim of the corona-virus in football, with many clubs releasing a number of their younger players, but the experience of playing professional is something he will always cherish.
“Going over there was a great experience and luckily my trail went well and I was delighted to sign for them, it was a really good moment for me, and I enjoyed every moment at the club and I was surrounded by great people,” he explained. “But the corona virus didn’t do any young lads over there any favours, but it’s totally understandable and you can’t dwell on it too much.”
The midfielder said he had some great times at County, and he also spent time at Highland League side Forres Mechanics FC, where he played on-loan and he said it was great to get some senior game time at Mosset Park. “I have some great memories from my time over there, the best would be scoring a late winner against Kilmarnock in the reserve league,” Hughes said.
“Going out on loan was great for me because I could still play for Ross County’s reserves during the week as well as playing for Forres on a Saturday, so I was getting two games a week most weeks. I really enjoyed my time at Forres scoring six times in the league for them.”
The midfielder shone in his spell at ECU and he said it set him up for football in Scotland, and has returned to WA and is training with Bayswater City in the NPLWA and has caught up with a few old team mates. “My time at ECU was great playing alongside good experienced players like Steven McGarry, Kevin Moon, and my old team mates at Bayswater Daryl Nicol and Gordon Smith,” he said.
“Playing with these sorts of players definitely set me up well to head over to Scotland, with them passing on their knowledge about the game to me. I’m back in Perth now and I’ve been training with Bayswater and I’m really enjoy it down there, and it’s a club full of great people, and thanks to Chris Coyne for the opportunity.”
CLUB IN PROFILE - COCKBURN CITY SOCCER CLUB
Cockburn City's origins started in 1929, when the newly formed Spearwood Rovers Soccer Club was established and joined the Western Australian Soccer Football Association. In 1962, Spearwood Rovers became members of the newly formed Soccer Federation of Western Australia and changed their name to Cockburn United in 1965.
Cockburn made the top flight in 1966 and 1967, before being relegated and also had a stint in the third tier between 1975 and 1977. During the 1980's, United were a very strong second tier team (now known as the First Division), and after a number of third placed finishes, finally gained promotion to the top flight after finishing runners-up in 1986.
United did manage to avoid the relegation zone in their first season back in the Premier Division in 1987, however they were denied a place in the new eight team Super League that was about to be formed in 1988 due to criteria. This was a massive setback for the club, and their fortunes went downhill after that and later spent four seasons in the third tier in the early 1990's before once again getting promotion under new coach Mike Smith in 1994. Smith led the club in the First Division over the next three seasons.
Spearwood Dalmatinac were formed in 1962 from Yugoslav immigrants, and made a massive impact in local football. They joined the Soccer Federation in 1963, and after some up and down seasons, finally made the top flight in 1975.
The late 1970's and most of the 1980's was the golden age for the club. Dalmatinac were one of the strongest teams in Western Australia with star players such as Roxby, Brown, Pearson, Elliott, Gavranich and Smith to just name a few. Dalmatinac won the state championship in 1979, 1982 and 1986, finishing runners-up in 1978, 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1985, and also winning the State Cup in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Success proved difficult in the 1990s, though Dalmatinac maintained their Premier Division status and also won the Night Series in 1993.
A new era for the region commenced in 1998, when close neighbours Cockburn United and Spearwood Dalmatinac merged to form Cockburn City. The semi-professional side would remain playing at Dalmatinac Park, while the juniors would play at Beale Park. The newly merged club remained competitive in the top flight over the next few years, and even finished runners-up in the league in 2003 and 2004 when club legend Kevin Elliott became coach. By the end of the decade however, their form started to dip, and after thirty-seven seasons of Premier Division football at Dalmatinac Park, the club were relegated to the First Division at the end of the 2011 season.
After a bad start to 2012 in Division One, Cockburn came back strongly, and won the league by four points to go straight back up the Premier League.
In 2013 the club were back where they belonged, and this time not only did the club keep well clear of relegation, but made the championship finals before getting knocked-out by Sorrento in the semi-finals to finish fourth overall.
Scott Miller took over as coach in 2016 with the club finishing in ninth place. Cockburn continue in the top flight today under coach Miller. The club look set to upgrade their home base facilities at Beale Park over the coming seasons, with the NPL side continuing to play homes games at Dalmatinac Park.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS
Premier League winners - 1979, 1982, 1986 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Premier League runners-up - 2003, 2004
Premier League runners-up - 1978, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
First Division winners - 2012
First Division winners - 1974 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
First Division winners - 1963 (Cockburn United)
First Division runners-up - 1965, 1969, 1986 (Cockburn United)
Second Division winners - 1964 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Second Division winners - 1994 (Cockburn United)
Second Division runners-up - 1970 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Second Division runners-up - 1977 (Cockburn United)
Cup winners - 1983, 1984, 1985 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Cup runners-up - 1976, 1977, 1979 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Cup runners-up - 2007, 2016
Premier League Top Four/Five Cup winners - 1982 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Premier League Top Four/Five Cup runners-up - 1978, 1979, 1983 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Night Series winners - 1979, 1993 (Spearwood Dalmatinac)
Night Series winners - 1982 (Cockburn United)
Night Series runners-up - 2013, 2015
FOOTBALL WEST LOCKS IN RETURN DATES
A light at the end of the tunnel has come for West Australian footballers with Football West today announcing the dates its 2020 competitions will resume. Halted in March as part of the nationwide suspension of community and grassroots football, football in the west will return in two stages.
Stage one will see MiniRoos, Junior Girls, Junior Boys, Amateur, Metropolitan, Masters, State League Women and National Premier Leagues Juniors return to the field on 21 June. Those seasons will continue through to 4 October, with no breaks for school holidays due to the truncated nature of the season.
From 4 July, the men’s and women’s NPL – 2020 marking the first year WA will stage the latter – and men’s State League competitions will return to action, with those seasons set to conclude with a Grand Final staged on the weekend of 10/11 October. All dates are subject to the further easing of restrictions by the State Government.
“There are still challenges ahead, for the clubs and associations and for Football West,” read a statement on the Football West website. “An ongoing issue for some clubs is gaining access to their home ground and Football West continues to work with local governments to resolve this matter.
“The format of our competitions will look differently this year, including a moratorium on promotion and relegation across the board and no cup competitions. But the overwhelming message from the football community is clear – if we can play, we will play.”
In this time of upheaval with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s seventh ‘In conversation’ we catch up with Perth Soccer Club Head coach Ramon Falzon.
Falzon grew up playing for Hibernians FC in Malta, and begun coaching within their youth teams set up once a career ending injury stopped him playing. During that time, he played for the National team under 17’s and beat the Netherlands to quality for the UEFA Under 17 Elite Section. When he arrived in Australia, he was a coach in the Perth Glory Academy and joined Balcatta in 2014 before heading to Dorrien Gardens. “I’m grateful to Balcatta FC that gave me my first opportunity to coach first team football,” Falzon said. “But it was Perth SC that gave me the opportunity and the time to transition the first team squad to shape it to something that assimilates to football environments I experienced in Europe.”
Falzon said his journey at Dorrien Gardens has been challenging, however rewarding and filled with many proud moments. “I joined the Club in 2016, and this was a period totally dominated by Bayswater, so we were aware that it was going to be a tough ask to alter that trend,” he explained. “Gareth Naven had already started bringing about big changes at the club, and from our side we just kept on building on those foundations. We wanted to inject higher standards of professionalism so that we could continuously improve and raise the bar.
“Big changes like what we brought take time to implement and embed within the training environment and we were pleasantly surprised when it paid off instantly in 2016. It was a great feeling to see the boys celebrate the NPL title in 2016, practically ending an eleven-year drought because the previous time we had won the league title was in 2005. I think the players would probably say that winning 3 doubles was our biggest success, however from my side, the proudest moment was when we won against Heidelberg last season.
“For some reason, in WA, we have an inferiority complex when playing against sides from VIC and NSW. We wanted to remove those negative thoughts from the minds of the boys. I was convinced that we could battle sides from over east as equals, however we just needed the proof of beating them in a game, and the boys just did that against Heidelberg. To bring about the big changes that we did required a huge effort from several people, whilst understanding that we cannot afford to carry any passengers. I have been very lucky to be working alongside coaches like Marc Wingell and Simon Madaschi, they are very simply great people and superb coaches.
“We have been a close-knit unit and cohesively led the players on and off the pitch. We are even lucky to have good quality coaches working with our youngsters and pushing them hard at training while preparing them for the demands of competitive first team football. Having a President like Gary Marocchi helps because he is a football person that experienced the highest levels of our game; therefore, he understands the processes we implement and the outcomes we want to achieve. Gary has always been fully supportive to our players and us coaches. Last but not the least, the players. They have embraced our philosophy and the targets we set, and they have worked very hard to match our expectations.”
The Azzurri will be aiming for a hat-trick of titles in 2020, but the corona-virus looked like putting an end to that, but after this week’s announcement of the resumption of the league, Falzon said he has mixed feelings. “The boys had a great start to the 2020 season, however as we know the coronavirus put the game on hold. My opinion is that 2020 is a complete wipe out because whatever games we might play in the next month or two is going to potentially compromise the integrity of any form of competition,” he said.
This opinion is only in relation to the first team because I believe juniors should be getting back to training and playing as soon as possible, it is too important for their own development. We unfortunately could not do anything in the past two months, and we had to abide by the advice of the medical experts to protect lives. In this period that the beautiful game was halted, my expectation was that the football system in Australia was going to be proactively re-assessed to strategically plan the future of our game post-Covid-19.
“To me it seems that the entire football landscape is changing to something worrying. It doesn’t look like that the issues in Australian football are being addressed and there is a sense that the football financial system is on the brink of collapsing. In a matter of months, we went from exploring a potential Second Division, to the A-League and NPL Clubs around the nation fighting for survival. There is a lot of uncertainty out there and clubs, players and coaches are screaming for direction and support.”
We asked Falzon the best player he had played with or against, and he was quick with an answer. “The best player I have played with and against is George Lawrence. I was still very young and nowhere close to being ready for first team football, however my club periodically exposed its own youngsters to first team training,” he explained. “Playing with and against George at training was something special. He played at the highest levels in England with Southampton, Oxford United, Millwall and Bournemouth before moving to Hibernians FC in 1993. He was a very strong player and overpowered opponents on the ball; however, his strongest trait was his unpredictability.
“I still remember very clearly that in a championship deciding game, he contested for a header around 40 meters away from goal. Although he lost the contest, he nudged the opponent enough for the ball to drop in front of him. Any other player would have controlled and passed the ball, instead George did not even wait for the ball to bounce, he belted a powerful first timer from 40 meters away that ended up being the championship winning goal.”
SAINSBURY: 'I THOUGHT MY CAREER WAS FINISHED'
Trent Sainsbury admits he thought his career was over when he bizarrely broke his kneecap on his Eredivisie debut in 2014. The Socceroos defender secured a dream move to Europe from Central Coast Mariners six years ago but to quickly turned into a nightmare.
In just his first game for PEC Zwolle, Sainsbury damaged his knee after falling on a sprinkler that had been left on the pitch. The injury sidelined the centre back for nine months and meant he missed Australia's campaign at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
"I pretty much started looking online for TAFE courses because I thought my career was finished,” Sainsbury revealed this week. "That took me nine months to come back from. My experience was horrible. I’m not going to lie; I didn’t have the best start.”
"The only thing that I can really say to my wife, she was my girlfriend at the time is that she kept me together because I was falling apart mentally, physically and emotionally. I worked so hard to get overseas then all of a sudden it’s taken away from you just like that."
Sainsbury eventually returned for Zwolle but then suffered an ankle injury in his comeback in the Dutch Supercup. He has since had stints with Jiangsu Suning (China), Inter Milan (Italy), Grasshopper (Switzerland) and back in Holland with PSV Eindhoven.
Sainsbury now plays in Israel with Maccabi Haifa, whose season will re-start on 30 May. "People don’t understand how hard it is also leaving your family and friends behind and then come to a country where you don’t necessarily speak the language," commented the former Armadale junior.
A-LEAGUE TO RESUME IN JUNE
Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson confirmed today that FFA, the Hyundai A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia have reached agreement on a comprehensive plan for the re-start of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season. All parties have worked together extremely hard behind the scenes to ensure the professional game is ready to resume.
“We are committed to delivering the completion of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season and have agreed a comprehensive plan with the Hyundai A-League clubs and the PFA,” Johnson said. “We are now looking forward to the agreement of our broadcast partner, Fox Sports, to our fixture proposal and timings. That’s the final piece of the jigsaw and once we have it in place we can move forward quickly.”
The plan is based on a hub approach which will allow for innovative commercial and broadcast opportunities. It incorporates best practice health protocols for players and officials and provides a schedule that will bring a constant stream of games over a 35-day program.
“Ideally mid-June will see players return to training, allowing them to reach the required elite level of fitness for competitive matches to commence by mid-July, and for the Hyundai A-League Finals Series to be completed by mid-August,” Johnson added. “The proposed timing will mean that the culmination of the Hyundai A-League will coincide with the re-start of Australian grassroots football, connecting the professional game and our two million participants like never before.”
All games are likely to be played in a hub in Sydney at venues without spectators, but Glory owner Tony Sage said ground availability was a problem, given the NRL would return from May 28 and use some stadiums used by the code. "The difficulty we have now is in NSW with the NRL playing, what grounds are available because the two big ones - Kogarah and Bankwest Stadium - will obviously be used for NRL," Sage told Perth radio station 91.3 Sport FM.
"That is an added complication to the mix so the FFA obviously have got the whole of May and June to work out logistics." Sage did agree it would be easier for the league and clubs to be based in the same city, as the league to finish the remaining five games and finals series. "It's just easier with all of the players having the same conditions - quarantine, testing," he said. "If you have it in the five different states, it's five different testing regimes for the players, it might not happen on an equal basis, so I think the hub idea is a lot better than doing that."
The Phoenix will follow the path of the Warriors in the NRL in flying to Australia for a 14-day isolation period ahead of training. "A bit like the Warriors, we would head over for two weeks of quarantine," Wellington's general manager David Dome told the NZ Herald. "We would train for a couple of weeks, then go out of isolation, then train for two more weeks ... then hit the ground with the resumption of the A-League."
Dome said the health of Wellington players remained top priority before the competition resumed after halting because of the global coronavirus pandemic. "We have to make sure the right protocols are in place," he said. "We've said from day one it has to be about the safety of the players, no-one wants to put them at risk. We want to make sure we have the best possible options, processes, procedures and structures in place."
While Sydney was the expected hub, like Sage, Dome said sufficient training venues and match-day venues were yet to be settled. "We have to find venues for all the teams coming in from the other states and we have to find grounds to play in," he said. "There's quite a bit of work to get through and we want to make sure we get that stuff right."
Meanwhile A-League players are demanding certainty for their futures with more than 100 contracts set to expire at the end of the week. Almost half of the contracted players in the competition are due to become free agents after May 31, leaving them without a job but also able to move to other clubs in Australia or overseas. League stakeholders including FFA are attempting to broker a solution, most likely involving a short-term extension of deals until the 2019-20 season can be completed but time is running out.
Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson, President of Professional Footballers' Australia (PFA), said players were growing increasingly anxious the contract situation threatened to undermine attempts to resume the league. "Without some certainty, we risk losing them to the game as well as compromising a fair end to the season," Wilkinson told AAP, adding those players with contracts set to expire were "in limbo".
FFA is yet to confirm a date to either resume the competition or allow players to start training, August has been touted, but it's understood resolving the contract situation is the most-pressing priority for organisers at this stage. The A-League was suspended in late March with just a handful of rounds remaining before finals. An initial proposal, put forward by the governing body featuring dramatic pay cuts for players, is understood to have been rejected by clubs and the players' union.
Wilkinson said players remained committed to completing the season but were concerned a lack of adequate training time before a condensed schedule was a recipe for injury. A study by the Jena Institute of Sport in Germany, looking at Bundesliga players, has indicated a spike in injuries within that league since its return a fortnight ago from a COVID-19 suspension.
Wilkinson said the study's results suggested players needed as much time as possible to train before the A-League resumed. "The players want to get back to work and finish what we started," he said. "Across the league, the players have continued to maintain fitness for a return, but there is no substitute for team training. If we do not resume adequate team training in advance of a restart, players face an increased risk of injury."
GLORY RECALLS PLAYERS TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Perth Glory are flying players back from the Eastern States this week as they prepare for the potential July reboot of the A-League season. Seven squad members - Nick D’Agostino, Dane Ingham, Daniel Margush, Carlo Armiento, Vince Lia, Ivan Franjic and Jake Brimmer - are expected to arrive by the end of the week to go into isolation. It is not known whether Greg Wuthrich will return from his home in Switzerland.
Clubs are hoping for a mid-June start to training but the players union and the Football Federation Australia are on shaky ground over player salary cuts. It’s also been reported FFA intends to keep almost all the $12 million Fox Sports quarterly broadcast deal payment to pay for a hub, with the last six rounds expected to be played in Sydney.
Glory chief executive Tony Pignata, who hopes to be back in Perth from Melbourne on Monday to begin his isolation, hopes the season will start as planned. “We have not heard anything officially about the money in terms of PFA and FFA discussions over player payments,” Pignata said. “I’m working to get our players back by the end of this week.”
A-LEAGUE PLANS 36 DAYS OF NON-STOP FOOTBALL
A whirlwind 36 days of football could save the 2019/20 A-League season under a resumption plan put forward to clubs and TV broadcasters - but there’s still two major hurdles to clear. The remaining rounds and finals series would begin on 18 July with the Grand Final slated for 22 August.
The games would all be played in a single hub, based in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, with players based locally for the duration - playing 32 games in 36 days. But it seems certain that the games will be played in empty stadiums, despite the NRL’s hopes of bringing some form of crowds back to games from the start of July.
Clubs say they do not expect sporting events to have crowds permitted in time for the remainder of this season. If the schedule is approved by Fox Sports, the final hurdle will be an agreement on a pay deal between the players association and the A-League clubs.
GLORY EYE NABBOUT
The season maybe in lockdown, but it hasn’t stopped the transfers rumours around the A-League, and this week it was reported that Socceroos front man Andrew Nabbout is being lined up for a post-COVID-19 move from Melbourne Victory to Perth Glory.
The A-League players have been advised by the PFA to hold off on contract decisions until there is further clarity from the FFA and the clubs on when the current season will resume, but it’s understood Nabbout has an in-principle agreement in place to head west to join Tony Popovic’s side.
Nabbout, 27, is one of over 100 A-League players coming off contract next month, having rejoined Victory for a second spell at the beginning of the season. Should he join Glory it might be to replace fellow Socceroo Chris Ikonomidis, who would command a fee were he to head back to Europe.
The talented striker has scored five goals, and conjured three assists in 18 appearances for a struggling Victory this season, but his impact on returning to his first A-League club from an injury-hit and unfulfilling stint in Japan with J1 Urawa Red Diamonds has been sporadic.
Glory’s director of football Jacob Burns declined to comment when contacted by The World Game, as he seeks to the manage pressing issue of making sure the club’s stood-down squad will be ready to resume a short pre-season once FFA gives the all-clear for an expected August resumption.
A leading agent said while clubs “want to do business” nobody “can put pen to paper” while uncertainty lingers over a return to action date and player disgruntlement over being asked to accept 60 to 70 per cent wage cuts to play out the final five rounds and A-League finals in a hub format in NSW.
Nabbout began his A-League career with Victory in 2013 and was a part of the team that won the 2015-16 domestic double before being cut by the club. A brief spell with Malaysia's Negeri Sembilan was followed by an A-League return with the Newcastle Jets, for whom he netted 18 goals in 46 appearances. Nabbout led the line twice for a goal-starved Australia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup before being forced from the tournament by a shoulder injury.
COYNE CALLS FOR AUSTRALIAN TRANSFER MARKET
Former Socceroo Chris Coyne says Australian football is in dire need of a transfer market to encourage clubs to invest more in youth development. The lack of playing opportunities for young players at home and concerns over Australia’s production line have grown in recent times.
In 2019, Australian clubs contributed a mere $2 million to the global transfer market, which is valued at about $11 billion. There is also a ban on domestic transfer fees between A-League and National Premier League clubs to sign players.
Coyne believes this needs to change to incentivise local clubs to spend more on developing their own talent. “I think the fundamental issue with the A-League, and it’s endemic with the whole of Australian football, is there’s no transfer market,” he told theworldgame.sbs.com.au
“So if I develop a player, say Danny De Silva for example, and his contract runs out at 18 and he’s a free agent... you’re going to invest all that money into someone and as soon as his contract expires all of a sudden he can let it run out and just move somewhere.”
“For me, the transfer market is a huge thing and even at the NPL level. If you were picking up $50,000 or $60,000 for a kid that comes through and plays in the A-League, and it doesn’t have to be upfront money, it can be once he makes his debut in the A-League and then the club gets remunerated.”
“So you can back-end the money because you’ve got a ready-made product there if he’s ready to play first team football. Then the club gets remunerated, that money can be reinvested and the FFA could put stipulations that 40%, 50% has to be put back into a youth academy or whatever.”
“So instead of clubs just having the luxury of going, 'I’m going to watch Bankstown versus Manly today, I like Lucas Neill so I’m just going to take him', but I’ve spent the past five years coaching him... until you have a marketplace there’s no incentive for clubs to invest so heavily in their youth development.”
In February Football federation Australia chief executive James Johnson publicly backed the axing of the long-term ban on domestic transfer fees. Johnson also supported the strengthening of training compensation that goes from A-League clubs to NPL sides.
Coyne, coach of Bayswater City, feels NPL clubs are not adequately compensated for developing young players that then go on to play professionally and for the national team. “In Western Australia, there’s nothing at all,” the ex-Perth Glory defender said.
“If you have a kid from start to finish - the man-hours, the time - and to get kids to that level you need good coaches, so you’ve got to pay them a decent income as well. The investment has got to be there for the club to keep putting that money in. It’s a bad business model.”
“You only have to look at Manchester City, Aaron Mooy comes in at $2 million, he goes out at $10 million and they get an extra 20% on his sell-on to Brighton and all of a sudden they’ve made 10 million pounds. It’s an inflated market, but it’s a business model. They might do that 20 times a year and it’s more than they make in ticket sales.”
DYLAN KEEPING THE TOMBIDES NAME ALIVE AT WEST HAM
Six years after Dylan Tombides’ Premier League dream was cruelly cut short by cancer, younger brother Taylor is flying the family flag at West Ham United - as a budding coach. Taylor, 24, was part of the same Hammers Academy where Young Socceroo Dylan flourished before his untimely passing, aged just 20, from testicular cancer back in 2014.
Perth-raised Taylor was released by West Ham two years later to join Hull City, but a succession of injuries has forced a drastic career rethink. And he’s now back at the east London club where he spent almost five years as a scholar, climbing the coaching ladder with the same gusto and desire he once showed as an ambitious young winger.
Taylor’s been learning the ropes at the Irons’ famed Chadwell Heath training base in Essex for over a year. “It’s different challenge altogether to my time there as a player,” Tombides said. “You’re managing different individuals with different attitudes and personalities. It’s a big challenge but I think I’m doing quite well with it.”
Taylor was recruited by now departed Academy chief Terry Westley, the man who had let him go as a player. “I’d already been coaching with the West Ham Foundation (schools program) and Terry knew what my ambitions were and he told me ‘if you get you’re B license there’s a job for you here’,” Tombides said.
After drifting into non-league football with Canvey Island and then Redbridge FC in the Essex Senior League, Taylor didn’t need to be asked twice. “I had a serious knee (meniscus) injury when I was still at West Ham and it led to about another 10 (soft tissue) injuries afterwards because every other muscle was over compensating," he said.
“I sort of knew that I wasn’t going to be able to follow my playing dream, so I decided the next best thing was to stay involved in football as a coach. I already had my level 2 license, so I went onto get a UEFA B license so I could go ahead and teach kids the way I was taught (in his role working with West Ham’s U-11s).”
Taylor credits former Socceroo captain Mile Jedinak - who is pursuing his own coaching path with former club Aston Villa - as a “massive influence”. “When I was just playing he helped me in a lot of ways,” he said. “With the coaching side of things, we talk about how you approach certain situations, and how to relate to kids and get your messages across.”
Where once he pondered life as a potential Premier League player alongside beloved brother Dylan, Taylor is now aiming high as coach - but with a proviso. “It’s a difficult one because I’m still so young and lack experience,” he said. “I’m looking to eventually go for my A license, maybe in a couple years.”
“I want to stay at West Ham as long as possible and rise up the ranks there. The ultimate aim is find a first team to coach and to be a manager - that’s the aim now. I feel at home at West Ham - there’s a strong connection between the club and my family (mother Tracy and dad Jim).”
Taylor’s new incarnation has already taken him back home, coaching Australian youngsters at camps across the country last year under the West Ham banner. Keeping the Tombides name alive at the club gives Taylor extra incentive. “The inspiration that comes from Dylan - keeping our family presence there alive as long as possible,” he said.
Jedinak revealed his role in Taylor’s genesis. “The first thing we always speak about is how the coaching is going,” Jedinak said. “I know he’s enjoying it and it’s keeping him on a new path he’s chosen. He’s had those setbacks as a player but credit to him .... he’s thought it through and is putting his focus and full commitment on to coaching.”
ARE BROADCAST RIGHTS HINDERING FOOTBALL?
The worsening relationship between Australian football and its host broadcaster brings home the pressing need for genuine unity among A-League and National Premier Leagues clubs. The importance of inter-league co-operation took on a new dimension since it emerged earlier in the week that Fox Sports is refusing to sign off on a plan to restart the A-League in July unless football accepts a drastic cut in the funding deal. Journalist Philip Micallef looked into the scenario on the World Game website.
The A-League would break the terms of Football Federation Australia's television deal, worth $57 a year, if it unilaterally went ahead with its bid to complete the championship that was interrupted in March. Fox Sports seems to have football in a stranglehold and, needless to say, if the worse comes to the worst and the A-League is forced to operate on a shoestring budget, the whole game in Australia would suffer.
Which is why it has never been more crucial for the clubs from both levels to swallow their pride, let bygones be bygones and form a united front to face the crisis the game finds itself in. The failure of Australia's clubs to recognise that 'old soccer' and 'new football' are essentially one, and that they should be protagonists not antagonists, may be a reason our game has yet to reach its potential.
As club football tries to set up a solid economic platform from which to build its long-term future, this is probably a simplistic way of looking at a complex issue that has divided public opinion and ridiculously remains unresolved. Hence the million-dollar question: why is it so hard for the A-League and NPL organisations to see that club football is one whole game and its progress is being shackled by snobbery and jealousy?
Fifteen years ago, the semi-professional National Soccer League - that was good enough to spawn the 'golden generation' but failed to make a mark on the sporting landscape - was morphed into the professional A-League that provided many memorable moments but has now hit a brick wall and is struggling for survival.
Many loyal supporters of such established clubs as Marconi, Sydney Olympic, Melbourne Knights, South Melbourne, Heidelberg United and Adelaide City felt cheated when the FFA dumped them to set up a new competition in 2005. 'New football' did not want anything to do with 'old soccer' because it claimed that in the eyes of the public the old game was a basket case despite providing a stream of talented players - so a complete overhaul was needed to sell the game to 'Joe Bloggs'.
There is no doubt that the game's reputation was at an all-time low, and its 'wogball' image did not help, so a complete break from the past was seen at the time as a logical cure to its ills. However, by the same token, Australia's big league is now fighting for dear life, so should a meaningful re-connect with the past be seen as the logical remedy to its problems?
The proponents of an open pyramid including officials who work very hard to keep their semi-pro clubs going and those of a closed shop including owners who have lost millions need to forge closer ties and a higher level of trust and goodwill. They simply need each other to survive. Despite what the noisy lobby for inclusion keeps telling us, the NSL had major issues and the A-League was seen as football's last chance saloon.
But the 'new football' that enjoys unprecedented media support has not capitalised on the enthusiasm generated in its first few years and the current economic woes are due to a big drop in spectators, viewers and general interest. For this reason, the A-League needs a facelift and what better way to do it than by creating a second division to give the more ambitious traditional clubs a chance to mix it with the elite?
The new league can claim an edge over its predecessors in terms of overall football quality and 'match experience', but all this could quickly dissipate if the game remains broken, and the old league can be nostalgic about the game's history and dismissive of today's elite as much as it likes, yet for all its good intentions the NSL was a failure. Our football no doubt has faults and weaknesses at all levels and there is no point in stakeholders taking cheap shots at each other in what can only be described as a crass exercise in ‘whataboutery’. Unity of purpose is the way to go, so if we are to get out of the hole we are in, why can't we forget the past and concentrate on a future as one game with one direction. This might be our last chance to get it right.
BEADLING SAYS PLAYERS MAY NEED TO LEAVE GAME DUNFERMLINE
Midfielder Tom Beadling believes he and several teammates will be in a "precarious situation" and may have to find work outside of football following their release by Dunfermline Athletic. The Scottish Championship club will let 17 players go when their deals expire at the end of May in a decision they say was taken to "protect the future of the club".
As well as Beadling, first-team regulars Lee Ashcroft, Danny Devine and Paul Paton will be let go, along with fellow senior pros Ryan Scully, Joe Thomson, Andy Ryan, Callum Smith. "There are no superstars earning five to 10 grand here, it's lads on very normal salaries," Beadling said. "There are bills that need to be paid and boys will be looking for jobs, and quickly."
Beadling said the news came as a surprise, given how long some of the players had been with Dunfermline. "It leaves a lot of lads in a precarious situation," he said. "Clubs aren't looking to make signings when they've got no idea when the season will be up and running again - it doesn't make sense to. As a player, you're hoping your club will recognise that and show you that support."
Ayr United will extend the contracts of around 10 players by a month, taking advantage of the government's Job Retention Scheme. Beadling had hoped his club would do the same, however, they are thought to have received legal advice that HMRC may see football clubs as an easy target if they are found to be using the scheme inappropriately.
"That extra month would be crucial," said the 24-year old. "It would give us more time to adapt. By the end of June, we will have a clearer picture on the start date for next season, so it would've given us time to find new clubs or in some cases, other jobs. We won't be the last club to do it, that's the sad thing."
O'NEILL ON LIFE AND FOOTBALL IN KOREA
It has been one heck of a year for Socceroos midfielder Brandon O'Neill, and he spoke to Optus Sports ahead of Pohang Steelers' trip to Incheon, 7.45pm AEST Sunday, about the highs and lows of life in the K League. “It is an environment made for tough people, and in the football world they want to test your mettle,” he explained. “They throw everything at you: physically, mentally and emotionally that they can. And after all that and you’re still here, then that says something to them and to you - that you’re made of good things and want to be thrown in these situations and tested and come out the other side better.”
O’Neill has certainly had to embrace that challenge after moving from the A-League Champions, Sydney FC, at the start of the year for this new chapter of his career and life. It took until 16 May to play his first game, and in the meantime, O’Neill had to wrestle not just with the doubts that creep in with more time to spare than usual, but with the wrenching decision of whether to stay at all, after his father, Myles, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I use him as inspiration, for the sort of person he is. “When I was back home in Australia there were definite moments my wife and I were thinking ‘should we be doing this’, knowing the situation my family was in, not knowing what the future holds,” he said. “But he said what gives me hope, strength, every day in the morning is speaking to you, knowing you are living out your dream playing at the highest level possible. You’ve been working for this for so long, so hard, I am really living this with you - I am over there with you, experiencing this with you. That gives me hope and strength to keep fighting.
“If you were back home and not over there with the potential to make a name for yourself in Asia – if I woke up and saw you making a cup of tea in the morning knowing you weren’t doing that, that would make me go quicker because I would feel personally responsible. I know that is selfish but it is the reality. You have been put on this earth to go over there and chase something you’ve always wanted. To know that, hear that, from someone battling life’s worst thing they could possibly battle, puts things into perspective.”
Armed with that inspiration, O’Neill returned to Korea - where training continued during the COVID-19 pandemic - ready for this new frontier with Pohang Steelers, a club steeped in K League and continental success. Adapting to a new league, country, culture and competition is one challenge enough. But doing so in the midst of a pandemic presented O’Neill with another layer of complexity. He did not start in their season opener, but finally got to taste the action in a round two draw with Daegu. “Enjoyable, challenging, very different, but I think if I was to pick one word, I feel, very relieved,” he said.
“To be able to play a few matches and not feel out of place, not feel vulnerable, not question myself; I just feel that with more games I can feel like I belong here and get better as a footballer. The standard is very high in football terms: technically, tactically, physically – and to not feel out of place and feel like you can have a bit of an impact, was awesome for me.”
O’Neill immediately realised how important it was to adapt to and embrace his new surrounds. “The way of life here, they’re very emotional-less. We would look at it as ruthless. They look at it as their normal way of life,” he explained. “In each game over the first three rounds – game one, substitution 30 minutes in; game two, 25 minutes in, and in our game just gone our foreign winger got substituted three minutes before half-time.
“Being brought up the way we are, we’re thinking ‘what on earth is going on here? I have never experienced this in my life’. But here it is normal. Things like that, you don’t think is normal or comfortable but you’ve got to quickly adapt. This is the life I am living. It is normality. (You need to) thrive in it, adopt it, roll with it, or (it is) not for you. I’m definitely in the first category. I have said this to my wife: I want to be here minimum two years to live this life, challenge myself to get as good and better as I can be as a person and footballer and whatever happens after that happens. I want to look back every day (and say) I was getting better because I was getting challenged.”
Instead of those doubts, O’Neill said a growth mindset has guiding him through his life in a new league. Indeed, he experienced that himself when he was on the bench for the opener after his truncated pre-season, then in the starting XI the next week after his side had won. He knows he can’t get bogged down in emotion, there’s constantly things outside of your control. Instead of second guessing, I know today I have got better at something. I am down there, on the ball, 100% of the time, to learn, understand and then execute. “It’s so cut throat, you can get left behind a bit. Even when you don’t think you’re furthering yourself; you just are because you in an environment getting challenged day in day out and I’m very lucky to be in this position given everything going on in the world. I am training, playing, earning a living for my family,” he said. “This is what I wanted - I am getting challenged - no matter the outcome you can be proud of the process put in place.”
That also includes coping with the burden of being the foreigner, a challenge the likes of Sasa Ognenovski, Robbie Cornthwaite and Jason Davidson have all spoken about recently. “The biggest lesson I have learnt coming to a massive club in Asia – you get given a lot of the tools to perform but in order to get better you have to remove the expectation from your head,” he said. “You’ve got to really strip it back to the bare roots of things.” O’Neill, who made his Socceroos debut in June 2019, ironically against South Korea, says from language to the ruthlessness, to being a foreigner, there are 20-30 things totally different to Australian football. “I use the analogy of when we look at the sky, we think, the sky is blue in our culture. Sometimes, in Korean culture, you look up and they say the sky is green and you think, ok, right, roll with it and jump on that bandwagon and see where that leads us,” he said.
“Training and working hard is a given in Korea. Working hard on the weekend is given. You are judged on performance and if not up to standard, the consequences follow. “It is an amazing environment to be in because Korean culture really holds you accountable for giving your best, and your performance every day in training and every weekend in the K league. There hasn’t been a day where I have come (home and thought) ‘that was a normal day’ – or go to sleep and do that tomorrow without thinking too much. There is always something new, challenging; days like that you come home and think ‘am I getting better, am I still the player I was’? (The answer is) you were not getting this anywhere else so you know you’re getting challenged.”
Three games into his Korea adventure, O’Neill is buzzing. But, being the deep thinker about the game that he is, he is also aware of a demand to adapt, while balancing it with the attributes that got him here in the first place. “It is cool to play in, so attack (minded),” he enthused. “There’s situations in the game where it is constantly counter attack, end to end. One thing I can say – there is not much in terms of tactical analysis that we dive into like in the A-League because the physicality and technical aspect – everyone’s a good player, everyone can run, and everyone is fit - shines through more. You can see that in the tempo of the game. “There is hardly a moment you can put your foot on it because you’re soon instructed to speed it up. You come from different backgrounds and experiences … then you’re thrust into an environment where everything has to be done 100%. It is another challenge and another way of doing things, you need time to get used to it. I found the Korean boys are some of the fittest individuals I have ever come across and technically very gifted. The way they play is very high tempo, high end to end kind of games, as a foreigner you have to adapt to that style but then back yourself knowing your qualities.”
Finding that sweet spot is something O’Neill is learning day-to-day to implement. “The Korean way is end to end craziness, I call it, but I know if I am on the ball and if I get into areas where I can have time facing forward I know I can have a real impact on this league,” the midfielder explained. “It is finding that balance of accepting the way the Koreans would like me to play and how I can bring that into my game to make sure I am getting the best out of myself. Coming from Australia to Korea, I knew the way of life and football would be totally different but I would never lose that underlying confidence in what makes me a really good player. “To do these things my movement has to be good, I have to be in positions where I can make time for myself, but I need to have the engines to get forward, support attacks, but do my job defensively breaking up play and starting counter attacks. As a 26-year-old I know what works for me and I look at the Korean game and you’ve got to mash them together to come up with a way that is beneficial for both sides … something I have really enjoyed figuring out myself.”
Pohang is a five-time K League and three-time Asian Champions League winner, in a city where the people “love their football, something O’Neill is finding out. “Pohang is a footballing town. If you play for Pohang, when you’re out and about people cheer you,” he explained. “As a club, they have two training pitches, high performance centre, three storey clubhouse where three-quarters of the squad live in, a chef, a café area where we eat, beds, you name it. Whatever you think of as a professional environment, they have.” When the proposition first arrived while at Sydney FC, it is no surprise who he turned to for some honest truths – former Sydney FC teammates Alex Wilkinson and Matthew Jurman - especially given the respect O’Neill has for the Australians who have not just survived, but thrived, in the K League’s ruthless surrounds before him. “Wilks was a first port of call, you have to be an amazing person to come over here to win a K League,” he said. “He rattled off 10-15 things different to life back home. The biggest thing I can give you is ‘just embrace everything’ … you’re there to experience a whole new direction in football and life and it will only make you better.
“That’s been my mantra, something Wilks really hit home to me. In our eyes they do things very differently but we shouldn’t be one to judge, think it is wrong, right, this is what I have to deal with on a day to day basis to get better. Without doubt, with me being who I am, I never really happy with being happy, and constantly want to be getting better, in life, in football. Every chance I get I want to be sticking my hand up to be representing (my) country. It is the highest honour you can bestow upon someone, to be selected for your country consistently. I have the utmost respect for the guys who have 20-30-40 caps for their country. Incredible honour for their hard work and persistence. Korea: step up in league, stature, if you can succeed here in a foreign speaking country, you give yourself every opportunity to put your hand up. I make no secret I want to represent my country at highest level possible.”
While the former ECU Joondalup academy product is ferociously driven, he did allow himself the opportunity to get a sense of perspective ahead of his debut a fortnight ago. “I made a real conscious effort the week of to let everything else go and just enjoy the experience, because I have worked so hard for so long to have this experience to play in a foreign league as a foreigner in a tougher standard. To be given that opportunity I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself” he explained. “Coming from Brandon O’Neill, the Perth Glory youth team player, the 20-21 year old who didn’t know where his footballing journey was going to head; fast forward five to six years, playing in one of the biggest leagues and biggest clubs, one of the most successful clubs, no chance in hell five years ago I think I would be able to do this. I wanted to … embrace it all.”
CLUB IN PROFILE - CARRAMAR SHAMROCK ROVERS FOOTBALL CLUB
Carramar Shamrock Rovers Football Club are one of the "newest" clubs in Western Australia. Having only formed this year after a merger between Shamrock Rovers Perth and Carramar FC.
Cararmar FC was established in 2008, and was first known as Carramar Cougars. They had instance success in their very first season in the senior competition, winning the Amateur Fifth Division championship. After three seasons in Division Four, the club won promotion to Division Three. The club first found the going tough, finishing ninth in Division Three and then sixth in 2013. Even though only achieving a mid-table finish, promotion was achieved due to new clubs in higher leagues joining an expanded State League Division Two competition.
Carramar were now in the Amateur Second Division, and finished in fifth spot in 2014. The club consolidated their spot in the division, and just managed to miss out on promotion a couple of times. Their greatest success was in 2019, when the club made it all the way to the Amateur Cup Final but lost out to Kingsley.
At the end of 2019, Carramar had their sight on bigger things. With a big and successful junior base to work with, the club applied for the vacant spot in the State League, however their application was unsuccessful. This led to talks with a possible merger with Shamrock Rovers Perth.
Shamrock Rovers Perth was founded in 1984, and it took it's name from the Dublin club that plays in the League of Ireland. It also gave WA's Irish community a team to call their own. Shamrock Rovers began life in what would today be called the Amateur Third Division in their first year as a club. Shamrock made an immediate impact on the local scene, winning successive promotions and reaching the Amateur Premier Division a few years later.
After establishing itself in the top echelon of amateur football, Rovers reached new heights during the 1990's. After the disappointment of cup final defeats in 1993 and 1995, the club built on its reputation in the following years and claimed its first Amateur Premier Division title in 1996. Coached by Mick Murray, the team contained the likes of Matt Day, Jon Craik, Johnny Allen and Phil Foulkes. The 1997 season was to prove even more impressive as Shamrock became the first club to achieve the amateur league and cup double.
While Shamrock continued to be one of the powerhouses of amateur football, the club seemed to just fail to reach its previous heights in the following years. In 1999, Rovers fell just short on two fronts, finishing second in the league and losing the cup final to traditional rivals Fremantle United 1-0. .
Rovers’ climb back to the top did not take long. In 2004 coach Nik Silsby put together an impressive squad, built around players who had grown up at the club such as Eddie Schuller, Mark Kelly, the Brooks brothers (Wayne, Glenn and Sean), Keith and Stephen Roche and Mickey Murray. The team swept all before them but after points were deducted due to a controversial ruling over former professional Donal O’Brien, it took a victory to on the last day to secure the title. 2005 saw Rovers finish third, but were champions again in 2007 after a remarkable play-off title final against rivals Fremantle United. In 2009 under coach Glynn Shaw, the club finished runners-up and made it all the way to the Quarter-Finals of the State Cup, losing an epic game against top flight club Inglewood United 4-3.
In 2010, Paul McCue once again became coach, and like three years earlier, the hoops were champions again. Just like after winning the 2007 title, Shamrock were once again offered promotion to the State League. After deciding against it three years earlier, this time the hoops accepted.
In 2011, the Shamrock Rovers were in the big time, State League Division One football for the first time in their history, and they weren't there just to make up the numbers. It was a great debut season, finishing in fourth position.
Rovers continued to finish in the top half of the table, but 2014 under coach John O’Reilly was to be their year. The hoops only lost three games to claim the Division One title. Normally promotion to the Premier League would have followed, however due to the formation of the NPL-WA that season, there was to be no relegation or promotion.
After claiming fourth spot in 2015, things started to go downhill. A number of experience players left the club as did coach John O’Reilly. Shamrock ended the 2016 in last spot and were relegated. 2017 fared no better and the club once again struggled, and finished in a relegation position again. Wembley Downs as Amateur Champions were offered promotion, however after much debate Wembley Downs decided to stay where they were and Shamrock were to remain in the State League.
In 2018, there was an improvement under coach Gerry McEwan, the hoops finished in eight position and well clear of relegation, another eighth spot followed again in 2019.
After the 2019 season, Shamrock were in talks with Carramar FC for a possible merger. A merger would benefit both clubs, Shamrock currenly had no juniors, while Carramar would have a State League pathway for their future stars. In the end both clubs agreed to join together, and Carramar Shamrock Rovers was born.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division winners - 2014 (Shamrock Rovers Perth)
In this time of upheaval with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s sixth ‘In conversation’ we catch up with Bayswater City’s Colombian striker Gustavo Giron-Marulanda.
Marulanda played his youth football in Colombia with Once Caldas and Deportivo Pereira, before moving to Perth and signing for Bayswater City. In his first spell at the Frank Drago Reserve club he played 150 games scoring 100 goals, and spent time at A-League side Perth Glory, before he moved to the Indonesian Premier League and played for Arema Cronus and Persegres Gresik United.
But in 2016 the talented striker moved back home to Bayswater and he said the club is special and he hopes to end his career in the Black and Blue. “After 11-years at the club we have gone through many great moments, and I have made great friends and memories that I will never forget,” he explained. “This obviously couldn’t have been done without the hard and tireless work of all the volunteers at the club, specially from those who are there every day to get the club to where it is right now. We have set the standards in WA in the past 6/7 years and we strive to keep doing so.”
It was a frustrating year for Marulanda in 2019, a knee injury sidelined him for most of the season, but he said the coaching and physios at the club held him back and he said it was the right decision, although at the time it was frustrating. “Yes, 2019 was a quite frustrating year for me, coming back from long term (ACL) injury, which only allowed me to take part in only 7/8 games in the second part of the season,” he said. “I told Chris (Coyne) I was ready and all I wanted to do was get back out on the pitch to help my teammates. However, I look back and feel glad the coaching staff handled the situation in a very professional manner to get me back to my best and now my knee is fully recovered.”
The club have been active in the transfer market over the past two seasons and competition for places in the front third is high, but that’s something the striker is relishing. “The club have brought some very exciting new players, and having Gordon Smith, Daryl Nicol and youngster Luke Salmon, will only create a better and much more competitive environment at the club,” he explained. “We all know we must be at the top of their game in order to get selected, and I love the fact there is healthy competition, as it will only make us better and sharper. I look forward to spending some more time with the boys on the ground this season, and I’m pretty sure we will complement each other perfectly.”
With training being in lockdown the striker has been busy keeping up his fitness, but he said to spend some precious time with his family was great. “This year has been a very difficult year for all of us, those who play and those who look forward to going to the game on the weekend and enjoy a beer on the stands,” he said. “However, having this time off, has been a great opportunity to spend time with the loved ones which is very special, and get to do things we don’t usually do due to the time we spend at the clubs. Although looking after your body and your fitness is a key part of the game, even while having time off, we’ve been working closely with the club’s fitness coach to keep on track and fit, and I have also adjusted my garage with some equipment to help maintain my shape.”
Marulanda has played with and against some quality players along the years, and he selected a few when asked the questions. “I think Liam Miller was someone different to any other player I ever shared a pitch with, a player that left us to young,” he said. “I also spent some time in Colombia with Rene Higuita at Deportivo Pereira, he was someone I had dream of even shaking his hand and football gave me the chance to share changeroom. In the local game I’d say Paul McCarthy at Bayswater, he was also a great teammate to have alongside. On the other side playing against players like Robbie Fowler and Grafite made me very aware of the difference between average and greatness, these players were amazing.”
ANOTHER COYNE READY TO DROP
The Coyne surname is well known in WA football with former West Ham United, Luton Town defender and Socceroo Chris Coyne, and former Hartlepool United and Socceroo striker John Coyne. But there is another Coyne making his mark in WA football, that of teenager Aidan. For dad Chris and Grandad John, to see young Aiden continue the famous footballing family name as he makes his mark at the Perth Glory academy.
Chris played for the Glory from 2009 to 2012 and earned seven caps for Australia, while John starred in the NSL with Brisbane City and won four international caps from 1979 to 1980. Like his father, Aidan is a central defender who was born in England but has spent most of his life in Western Australia. Last year the 16-year-old spent time on trial in England at Luton Town, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and Stoke City.
His dad said the trails went well. “I thought it was a good time to see where he was at, because obviously a lot’s changed in football in that period since I played in England,” he told The World Game. “We took him to Luton for the first week and then up to West Brom, Villa and Stoke. He did really well. Luton will have him back, West Brom loved him but he just needs to grow.
“Aidan’s always been the late bloomer. Since we’ve been back in September, he’s probably grown four or five centimetres. He’s going through his growth spurt now. “A stereotypical centre-half is six foot three, six foot four [in the UK], so it’s been sardines, Omega 3s and salmon, all the super-growth foods you can get. With his ability he can do it, if it’s his height and the rest of it that lets him down then maybe he finds a gig in Asia or plays in a different country like a Holland or a Germany where you don’t need that big, dominant centre-half.”
Chris signed for West Ham United as an 18-year-old in 1996 and spent four years in the Hammers’ academy at the same time as future internationals Joe Cole, Jermaine Defoe and Glen Johnson. He then joined Dundee in 2000 and, after a season with the Scottish side, he spent seven years with Luton and one with Colchester United before landing in the A-League. He retired in 2012 and has been coaching Bayswater City in the NPL Western Australia since 2013.
Chris represented Australia at both Under-17 and Under-23 level, and debuted for the Socceroos in 2008 under Pim Verbeek. His father John was a striker for Brisbane City and APIA Leichhardt in the NSL, while younger brother Jamie was also a professional who played for Perth Glory, Sydney FC and Melbourne Heart. “The athletic genes are there,” Chris said. “My wife played netball as well, she played for England up to Under-23s. The DNA is there for us to produce one athlete I suppose.”
Aidan started his football journey in Under-6s at Woodvale FC before joining ECU Joondalup. The teenager has represented Western Australia at state level and is now part of the Glory youth team. “He was at ECU for a few years and then he’s been at Perth Glory,” Chris explained. “He played up to under-15s at ECU and then he just needed to go to a proper academy set-up where they’re training four or five times a week with weights.
“Glory have got Steve McGarry, Jacob Burns, Richard Garcia and Terry McFlynn, so four people I played with and against who are good football people, but they’re tough as well. It’s an opportunity for him. He goes alright, and I think he’s got the ability and the commitment, whether he gets there or not, it’s a tough world.”
WHATS HAPPENING WITH THE A-LEAGUE?
While grassroots football teams have started training again, it’s disappointing that the professional game in Australia is still in lockdown, with A-League players becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of clarity about their stalled season. While other major codes such as the NRL and AFL have announced season resumption timetables, the return of the A-League remains unknown, and Adelaide United’s football director Bruce Djite has asked why?
Football Federation Australia (FFA) wants the season, which was put on hold in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, to resume and finish in the month of August. But Djite, who has played over 250 games in Australia and overseas, said players are becoming restless that no firm time frame for a return to training or the season restart has been detailed.
“The FFA are no doubt doing their best and there’s no reason for them to keep us in the dark any more than they need to,” Djite told AAP. “But the feedback from the players is of frustration when the Bundesliga is back, the Premier League are going back to training, all before us. I would argue that the coronavirus is much worse in Europe than it is in Australia.”
A-League players were seeking some certainty after the AFL and NRL detailed aspects of their respective restarts.
“I speak to players as often as possible and the constant is ’hold on a second, what makes us so much more complicated when we have only got a few more games to play?” Djite explained. “AFL have got their stuff sorted. NRL have got their stuff sorted. “Foxtel has paid the (latest A-League broadcasting rights) money now - we still haven’t got our stuff sorted.
“Obviously the players want to get back to play as soon as possible... They’re not saying they want to play tomorrow but they just want to know what the schedule is. Maybe legally we’re still not guaranteed Fox Sports for the next three years. There’s a lot of things that probably myself, the clubs and the players don’t know about that are happening in the background.”
Compounding the agitation in A-League ranks is the expiry of many player contracts at the end of May. “Besides the financials and the timings and everything, it’s also about just a matter of principle,” Djite added. “Players are out of contract on 31 May; getting extended to the end of August, yes, no? Players who are out of contract who have signed for another club, where do they sit? The one real positive is that the FFA and the PFA (Professional Footballers Australia) are in talks and they have been having talks for some time. So, there is obviously some light at the end of the tunnel.”
DAVIDSON HAS FOUND THE GAME AGAIN
Former Perth Glory Jason Davidson was at the crossroads in his football career, when he got a phone from Tony Popovic and the 26-year-old believes that call changed his career path. He could continue moving through Europe – a club career that had seen him play in Portugal, Holland, England, Croatia and Slovenia – or take a risk, then, Popovic called. The defender was an indispensable part of the Socceroos through the 2014 World Cup period, and lifted the Asian Cup in 2015 in Ange Postecoglou’s squad.
But, by his own admission, he was on a “downward spiral” in his club career after that. “He (Tony) called me. I’ll never forget it,” Davidson told Optus Sports. “He was brutally honest. He told me where I stand; where he thought my football was. That honesty, no BS – he said pretty much, ‘this is where I think you are, if you come back, this is what I can do for you.’ I knew they were trying to assemble a strong squad for the A-League. I think it was the best decision I have ever made in my career.
“He is one of the best coaches I have worked under and I am very thankful, he knows that, and I put my body on the line for him. Until then, I was used to just the on-field demands – performing, but he changed my whole aspect of living full focused on football, be it sleeping, diet, recovery, the one per centres, those details. It was a regime, he was the top dog, we all had to fall into place but I thrived and enjoyed that kind of atmosphere. I used it as a spring board, and hopefully one more time in my career I would love to play under him again.
But for now, I am grateful he gave me the opportunity to re-start my career. In 2019 Davidson became a key part of Popovic’s Perth Glory side, which claimed the A-League Premiership and endured grand final disappointment at the hands of Sydney FC. It was just the season the defender craved. The year he needed, and when Korea powerhouse Ulsan Hyundai were looking to bolster their foreign contingent for a tilt at the K League crown, they came calling. Within five days, a deal was done.
Davidson, who went from trying to “shut football out” for a while to overcome the grand final defeat, was suddenly off on a new adventure. Financially, it made sense, to help secure the future for his family. Football wise, it was a logical next step, too. The set-up in Korea is “completely different”: clubhouses, where each player has their own room as well, and every age group can stay at the same complex; there are also three training facilities, six training pitches in addition to one for the first team.
“(I was thinking): It is regarded as one of the best leagues in Asia, I am going to one of the biggest clubs there fighting for the championship,” Davidson said. “They signed me midway through a season where they were first in the league. They pretty much said to me: ‘you’re coming here to help us win the Championship’. They were in the final 16 of the Champions League at the time as well. They said ‘we want to win the ACL and the K League’. To have the feel of a big club that wants to win things, be dominant in the country and in Asia, really lured me. That was what I want to be a part of …. They haven’t won something since 2012 so they are hungry to bring something back.”
But by the end of 2019, Davidson had not only endured two near misses, but also tore three ligaments in his ankle as he was about to make his debut for the club. After Glory’s grand final defeat, Ulsan were agonisingly pipped for the K League crown on the final day by Jeonbuk. After that, motivation isn’t in short supply for both player, and club, in 2020. “The thing is, when a sponsor or a company has spent so much money on the club, they are very ambitious,” he said.
“As a club, as players, we have got goals. That is definitely to win the league, do well in the Cup. At the start, we had a meeting saying we want to win all three (League, Cup, Champions League) – when you’re a part of that, it feels special. You’re not saying you want to just survive, or hopefully make the top six: they’ve said: bang, this is what we want to do and we’re all on board … it is nice being a part of that.” Fuelled by last season’s disappointment, Ulsan have gone out swinging. Davidson says they have 22 players all capable of making the XI, and sometimes, two internationals vying for the one spot.
They started impressively with an opening day 4-0 win Sangju and beat Adam Taggart’s Suwon on Sunday. “The first part of my journey here has been crazy and frustrating and everyone knows we lost the (title) on the final day on goal difference. The club, the boys, were very upset,” he explained. “In the off season they have said ‘we’re going all out’ and they have bought a lot of players … people have said the team they have assembled is kind of an all-star team. They have shown their intent.”
Davidson said it’s been difficult for everyone and life in Korea during COVID-19 has been harsh. So just talking about football is a bit surreal, let alone playing it. Korea was one of the early COVID hotspots, second behind China in the formative stages. He sent his family back home to be safe (they are now back together), but K League clubs continued to train, with fortnightly revisions around when the season might resume. It has been quite the physical and mental challenge.
“For us, we came in a month before the K League teams, for the Champions League, so we had done a whole pre-season,” he said. “After that, mid-Feb, it just became really crazy, no end date, the league got postponed, and it was becoming hard for the players as they were doing week by week, or (fortnightly) instead of making a decision. It is hard for a player because you have to stay motivated … after a couple of weeks (you think) when is this league really going to start? It starts to become hard as a professional to stay motivated and keep your body in shape.
“In Europe players have had to train at home; we have been lucky, that we have been allowed to come to training as a squad; the differences were coming into the club house we had to check our temperatures coming through the front door, and just before training. We had to wear masks at the start. At first, I didn’t leave my home, just went to the super market to bulk buy … just go to training … the only positive thing was the country wasn’t in a compulsory lockdown, so we were able to train right through.”
“The foreign players were saying ‘listen, this is ridiculous, we shouldn’t be training, it is dangerous; we wanted to go home’. We are lucky, especially Australian players, the PFA supported us over here – where did we stand legally, if we needed any help over here, just to support us, because mentally as a footballer you’ve never been through it, and as a human being, it is really scary, so they were there supporting us. The constant training meant the “baseline fitness” in the K League never really dropped, but “no game is like a competitive game, so, it was quite hard, especially in the first game the last 20 minutes the legs felt like jelly.”
But one thing that holds the former Glory defender in good stead is what he learnt in Perth. They were lessons that provided him the platform to move back overseas in the first place and to get back to the level that saw him represent Australia at the highest level possible. “Popa said: ‘you have nothing to worry about, you are prepared by the way we have been training, the way your body has been shaped, go and do your business on the field and maintain the schedule I had been living in Perth’. That is why the transition, and playing in Europe for a long time, hasn’t been that hard for me.
“In Europe, who is a foreigner? But here there are three foreigners and an Asian spot. If you are not delivering or performing, they chop and change. The pressure is on the foreigner to be performing more than the Korean players. That was the biggest part to adjust to. You earn a bit more than (some) of the Korean players… they bring you here for a reason. If you’re equal to them or not better, they look at it as ‘what are you doing here’. Every training session you have to be at your best to stay there.”
After a few years meandering in Europe, that is just what Davidson is thriving on, however. So, how did a player that was one of the first name on the Socceroos’ team sheet end up circling between leagues in Europe, ending up on loan in Slovenia? “After having a great World Cup, I got offers not many people know about: Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga – from one club from the big five,” he said. “My dream was always to play in the Premier League. When I look back maybe it wasn’t the smartest decision because it wasn’t (the best for) my style of play to adapt to … I had a tough experience … it kicked off a downwards spiral.”
From there, Davidson went to the Championship, the Eredivisie, returned to Huddersfield in England, then moved to Croatia – where he hoped playing at a big club, playing in European competition as well, would put him back in the club and national team shop window before the World Cup. Instead, he saw the “ugly side” of football behind the scenes. He put that behind him but had to get out, and Slovenia was the only transfer window still open. “I played 14-15 games, we won the league, the championship and the Cup, so it gave me a little morale boost and that’s when Perth came into the equation. That was the dilemma: go back to Australia or stay in Europe and go through the motion of finding that smaller club?”
But he admits, by then, he wasn’t enjoying it. “Being honest, in my career, I have had a lot of ups and downs and maybe the consistency hasn’t been there, he said. “If I was fortunate enough to have had Popa in Europe it would’ve been the perfect fairy tale story and I would’ve been so happy to have had that experience. But everything happens for a reason. It is easy to look back now and say I wish I had him at 22 … but I have been fortunate enough to have had a good career, travel the world, and play at the highest level. You wish you could’ve had it but I don’t want to say in the same breath I regret that, because it has made me the player and person I am today."
That player is one who has started matches at a World Cup. He might have done it, but that doesn’t mean the fire doesn’t burn to return there. He knows only club form can open the door for that. “To be able to firstly have done that, I am very grateful to have played a World Cup, an Asian Cup, as a young boy that is something you dream of – representing your country on the biggest stage is the biggest honour. But every footballer is competitive and wants to be the best they can be and I am no different,” he said. “If it doesn’t, I will look back and say I accomplished a lot that I wanted to as a young boy - but I definitely want to play for the Socceroos again and hopefully I can.”
Suddenly, he is also front and centre to do that. The K League’s kicked-off, while the rest of the world watches on, has put him and his colleagues in the shop window for now. And they’re relishing it. “Being in the shop window, the whole word is hungry for football. I know many leagues across the world have bought the rights … for anyone, if you perform, you never know who is watching, but it is great for Asian football in general to have the whole world watching,” he said. “That is why it is important for others in Asia, even the A-League, to use it to their advantage. If the A-League does get up and running before Europe … use it to try get that exposure and win people over. You never know where that might lead to. We’re flying the flag ... hopefully others follow in Asia and it can be a big thing for Asian football in general.”
WHALLEY READIES FOR POST-COVID-19 FOOTBALL
Goalkeeper coach Dave Whalley has welcomed moves to re-start the 2020 season but warns against complacency in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Premier Leagues was put on pause in March following Football Federation Australia’s suspension of all football activities across the nation.
Western Australian is in the fortunate position of having minimal community transmissions of COVID-19. This factored heavily in the recent lifting of restrictions by Premier Mark McGowan who has opened the door on the re-commencement of community sport from mid-June.
“I, along with many people, have welcomed that decision,” commented Whalley, a member of the coaching team at Inglewood United. “The main priority though is to ensure that the risk of a potential ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 is addressed before even thinking about the NPL season starting up for 2020.”
“The measures that are currently in place regarding social distancing mean training can be non-contact only and competitive games are not an option. So, at the moment we have a pre-season. This challenges us as coaches to be a little bit more creative in the planning of our sessions.”
“From a goalkeeping prospective, sessions can be designed to refine the goalkeeper’s technique and fitness. Shot stopping from various distances, unopposed dealing with crosses and distribution can be practiced so I believe that there is real benefit to be gained by commencing training again.”
The NPL was halted with only one round of fixtures completed, and with three months of football now lost Whalley expects season 2020 to be abbreviated. “We need to be realistic,” he said. “The way I see it panning out is we’ll have a shortened senior NPL season where clubs play each other only once.”
“If that is the case, then I cannot see the team that comes out on top of the league being announced as the Champions. It’s possible we could see a Top Four competition with the team that wins that being announced as the top team - just like a normal NPL season!”
“The Junior NPL and State Leagues could be run in a shorter version too, and if ground availability permits have a Top Four competition. Another option could be to have clubs playing against themselves in the very younger age groups whilst the NPL 13s to 16s run along the same lines as the senior teams.”
The role of the goalkeeper is unique in football and for Whalley, who runs Dave Whalley Goalkeeping, that has been something of a blessing in disguise during the past three months. “Initially it was a little strange being at home on weekdays nights, and it was also very unsettling as coaching is my full-time role,” he said.
“But I’ve been lucky as the Government restrictions have allowed me to continue private one-on-one sessions. This has given me the opportunity to get to know the players a little more, to understand what makes them tick and why they want to play football. I’ve really appreciated their and their parents’ support during this period.”
When he’s not running his own business or working with Inglewood’s goalkeepers, Whalley can be found working within the Football Academy program at South Coast Baptist College where he’s been the Head of Goalkeeping for three years. And that too has thrown up some unique challenges of late.
“During this enforced time one of the challenges was to keep all the young students interested and engaged and to aim to continue their Football education in the best way possible. As a Football Department we decided to design many sessions and look to deliver them all online.”
“On a personal front this was a great learning curve for myself and I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I would not say that I am an expert now, but I have improved my computer skills and understanding of how to cut and clip videos improved dramatically!”
CLUB IN PROFILE - CANNING CITY SOCCER CLUB
Canning City Football Club was formed in 1972 as Canning Corinthian, and entered the semi-professional league in 1973 when it joined the old Third Division (now known as Division Two) in 1973, where the club finished in eight place. Just one year later, the club won the championship under coach John Reilly and were promoted to the old Second Division (now known as Division One) for the 1977 season. The club found it difficult, and never managed to get above seventh place for the next seven years before finding themselves relegated after the 1983 season. 1984 fared no better, even in a lower league, the club were relegated again, this time to the old Fourth Division. They stayed there for four seasons.
1988 was a turning point for the club, they finished runners-up and won promotion back to the old Third Division. Then in 1991, with Bob Braid as coach the club won the league title and were promoted back to the second tier of WA Football for the first time since 1983.
After the 1992 season, the club were in talks with nearby Melville Alemannia, who were based at John Connell Reserve in Leeming. A merger took place, and the new club was to be called Melville Corinthian, and took the field in what would now be known as Division One. The junior section of Canning Corinthian decided to stay separate and continue on as a junior club only. In 1995, the junior club name was changed to Canning Cosmos. Melville Corinthian continued to play at John Connell Reserve, and changed their name to Leeming Strikers in 1997.
In 2000, Canning Cosmos was one of the biggest junior clubs in Western Australia, and the committee decided to bring back seniors to the club, and applied to re-join the semi-professional competition. Their application was accepted, and they would join the First Division in 2001 under the new name of Canning City with Harry Long as coach. Ironically they would be in the same league as Leeming Strikers. With a very young squad of players, the club struggled in it's first seasons back in the league before they managed to finish third in 2004. The club flirted with relegation in 2005 before jumping back to fifth in 2006.
Canning City entered the 2008 season as one of the Division One favourites, and under coach Frank Longstaff they didn't disappoint. They easily won the league, and become the first club in the history of the First Division to go undefeated.
The club were in the Premier League for the first time in their history in 2009. Their first ever top flight game was at home to Perth SC, where they lost 5-1. However, the club ended up up having a good start to the season, winning five of their first ten games, and looked good enough to stay up. The second half of the season was a different story, the club lost many games by the odd goal and found themselves relegated.
Life back in Division One was a struggle at first, but under co-coaches Paul Van Dongen and Michael Van Dongen, Canning finished third in 2013 and sixth in 2014. Club legend Paul Oliver took over in 2015 and 2016 with respectable league positions. Peter Lord became coach in 2017, however the club struggled, and were relegated.
Canning were in Division Two in 2018, and found the going tough. The club finished tenth, followed by last place and relegation in 2019. The club would have been relegated to the Amateur Premier Division, however due to withdrawal of South West Phoenix, Canning applied to re-join Division Two, and their application was successful.
Chris Finlayson became the new coach in 2020, and has brought in new players with experience which should lead to a big improvement this season.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division Winners - 2008
Second Division Winners - 1976, 1991
Third Division Runners Up - 1988
Night Series Lower Division runners-up - 2008
In this time of upheaval with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve.
In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s fifth ‘In conversation’ we catch up with former St Mirren and Perth Glory midfielder Steven McGarry.
McGarry’s professional football career started at St Mirren where he played over 150 games for the Saints, bagging 25 goals. He then moved to Ross County in 2002, the midfielder clocking up over 100 games at Victoria Park, before a move to Motherwell in 2006, where he stayed for four seasons. He also played for his country, earning three Scotland under-21 caps, before the Scotsman headed down under, joining the A-League with Perth Glory. The likable midfielder became a firm favorite with the Glory faithful playing 114 games, scoring 11 goals, and helping the club to it’s first-ever A-League Grand Final in 2012.
It all started for McGarry at St Mirren Park, and his time there was surreal, playing for the club he barracked for as a youngster, and he made such an impact at the club they named a street in his honour. “As a kid growing up in a small village called Houston which was on the outskirts of Paisley, all I ever wanted to do was to play for St Mirren, to achieve that and also be part of a successful team will be memories I will never forget,” the 40-year-old explained. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that I have a street named after me, I haven’t been back to Scotland yet to see it on the old Love Street ground, but it will be something nice for the kids to go back to see when we get the chance. “
The decision to head to Australia was a tough one, but McGarry said it was the right one. "Craig Brown (Motherwell coach) came in and he actually wanted me to stay, so it was a bit of a dilemma," he said. "I just decided to take a risk and came out (to Australia). I terminated my contract, came to an agreement. They wanted me to stay and hopefully be part of the things there but I thought to myself, I know Perth and coach Dave (Mitchell) had a good interest in me. So, I was willing to come out here and take a risk at it, and thankfully it worked out."
His time at Perth was memorable, and he has now returned to the club to coach their youngsters, being appointing Head of Youth Development at the clubs Academy. The highlight, or was it a low light, was the appearance in the 2012 Grand Final against Brisbane Roar, a result McGarry and the hundreds of Glory supporters were looking for on the day. “I look back very fondly at my time playing at the club, I played with some quality players and have made friends for life. I had a great relationship with the supporters although it would have been nice to replay them with some silverware,” McGarry explained.
“The run up to the finals that year was an interesting one, we never got off to the best of starts, but after ten games in we were started to kick in. I was really enjoying playing higher up that year playing just off Smeltzy or big Billy and we were picking up points and looking really strong and had great momentum going into the final series. The Final Series was a weird one for me as I got injured in training, big Vuka came out and clattered me when working on set plays and with heavy medication and cortisone jabs and limited training I managed to play my part across the finals. The Grand Final itself is a bit of a blur apart from that penalty incident, all Glory fans know we were robbed, but I guess that’s football.”
In 2015 McGarry joined Amateur Premier Division club Gwelup Croatia, helping the club to the title, before he headed north and signed for NPLWA club ECU Joondalup. He said both clubs were great and he has made many friends at both. “Two excellent clubs with great people behind them,” he said. “I will always remember the FFA cup run at Gwelup with Mike Ford leading the team, and Jure being the driving force behind the club, we were one game away from the last 32 and would have been the first amateur club to do that but lost to Perth SC 4-3 in a thrilling game at Dorrien Gardens.
“Playing in the NPL with ECU Joondalup at 38-39 was great. With Dale (McCulloch), David (Tough) and Syd (Amphlett) it’s was always a fun environment and we had a fantastic run in 2017 and lost on penalties to get to the Top Four Grand Final that year. We had a good mixture of youth and experience and was great to help coach and navigate these young footballers trying to make their way in the game around the pitch.”
McGarry was an assistant coach at ECU Joondalup, and was the clubs Technical Director of Football. He has taken a similar role at Perth Glory, working alongside Terry McFlynn and Richard Garcia, and the midfielder said it’s was a great opportunity to go back into a professional environment. “The club outlined its vision and with some top coaches in place I felt it was the right time to go back into the club,” he explained. “Jacob Burns has similar views and beliefs in youth development and in the last 18 months we have seen a lot of changes in the Academy space with more training contacts, more quality games and a focus on improving the athletic development of all players, but we have only scratched the surface.
“From the outside looking in, people have said it been successful year because our 15’s, 16’s, 18’s and 20’s were all champions but success for us as a club is having players with a winning mentality but also probably more importantly it’s about players progressing through the age groups, players being selected for the national team, we had 11 players across the year being called up for international duty including three going to the under17 World Cup, it’s about Academy players training and playing in the A-league environment.
“Hopefully over the next couple of year we will see some of these players that have enough hunger and quality break into the first team. In these uncertain times it’s hard for everyone, but we know football will be back soon. Our players have been working hard and been dedicated working on their home program but I’m sure they we be desperate to get back on the training pitch with their team mates”
MATILDAS AND FOOTBALL FERNS IN JOINT BID FOR 2023 WORLD CUP
The bids are in for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and the Matildas joint bid with New Zealand are one of four bidding member associations to apply. FIFA announce on Friday that in light of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having around the world and the postponement of the FIFA Council meeting that was foreseen to take place in early June 2020 in Addis Ababa. FIFA has today confirmed to the bidding member associations that the selection of the host(s) of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ by the FIFA Council will be made at its meeting to be held online on 25 June 2020.
In the most competitive bidding process in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, four bids are in the race to host this showpiece competition: Joint submission by Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football, the Brazilian Football Association, the Colombian Football Association, Japan Football Association. All of the bid books, along with their respective executive summaries, are available on FIFA.com:
“FIFA remains committed to implementing the most comprehensive, objective and transparent bidding process in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura said. “This is part of our overall commitment to women’s football that, among other things, will see FIFA invest USD 1 billion in women’s football during the current cycle,” Following inspection visits to all bidding member associations, FIFA is now finalising the evaluation report, which will be published in early June on FIFA.com.
FFA President Chris Nikou said “We believe that our proven ability to deliver the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ is a key strength of our bid. Our world-class infrastructure, modern stadia, high-quality football facilities in both Australia and New Zealand and major event hosting experience ensure certainty in delivering the first 32 team FIFA Women’s World Cup™.
“From operational excellence, record-breaking crowds, commercial success, strong government support, a warm embrace from our 200 diverse cultures to a genuine profound legacy across the Asia-Pacific region, Australia-New Zealand offers certainty in uncertain times, as well as impact.”
NZF President Johanna Wood said “Our proposal offers FIFA a ground-breaking approach to hosting its greatest women’s tournament. We are two nations from two confederations, united in proposing a historic and exciting step forward for world football. We will be a tournament of firsts. The first ever co-Confederation hosted FIFA World Cup™, the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup™ to be held in the Asia-Pacific region, and the first ever to be held in the southern hemisphere.
“And as important as all of this, we are nations proud of our commitment to equality and fairness and would embody a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ built on common humanity through football. As the world looks to adapt and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, our bid offers an exciting vision to bring the world together As One in 2023 to celebrate women’s football and inspire women and girls around the world.”
All eligible bids will be presented to the FIFA Council in order for it to select the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 host(s) within the scope of an open voting process, in which the result of each ballot and the related votes by the members of the FIFA Council will be made public on FIFA.com. Further details are available in the Voting Procedure (link), which has been approved by the Bureau of the FIFA Council. While France 2019 went down in history for setting new standards for women’s football competitions, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is set to write a new piece of history as it will be the first edition to feature 32 teams.
VICTORY CHASING GLORY BOSS
Melbourne Victory are no doubt the biggest club in Australian football, and after the departure of Kevin Muscat last season the club have stuttered under Spaniard Carlos Salvachua, who replaced the sacked Marco Kurz on an interim basis in January, and could miss out on the play-off’s this season, if we ever get going. It’s been reported today that Perth Glory Head Coach Tony Popovic has emerged as a leading candidate to take charge at Victory next season and lead the club back to former glories, this a week after the club announced they were ramping up their search for a new head coach.
Popovic, 46, is contracted at Glory until mid-2021, but it’s been previously reported that he has an opt-out clause which would enable him to depart after two years. It’s also not lost on Victory CEO Trent Jacobs that home-grown coaches have delivered in the past for Victory, in the forms of Ange Postecoglou and Muscat. Whilst performing well in the AFC Champions League, Victory sit 10th on the A-League ladder, and are almost certain to miss out on the finals once the competition resumes.
Glory CEO Tony Pignata declined to comment on Popovic’s future when contacted by The World Game, saying simply: “Tony is under contract and has another year to go.” When asked whether Popovic had a get-out option, Pignata added: “I don’t comment on contracts.” After the dazzling success of year one under the AFC Champions League-winning former Western Sydney Wanderers coach, Glory were hit by a player exodus with the likes of Jason Davidson, Shane Lowry and Andy Keogh all heading offshore. They’ve lacked depth since and lie fifth on the table - 17 points adrift of champions-elect Sydney FC.
Owner Tony Sage denied the rumours. “There are many rumours and media reports on Victory poaching Poppa, in life all you can do is trust is another's persons word,” he said. “I implicitly trust the Chairman of Melbourne Victory (a good friend) when he said no approach has been made to Poppa. Let the media write their stories. Let's just get the FFA and PFA working together on a deal to resume on what we all want which is a restart of the A League and football at levels. Football has by far the most registered players eager to start, then all the other football codes in Australia. Jacobs told The Age last week. “We would like to think over the course of the next couple of months we would be in a position where the board can make a final decision. But if it takes longer so be it, we are not going to rush this process,”
Glory, meanwhile, may have seen the last of Swiss defender Gregory Wüthrich, who jetted home for “personal reasons” on Tuesday and may not return for the post-COVID-19 resumption. Though his one-year contract expires at the end of this month, Pignata didn’t, however, rule out a return. “He’s gone back for personal reasons and we’ve kept things open for when the league starts up again (possibly in August) and see what happens,” he said. “The door is open for him to return.”
IRISH EYES ARE SMILING FOR O’NEILL
Former Perth Glory midfielder Brandon O’Neill is making a big splash in the K-League, but he is also making the news in Ireland, and in a recent article in The Irish Sun newspaper he told them about football and life in Korea. They told their readers - If anyone putting on YouTube to watch the ongoing Korean League is looking for some Irish interest, Brandon O’Neill is your man.
The Australia international answers the phone with a broad Yorkshire accent but then switches to pure Dublin, full of dropped t’s and long a’s. He explained to SunSport: “Any time I chat to me Mam and Dad — or now you — the Irish comes out of me,” he said. “Any time I talk to my wife Nicole, who is from Rotherham, I go into Yorkshire. Then I talk to Aussie mates and it’s all Australian.”
O’Neill, 26, is Perth-born and has one Australian cap. But he has strong Irish roots with both parents being Dublin-born and still has family in Tallaght and Nutgrove. In fact, he repeatedly referred to Ireland as “back home” during the interview as he discussed his new life in Korea where he now plays for Pohang Steelers. He moved from Sydney, where he won two league titles, in January just as the Covid-19 pandemic hit Korea. It made for a difficult pre-season as Pohang moved base three times, settling in a secluded village when he received bad news — his father Myles’ lung cancer was terminal.
O’Neill immediately flew home to Perth to be with him though, with Australia then entering lockdown, Myles told him to get back to Korea while he still could. The player explained: “He’s positive now. We’ve just got to prepare for everything. When I was home, I wasn’t sure about coming back but he told me he didn’t want me to miss this chance. He wanted me to get back to Korea and succeed here.”
O’Neill expected Asia to be a culture shock but Covid-19 has made it even more so. While Australia is closed, Korea is almost back to normality. With a population of 51 million, South Korea has had just over 10,000 positive cases as rapid testing and tracing has meant no lockdown has been necessary. And where European football now plots a return with non-contact, social-distance training, O’Neill and his K League colleagues are practicing as normal.
“That’s what amazed me when I came back here from Australia, because Australia is in a very similar position to back home,” he said. “I came here and went from total lockdown to close to living a normal life. The shops are open, schools are open, the only thing you have to do is wear a facemask until everything
is on the mend around the world. It’s not like Australia or back home where the Government advises you to do something and you take it on yourself to do it or you don’t.
“In Korea, the Government says what you can and what you can’t do and everyone follows it to a tee.” That has allowed football to come back quicker than anywhere else in the world — O’Neill was on the bench as Pohang beat Busan IPark 2-0 on Sunday and hopes for some action this Saturday against Daegu. He added: “The league has just started as well. The hope is after round four, the fans will be able to come back if things remain on the current trajectory, Training is normal, tackles are flying in.
“We are getting our temperatures checked every day and on game day in the morning and just before we leave for the stadium. When I came back to Korea, we got a corona test and went into a 14-day quarantine. And every K League player needed another test — so I’ve been tested twice since I came back.” O’Neill knows the Korean authorities’ quick actions — nightclubs were closed when daily cases almost trebled from 12 to 34 over the weekend — means any positive case could result in a temporary shutdown.
But, for now, he is happy his only challenge is adapting on the pitch. “Ask any professional footballer in the world and they’d want to be here now — playing a league that is going. I’m lucky in that respect,” he said. “I’m still building up fitness. I’m maybe a week or two away from putting my hand up for a start but it’s been good to see what the league is like. It’s very exciting, very quick and all-out attack. There are lots of challenges, not least the language barrier, but these are things I have to meet to show that I can do it in a tougher league.”
He also hopes that can help with his international ambitions after winning his first Australia cap against South Korea last June, having previously been on Ireland’s radar. “I don’t know if there will be international football this year. If there is, it’s going to be late in the year but I see being here as an advantage as I can show what I can do,” O’Neill said. “One of the reasons I came here, apart from the challenge, was to show I could play in a harder league and that could help me get more games for the national team.”
EDWARDS' MIND GAMES IN LOCKDOWN
For professional footballers during the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been extra time to kill and hours to pass. Most have gone through rigorous individual training programs, some have started their own podcasts, others turn to gaming, Netflix or golf.
For England-based Ryan Edwards, education has been his focus while the season enters its third month since shutdown. The 26-year old, who plays for Burton Albion in League One, says studying has helped him deal with the unusual situation.
"You'd be falling into bad habits, watching TV and waiting for football to return," Edwards told www.ftbl.com.au "So it's been good to have something away from football to focus on. I'm studying psychology, which is great."
"I've just finished my first year. I started with business management, and after I finished that I changed to psychology. This year I went to part-time to full-time study, which has been better because there's more enyoyable content to do. I'm just in the process of picking my modules for my second year."
Edwards meditates every morning and has been in touch with a sports psychologist since he joined Reading as a 17-year old back in 2011. The midfielder spents four to six hours studying each day, in between exercise workouts, and has always been interested in behaviour and how the brain affects it.
"Initially, I like to research or find out why we do things and why our mind works the way it dones," he explained. "That's always been an interest of mine. I also believe that our mind is a muscle. We're all training our bodies, but it's important to train your mind as well for football and for outside of football as well."
Channelling his mind is something that Edwards has used throughout his football career. "I write down my goals for the game ahead," he said. "I've learnt to code my own games. I watch back games myself and code my own games on my laptop."
"That side of visualisation of looking back at your game, or just watching a general Champions League or Premier League game, your brain looks at that and takes things back to the training pitch that you're working on."
"If you speak to professional athletes they will talk about that moment on the pitch where everything just flows effortlessly. It's called being in a state of flow. So you learn about that and how you can get into state in every training session and game. You're fine-tuning your brain for the training or the game ahead."
Edwards is now waiting to see when the season will resume. At the cut-off point Burton Albion sat 12th in the 23-team League One. With 48 points, the Brewers are safe from the drop but also 11 points from a play-off place. "We've had an up and down season," he said.
"Even though we're mid-table, bit too far from the play-offs but safe from relegation, I was speaking to my teammates and we want to finish the season. I think I've played 44, 45 games this season and there's 10 games to go so you want it to be finished. You don't want it to be voided. We all to finish the season."
MALTA, MIFSUD AND ME: BOLAND’S MALTESE ADVENTURE
Striker Liam Boland could’ve partnered alongside Malta football great and former Coventry City forward Michael Mifsud - the banter may have been tasty, too. The 28-year old, currently playing for Victorian club Avondale FC, is famous for some spectacular FFA Cup goals.
Boland scored against Sydney FC but it was one of 2016's goals of the year against A-League club Central Coast Mariners that put him on the world map, and on the radar of the Maltese national team. The tall striker with Maltese heritage headed to Europe after his club season was complete.
Boland was invited by the Maltese FA and ended up in a training camp with Malta’s national team ahead of a World Cup 2018 Group F qualifier against Slovenia. Their group also included favorites England, who edged Malta 2-0 at Wembley a month earlier.
Boland arrived in Malta two months after his season had ended, and while his chances of international football were slim he did make a strong impression on Michael Mifsud. "Unfortunately, I arrived lacking match fitness," Boland said. "I had two weeks in Malta. I was close to getting into the squad."
Mifsud soon realised Boland was from Melbourne. The Maltese legend - famous for scoring against Manchester United for Coventry City - had a stint in the Australian pro ranks at A-League outfit Melbourne Heart. The move never really worked, although Mifsud showed occasional signs of his quality.
But even with Harry Kewell alongside him, Mifsud frustratingly couldn't find the net regularly for one of the A-League's new clubs in the southern state. "Michael Mifsud is a real Maltese legend in their football," says Boland. "Everyone in Malta knows him."
"A good guy and he’d take the mickey a bit with the new guy, me, the 'kangaroo', because I think he copped a fair bit when he was in Australia for his season in the A-League. I’d get a bit of stick from him ... But he was a good guy."
The pair would’ve fitted neatly into the “Little and Large” strike force with the pint-sized Mifsud alongside the tall Aussie unit. They may have been a good combination up top for Malta, but we'll never know.
Boland added the Maltese squad had some high-quality players at that time, such as Mifsud and Andre Schembri, then playing for Boavista in Portugal. "Probably Schembri was the best player there," he added. "All class."
"There were some good players there but also some that weren’t better than what we have in the NPL if I’m being honest. Some players weren’t that crash hot, but some definitely were class and very good players."
"It was a good experience ... something to have under your belt. It’s just a shame nothing came of it because I felt I was good enough for that standard for their level and the players they had."
"It’s not on my mind, all I’m focusing on is getting back to playing with Avondale and winning some silverware when football returns. But if anything does come up with the Malta national team, it’d be hard to say no. My grandad’s a proud Maltese man, an Aussie-Maltese, so it’d be good to do that one day for him."
CLUB IN PROFILE - BAYSWATER CITY SOCCER CLUB
Bayswater City Soccer Club's history stretches back to 1961 when Bayswater Sports Club were formed. The following year the club changed it's name to Bayswater United. United won a number of trophies, including the old Second Division (now known as Division One) in 1970, Top Four Cup in 1971 and were Night Series winners in 1972. They were also runners-up in the top flight in 1971 and 1972.
In 1980, Lathlain Meazza and Rosemount Juventus merged to form Rosemount Meazza. The following year, Bayswater United decided to merge with Rosemount Meazza to form the new club, Bayswater Inter. The new look Bayswater took the field in the old Third Division (now Division Two) with David Harrison as coach, while the club's first president was Tony Di Costa. In it's first season, the club finished in seventh position.
Prior to the 1982 season, the club and Harrison went on a recruiting mission signing players that had top flight experience. The club set the league alight, and not only won the championship and promotion that came with it, but won every single league game. Played 22, Won 22, Drew zero, Lost zero, scored 81 goals and only conceded 11 and gained the maximum points available of 66.
Even though they were one of the newly promoted teams in 1984, the black and blues were one of the favourites to gain promotion, and it was a credit to them that they won the league in style, only losing once.
Bayswater Inter were in the top flight in 1984 and did not want to just make up the numbers and finished fifth before making it to third place in 1985. In 1987, Bayswater won the Night Series trophy after defeating Floreat Athena 3-2 in the final. In 1988, the club made it all the way to the State D'Orsogna Cup Final, but lost to Athena.
By 1992, the good times appeared to be over, when the club finished last, however luckily there was no relegation that season. In 1993 the club finished ninth under Eric Marocchi before a seventh place finish the following season. In 1995 the black and blues decided to remove "Inter" from the official name, and became Bayswater City. It ended up being a difficult year on the pitch and Bayswater found themselves in a relegation position. However, the club were in talks with fellow Premier League club Stirling Panthers. Both clubs decided to merge under the new name of Bayswater City Panthers.
The new look Bayswater City Panthers took to the field in 1996, and what a season it turned out to be. Under coach Eric Williams, the club had a great start to the year, and look destined to win their first ever state title. With one game to go, they only needed a drew against Inglewood Falcons. Late in the game, Bayswater looked set to have their hands on the trophy, but a goal deep into injury time meant Inglewood were champions.
By 2000, Bayswater began to struggle and were relegated. For the first time since 1983, the club were back in Division One, and as it turned out, 2001 was a season to forget, finishing in sixteenth spot in the expanded seventeen team First Division. Coach Salv Todaro recruited many new faces the following year and in 2003 the club were Division One champions and were promoted back to the Premier League. The club was also once again known as Bayswater City, after the merger with the Panthers was disbanded.
The club stayed in the Premier League for three seasons, but after going through three coaches in 2006, the club were relegated. Following this, the club wanted nothing more than promotion, however it wasn't until 2010 when under coach Mauro Marchione the club easily won the First Division, and were back in the top flight.
In 2011, the black and blues were again in the Premier League, and this time they were not only determined to stay there, but want to become one of the dominate clubs in the league. It was to the club's credit that this is what exactly happened. The drive to the top started the following year, when Bayswater headed the table. However, under competition rules at the time, a play-off system decided the state championship, in which Sorrento were successful.
During the off-season, Mauro Marchione left the club to join Perth SC, and Chris Coyne signed on as new coach. He would become the most successful coach in the club's history. In 2013, the club finished second in the league, but this time the play-off system would go in their favour. They defeated Stirling Lions 2-1 in the Grand Final, and were state champions for the first time in their history. The Bayswater faithful partied long into the night.
More success was to follow, in 2014 under the new NPL-WA banner, the club headed the table and beat Perth SC 1-0 in the Grand Final to win back to back state titles. The club did not lay down after this, and it was no surprise that Bayswater won the title again this time under the new competition rules of first past the post. The club won 19 of their 22 games, drawing 3 and losing none. The dream of a 3-peat was realised.
The club missed out on winning four state championships in a row when they finished 5th in 2016 before winning their fourth title in 2017! As of 2020, Chris Coyne is now in his eighth season as coach, and will be hoping to add a fifth league title for the club this year.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
Premier League winners - 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017
Premier League Minor Premiers - 2012, 2014
Premier League runners-up - 1971, 1972 (Bayswater United)
First Division winners - 1983, 2003, 2010
First Division winners - 1970 (Bayswater United)
Second Division winners - 1982
Second Division winners - 1978 (Lathlain Meazza)
Cup winners - 2013, 2014
Cup runners-up - 1988, 2019
Premier League Top Four/Five winners - 2017
Premier League Top Four/Five winners - 1971 (Bayswater United)
Premier League Top Four/Five runners-up - 1972 (Bayswater United)
Night Series winners - 1987, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
Night Series winners - 1972 (Bayswater United)
Night Series runners-up - 1986, 2019
Night Series runners-up - 1973, 1974 (Bayswater United)
Night Series Lower Division winners - 2010
Night Series Lower Division runners-up - 2007
PREMIER'S ANNOUCEMENT PROVIDES CLEAR PATH TOWARDS SEASON 2020
Football West welcomes this morning’s positive and exciting news from Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan which gives us a clear path towards the recommencement of our 2020 football season. Mr McGowan announced a further lifting of restrictions from Monday, 18 May, some of which will have a great bearing on football in WA.
This follows on from the Prime Minister’s three-stage road map for reopening Australia, which was released on Friday, and is reward for the manner in which people in WA have followed government guidelines on COVID-19. Members of the WA football community have played their part in full and your patience and understanding during this difficult period have been commendable.
There were two points in the Premier’s announcement today which were of particular interest for everyone involved in football in this state. The first was that the limit on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be lifted from 10 to 20 people from a week tomorrow.
Allowing gatherings of up to 20 people means community clubs can conduct non-contact training sessions with ALL players in a team together. Safe social distancing rules will still apply but it will be fantastic for Associations, clubs and coaches to have all of their players able to train in one place.
The second point from the Premier was that, four weeks later, contact sport will again be permitted. In essence, this can be viewed as a month-long pre-season as we build towards bringing back our formal competitions.
Of course, there is a lot of planning and hard work which must be done to get there and clubs must consult with their land managers to ensure they have access to their venues. Football West recognises this is an issue and we will work with our clubs and local councils to try to resolve it.
Football West urges everyone in the community not to drop our guard. We must all continue to follow the expert health guidelines, practise safe social distancing and stay home if we are feeling unwell. We have come too far to fail now.
We also encourage people to download the Federal Government’s COVIDSafe app.
Football West CEO
PETTERSON ON LOCK DOWN IN BALI (Part Two)
The corona-virus lockdown has hit everyone hard, but Bali United goalkeeping coach Andy Petterson is sitting tight on the Indonesian holiday island. The 50-year-old sat down to chat to us about his journey in football, and this week we started talking about a tremendous season for his current club Bali United. The Tridatu Warriors won the Indonesian Liga 1 for the first time in their history and went close to a Group stage qualification in the Asian Champions League, something Petterson said was a great achievement for everyone involved at the club.
“Last season was a good year for Bali United as a club, and winning the League in Indonesia isn't an easy feat and lots of variables can derail a season, but we managed to keep our mind on the task and ending up winning the league by 10 points,” he said. “For me personally it was pleasing as our goalkeeper won ‘Keeper of the Year’ and we conceded the least goals of any team, and he even got his first International call up and appearance at the age of 36, so all in all I was happy with how the season went.
“It also meant we were involved in the ACL at the qualifying stages this year. It was a good experience for a club that is essentially only five years old but meant there wasn't much of a break. The Liga 1 2019 season finished on December 22nd and we had to be back in training on the 4th January in preparation for the first ACL Qualifying game away to Tampines Rovers in Singapore on the 12th January. We won 5-3 in extra time there which set us up to play Melbourne Victory two weeks later in Melbourne.
“We knew that was always going to be a hard game and this proved true when we were beaten 5-0. To be honest we played well at times and created quite a few chances but were unable to take advantage whereas Victory were clinical in front of goal. There was a lot to learn and the experience should hold the club in good stead should we qualify again next season. We are now involved in the AFC Cup which is Asia's version of the Europa Cup but due to the shutdown of Football with the Covid-19 pandemic gripping the world we have only played 3 of 6 Group stage games so far.”
As mentioned, Bali United keeper Wawan Hendrawan’s form saw him selected for his country and Petterson said the club have some talented keepers pushing for a starting role. “We have four talented goalkeepers at Bali at the moment with a good mix of experience and youth. Goalkeepers in Indonesia, although extremely fit and very hard trainers, lack the technical side of Goalkeeping and this is what I am introducing at Bali United,” he explained.
“Trying to get them to think about what they are doing and why? This is what is lacking and therefore it is hard to see any of the local Goalkeepers making the step up to play in other leagues around the world at the moment. It’s a long process and we at Bali are concentrating on producing consistent goalkeepers who are calm and in control of their game.”
Another keeper Petterson has worked with is Ashley Maynard-Brewer, who is currently playing for English Championship side Charlton Athletics’ under 20’s side. The pair worked together at ECU Joondalup and the keeper coach said it’s good to see the young Australian thriving at his former club. “From all reports Ash is doing well and very highly regarded at Charlton,” the former Addicks custodian said. “He has managed to get out on loan to clubs in the National League and National league South which is Senior Football and will be beneficial to his development. I'd like to think he will be playing regular first team football at a Football League club in the near future and for me has all the attributes to play at the highest level in England and have no doubt he will one day play for the Australian National team.”
With his 16-year career in UK football, Petterson has played with and against a number of quality players and he went on to name a few of the legends of the game among them. “Well, the best player I have played with would have to be Robert Prosinecki,” he said. “I played with the Croatian International at Portsmouth and although he was at the end of his career and his legs hard somewhat gone the former, Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder had skill that was unbelievable.
“It was like he had the ball on a string and he would beat the defender and then cut back and beat the same man again before planting the ball in the top corner. I didn't know much about him before he arrived but you could tell straight away, he was something special. Just go back and watch some highlights of him playing at the 1998 World Cup where he and his Croatian side finished 3rd. What a player!
“The Best Player I played against, well this is a hard one, but a few come to mind. Zola at Chelsea, Ravanelli at Middlesboro, Ginola at Spurs, Kewell at Leeds and Kinkladze at Man City, but I had a few good tussles with Alan Shearer when he was at Newcastle. I still remember when he got the better of me in a FA Cup 3rd Round replay in 1997 at St James Park when I was with Charlton. He put a 30-yard free kick in the top corner past me in extra time to win 2-1. Got a hand to it but was unable to keep it out and it always frustrates me when I see replays of the goal.”
TAGGART AND CO BEATEN IN SEASON OPENER
Perth-born striker Adam Taggart became the first Australian’s to play competitive football in the world since the covid-19 lockdown, when alongside Terry Antonis, the pair played for Suwon Bluewings against reigning champions Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the opening K-League game of the season. It wasn’t the best of starts for the duo going down 1-0 in an empty World Cup Stadium in Jeonju.
The 42,000-seat stadium, was closed to supporters and the few people present in the ground, including South Korea manager Paulo Bento, members of the media and ground staff, all wore face masks. Pre-match handshakes were also cancelled with coaches and substitutes from both sides also donning masks in a match that saw Australians Terry Antonis and Adam Taggart line-up for the visiting Suwon side.
Taggart, who was the K-League's top scorer with 20 goals last season, was put through on goal in the first half only to be denied by the offside flag in one of the few chances presented to the former Perth Glory striker. The opening stanza produced limited goalscoring opportunities for either side but the hosts dominated the second before veteran striker Dong-Gook Lee, the oldest player in the competition at 41, nodded into the net seven minutes from time.
Despite being on the back foot for most of the second period the Suwon defence were comfortably holding out Jeonbuk, with a penalty shout for handball against Canadian Doneil Henry ruled out by VAR, the closest they came to scoring. However, the match was turned in favour in of the home side when former Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory midfielder Antonis was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Son-Jun-Ho, leaving his side to play out the final 15 minutes with 10 men.
Taggart was immediately sacrificed for a midfielder as Suwon tried to hold on for a point only to for Lee to seal the victory in the 83rd minute. Lee, who has been capped 105 times by his country and played for Middlesbrough in the English Premier League, ghosted in front of the previously impressive Henry at the front post to flick home a corner as the champions began their title defence successfully.
Friday’s game, offering a glimpse of what the future of club football around the world might soon hold amid the coronavirus pandemic. While a prominent league in Asia, there has never before been such widespread global interest in Korea's K-League, with broadcasters from around the world snapping up rights. Antonis, who played for Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in the A-League, is facing a two-match automatic ban for his red-card. “Look, it was the referee’s call, and I didn’t go in to hurt the player - it was the first red card of my career,” he explained.
“It’s a tough one to take ... what can you do? That’s football, it’s a physical game and these things happen. I was trying to win the ball. It was a bit wet and I misjudged the tackle. It (the red card) didn’t help the situation at all, as we were doing well defensively against a great team. I told them (coaching staff and his teammates) I was sorry and they understood ... they know these things can happen and in football a lot of things don’t go your way.
Antonis said playing in front of empty seats and benches full of coaches and substitutes wearing face masks was “something different”. “You miss the atmosphere but at the same time it was good to be back playing again,” he added. “But from our perspective the night didn’t end well with dropping the points and with what happened with me. The boys have another big game next Sunday against (Aussie Jason Davidson’s) Ulsan Hyundai, and it’s still a long season ahead. It was a frustrating night but there’s going to be plenty of opportunity to put that behind me. I’m really enjoying my time here - I can’t say anything bad about the club or about life away from football. It’s a great experience being up here.”
A MESSAGE FROM FOOTBALLWEST CEO JAMES CURTIS
Following the latest announcement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, football in WA is preparing for the next step towards recommencement. The Prime Minister today unveiled a three-step roadmap for reopening Australia. Of particular interest is step two, which will allow up to 20 people to partake in community sports. Our aim is simple, for football to be played at all levels when and where we are able to, and in whatever form.
Western Australia is already in step one, following the State Government’s decision to increase the limit on people gathering to 10 people. Football West then announced a resumption of limited football activity, as long as it complies with government guidelines. In the background, our Associations and clubs have been working hard on the preparations for returning to play, including the necessary discussions with local authorities.
We recognise the challenge ahead for everyone and we will continue to provide further guidelines and resources to assist clubs, players, match officials and volunteers get the ball back on the pitch when we are given the go ahead. We look forward to the further news from WA Premier Mark McGowan, who will give an update this Sunday on the Government’s position.
Until then, we urge our members to continue to follow the expert medical health advice, maintain social distancing and stay safe. We also encourage those who haven’t downloaded the Federal Government’s COVIDsafe app to do so. We will provide a further update in the coming days as we receive further advice from Government.
Football West CEO
JACKSON BACK AND READY TO FIRE
When Chris Jackson headed to the NPLWA in 2018, he never knew what to expect. But the English striker was a great success, spearheaded Armadale’s first ever State League Cup win against Gwelup Croatia, and he went on to share the NPLWA Golden Boot with ECU Joondalup’s Daryl Nicol, bagging 24-goals. The 24-year-old has headed back to Perth and signed for Inglewood United for the new season, and he’s happy to be back and can’t wait to get started.
“I’m really excited to join Inglewood United, it’s a new challenge for me, a new club working with new players in a new environment,” he explained. “I agreed to join the club last season but due to circumstances back home I had to head back, but I’m looking forward to working with Andres (Oliveira), and doing all I can to win some silverware for the club. I feel like I have settled in well, they are a good bunch of lads on and off the pitch and I can’t wait to get back out there. The club have given all the players a training program to work on, involving running and cycling to keep us ticking over and hopefully we’ll be back into it again very soon.”
Inglewood Head-Coach Andres Oliveira said his new striker will play a huge role at the club in 2020. “When the club and I sat down to discuss what players to add to the 2020 squad, we wanted a striker with three qualities,” he explained. “A proven winner, goalscorer and great attitude on/off the pitch. This is Chris Jackson for me, someone who is difficult to play against, push his teammates to their best and most of all a good guy to have around, loves the banter. To be a top goalscorer and Cup winner with Armadale, scoring the only two goals in the final tells you a lot about him. So far, he has proven this and I know there will be more to come just glad he chose to play with us this season, if there is a season.”
Jackson played his football in around Yorkshire, playing for non-league clubs Cliffe FC, Selby Town, Goole AFC and Pontefract Collieries, but he burst on the scene in Perth at Alfred Skeet Reserve and became a crowd favorite helping them to success and he said it was a great club to be involved. “I had a great time at Alfred Skeet, the club is fantastic along with the people involved,” he said. “The day of the cup final was phenomenal, what more could you want, win 2-0, score both and get man of the match, but to see the happy Armadale supporters after the final whistle was something I’ll never forget.”
The striker joined Selby Town in the Northern Counties East League Division One last season, and he helped the Robins to third on the table before it was abandoned due to the corona-virus. Having played in the league for a number of season Jackson said the quality of football is good and when asked about the best player he’d played with he had two. “Some good players in the league, but the best player I have played with would probably be, Vaughan Redford or Casey Stewart,” he explained. “I can’t pick one as they both have unreal ability when it comes to football.”
He is well-aware of the covid-19 pandemic taking its toll in Europe and he said his family and friends are coping well with the situation. “Covid 19 has hit the UK a lot worse than the Australia, but they seem to be coping well and still in good spirit while been on full lockdown,” he said. “Obviously football in the UK has taken a backseat at the moment, and I’m hoping everyone stays safe and we can see this out sooner rather than later.”
In this time of upheaval with the corona-virus around the world, football has taken a back seat. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, with the social distancing and other regulations working and many believe football will kick off again later in the year, but we must adhere to the government’s policies and flatten the curve. In the meantime, we will be doing our best to keep you in touch with the local game, bringing you interviews with coaches, players from the NPL, State League and Amateur league, and chat to them on the current situation and about football. In today’s fourth ‘In conversation’ we catch up with Leeming Strikers player/coach and Stoke City tragic David Palin.
Palin started playing for Cockburn City in the state league for two seasons, before playing six for Spearwood Dallies amateurs. He headed to Southern Spirit amateurs for four years, before a two-year stint at Melville City. He then found his way to North Lake/ Leeming and is in his sixth season at the club. He also represented the WA Amateur side for a number of tours overseas, and the last three he has been a player/coach at Leeming, and he is enjoying life at John Connell Reserve. “I've really enjoyed the three years at Leeming so far, and the merge from North Lake at the start made the first season a lot harder but once we settled in as a squad winning back to back night series and an Amateur Reserve Cup has made it an enjoyable time as a squad,” Palin explained. “We still feel like we have a lot to improve on and would like to do a lot better in the league. We worked a lot in preseason on making sure we drummed home how we wanted to play and make sure everyone was on the same page and on the level the of consistency that we required to make that happen, and I think we were seeing the benefits of that in night series before the season was cut short.”
As many of you remember the Strikers were in the State League in 2004 but slipped out of the game completely for three seasons before re-entering in the Amateur Division Four. They have been in the Amateur Premier Division for three seasons under Palin and the coach said he would love to replicate what Kingsley did last year. “First of all, we have to obviously put ourselves in a position to have that conversation, we've not been able to do that in the last three years, but if we were in that position then it would be a good conversation to have,” Palin said. “As a player coach the Amateur Premier has been good for finishing off my playing whilst learning to coach, but as I transition to only coaching, I'd love to be able to coach higher which taking promotion would do. On a club level, we obviously have the facilities but there is a lot more behind the scenes that needs to happen and I'm not sure were really setup for that as a club. We don’t have juniors and that limits how far you can really progress with FW requirements, a merge like Kingsley and Westside would be ideal, whether that is an option for Leeming one day time I'm not sure.”
Palin, a mad Stoke City fan, headed back to the UK to see family earlier this season, and like all ex-pats is hoping everyone stays save over there and he also hopes the Potters can rise up the table and get back to the EPL. “All the family have been in isolation since we left, and have had pretty strong restrictions on what they can and cannot do, they say the weather has been good which helps a bit,” he said.
“Being a Stoke City supporter the last 3 years we haven't been the best to watch, but since Michael O'Neill has taken over they have been far more enjoyable to watch so have missed watching our turn around, I was looking forward to going to the Boro and the Wigan games which were shaping up as real relegation six pointers but had to come home early due to the corona virus and then the football was cancelled anyway.”
The player/coach said it’s hard at this time for players to get ready for the season, as their pre-season was interrupted by the lockdown, but he is confident they will return ready for a big season. “I think this is something no one thought we'd ever see and has been overwhelming at times for most involved so we haven't tried to put any demands on players to do a fitness programme,” Palin said. “We've kept the communication lines open for all the players and were quiet lucky that most our squad like to do their own fitness stuff out of football and even the ones that normally wouldn't go for a run have gone out a couple of times each week and done some running as most boys seem keener than ever to hit the ground running when we get back into it. With the news of being allowed to train back in 10s, the coaches have been putting some ideas together and will look to start something next week for players.
Palin said he’s had some good battles on the park over his football career and when asked about the best player he had played with and against he was quick to name them. “For playing against I found Matt Favazzo a real battle,” he said. “He was strong, aggressive, and didn't give you an inch, so definitely made playing against really hard but also one I learnt and developed from. I much preferred him as a team mate when we went away together on the State Malaysia tour in 2010. One of the best players I've played with was Darren Rich, he scored a hat-trick in 15 minutes in the 2004 Cup Final win for Dallies, and two years later he moved to center back half way through the season and was pivotal in keeping clean sheets and winning the league.”
BIRIGHITTI ON THE MOVE?
The future of Perth-Born keeper Mark Birighitti is in the news this week with A-League newcomers Macarthur FC looking to secure the Central Coast Mariners custodian as their first-choice goalkeeper for their impending entry into the competition. It’s believed Birighitti has rejected a lucrative three-season extension at Gosford to instead head to the Campbelltown-based club, whose only official signing to date is fellow Mariner and former Socceroos’ winger Tommy Oar.
Birighitti, who played his junior football at ECU Joondalup and Perth Soccer Club, joined Adelaide United in 2008, before heading to the Newcastle Jets in 2012. He ventured overseas in 2016, joining Premier League club Swansea City, but he failed to break into the starting side, but had a good season at Dutch side NAC Breda in 2018 before heading back to Australia with Melbourne City.
The glove man has played at international level for Australia at under 17’s, 20’s and 23’s and has one Socceroos caps, playing in their final match of the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup against China, joined the Mariners nine months ago but the pull of a new franchise could see the 29-year-old head to the Bulls for 2020-21 season.
It’s understood that the Bulls, who are due to convene for training at some point next month ahead of their scheduled entry into the league in October, have signed 13 players so far - including a number from overseas. How the corona virus shutdown and existing travel restrictions will affect those visa player deals remains to be seen.
NO BREAK FOR MATILDAS FOR FIVE YEARS: KERR
Samantha Kerr says the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means the Australian national team won't receive a break from major tournaments until 2025. The Matilda's were due to have a break in 2021, with their normal tournament cycle - which includes the Asian Cup, World Cup and Olympics, along with qualifying matches and friendlies - originally finishing after Tokyo 2020.
But with the Olympics pushed back to next year, the Matildas face a constant cycle of major competitions and qualifying tournaments, which will only conclude after Paris 2024. "This has put a real spanner in the works," Matilda's captain Kerr told Fox Sports. "I don't know when I'll be able to come home, I don't know when I'll get my next 'off' year.
"When you think about it, (there's) next year's Olympics, then Asian Cup, then World Cup, then Olympics again. So the next 'off' year for the Matildas is five years away now when it was only one year. So there's no room for injury now, which is stressful, there's no room for time off, there's no room for girls in our team getting pregnant now - and that's a thing in women's football."
The Matildas qualified for Tokyo 2021 through a two-legged play-off win over Vietnam in March. After the Olympics, they will head to India for the 2022 Women's Asian Cup, which doubles as the AFC's World Cup qualifying tournament. Australia is in contention to host the 2023 Women's World Cup.
"I try not to think too far ahead because I had kind of my whole life planned out for the next year," Kerr said. "You've done a four-year gap of work, work, work every year and now it's five more years (until a break). I know people will say 'oh you're not playing a major tournament this year' but it's not a break because we're in this isolation and lockdown."
“MORE CHANCE OF ME DANCING ON MARS” THAN BRINGING THE EPL TO PERTH: SAGE
Tony Sage has given a blunt assessment of the likelihood of the English Premier League coming to Perth. The Perth Glory owner scoffed at British agent Gary Williams’ bid to see the remaining 92 games of the 2019/20 played in Western Australia.
“I think there’s more chances of me dancing around on Mars,” Sage said. “Look, there’s lots of reasons why it wouldn’t (work). Number one: broadcast rights. I can’t see any broadcaster, especially the EPL, feeding back into England at 8 o’clock in the morning to watch games.”
“The other is we haven’t got enough rectangular stadiums – we’ve only got the one. Maybe they could use Optus as well but they can’t have 92 games at two stadiums in a month, it’s just impossible on the surface.”
Sage insisted time zones that align more closely with the UK would be considered before Australia received a look in. “It’s a great bit of media for the guy who put it up but it’s not really likely to happen,” Sage said. “Qatar’s already built all of their stadiums for the 2022 World Cup and that would be a perfect time zone.”
TAGGART TARGETING STRONG K-LEAGUE START
With a league-high 20 goals in his debut K-League season, Suwon Samsung Bluewings’ striker Adam Taggart knows how to make an impression. But when the COVID-19 delayed season finally kicks off on Friday with an enticing encounter against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, the West Australian forward will be paying attention to much more than scoring goals for Lee Lim-saeng’s team.
“Individually last year was great, but there’s still lots I can improve on and get better at and I think for me I just want to focus on getting consistency,” said Taggart. “Goals are great but it’s not the be all and end all for every player and I think once you’re scoring goals you want to look at all the other things you can get better at. I definitely think that I just want to be more consistent in my performances.”
Last year, Taggart’s prowess in front of goal was vital for the club. His 16 regular season goals were followed by a further four strikes in the relegation rounds to ensure Suwon comfortably maintained their top flight status with an eighth place finish. And, while results in the league were far from ideal, Suwon managed to end the season on a high with victory over Daejeon Korail FC in the final of the Korean FA Cup.
As a result, Suwon – like Jeonbuk, FC Seoul and Ulsan Hyundai – have already played competitive games this year in the group phase of the Asian Champions League, and that is something Taggart believes could give his side the edge over some of their rivals. “The most important thing is to make sure we finish a little bit higher up in the league,” said the 26-year old.
“I think top six is a minimum for Suwon, so that’s definitely at the back of my mind. (Playing in the AFC Champions League) has probably helped us a bit. It’s broken up the time that most teams haven’t had a competitive game at all, so I think looking back on it it’s been something that will probably benefit us going into the season.
“It’s not going to make a difference in terms of fitness and stuff like that, but to have a couple of competitive games during a long break means it won’t seem that we haven’t played in a couple of years. It was only a couple of months ago or less that we played our last game, so it’s not going to give us some secret weapon going into the season but I think it’s positive for us.”
The meeting with Jeonbuk on Friday sees the Korea Republic domestic season start after the opening day was postponed from 29 February. Clubs were informed on 24 April that the season would begin this coming weekend but, with social distancing regulations still in place, games will be played behind closed doors.
“I’m excited to get going,” says Taggart. “It was difficult before not having a start date or not knowing an estimated time line. No one knew what was going on so it’s nice to have a start date and something to work towards. It’s obviously great that the season is starting, but two weeks is a short amount of time to know that you’ve got to be ready.”
“Up until the announcement was made it’s just been important to keep ticking over, to not go overboard and use the time wisely and work on the things you want to polish up on, get yourself in the gym, work on your weaknesses, stay after training and do things that aren’t going to completely tire you out.
“It gives you an opportunity to work on a few things and it’s just about finding the right balance of just ticking over with however long they give you so that you’re not underdone and not over cooking yourself so you’re not fresh for the season either. That’s what I’ve been trying to do so far.”
SAGE HAPPY A-LEAGUE TO RETURN IN AUGUST
Perth Glory owner Tony Sage is ecstatic the A-League season is set to resume in August. Players could be back training in July with 1st August the return date of the competition that has five rounds remaining.
Quarantine hubs would be enforced with games likely to be played in Sydney but final details have not been announced. Clubs were told late last week the re-start is in sight but Sage admitted there were plenty of hurdles to be jumped.
“We want to finalise the season,” Sage said. “We need government approval, medical approval to play, to set up a hub or whether we can play home or away. Strict health conditions will be in place but if the Government say ‘no travel’ then we can’t do it.”
“Perth Glory is very happy to participate as long at the FFA have got all the approvals of the national cabinet and the WA government. Hopefully we can finish the season at the end of August and re-start the next season some time in October.”
Overseas players who did not stay in Australia will need two weeks quarantine if they come back to play. Glory were in fifth spot when the competition was suspended with Sydney FC sitting eight points clear at the top with three games in hand on second place Melbourne City.
PREMIER RULES OUT EPL PLAN
West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has poured cold water on the idea of relocating the English Premier League to Perth. With the United Kingdom in lockdown, the EPL and clubs are in talks about playing the remaining games at neutral grounds behind closed doors.
Late last week players agent Gary Williams, who spends several months a year in Perth, launched an audacious bid to relocate all clubs to Perth. But McGowan has dismissed the plan, highlighting Australia’s ban on international visitors.
“The Commonwealth has put in hard international borders to stop people coming in who aren’t Australian,” commented McGowan, who has not been approached by the EPL or any of its 20 clubs.
“Britain has very, very high rates of COVID and they have had a lot of people die. You don’t necessarily want to risk these things. We’ll have a look if any submission comes forward but I think it’s a very, very big ask for that to happen here.”
CLUB IN PROFILE - BALGA SOCCER CLUB
Balga Soccer Club was formed in 1971, after local resident and keen soccer fan, Ted Hutton, who surrounded himself with a small band of like minded people and began distributing handwritten leaflets throughout Balga, thereby creating the birth of the club. The response allowed the club to field four teams in junior football that year.
At first the club was homeless and had to play wherever a "free" ground could be found. On numerous occasions they suffered the humiliation of being ordered off for unauthorised use. This continued until repeated approaches to the City of Stirling gained the club allocation of Camberwell Road Reserve in 1973 and eventually Princess Road Reserve in 1976.
With the allocation of Princess Road Reserve, the club settled down and set about establishing itself in the area and in metropolitan junior football. From the start the club's administration adopted an expansion program with the ultimate aim of representation in every age group provided by the Junior Soccer Association. It is a credit to them that this was achieved by 1974 and the club celebrated by figuring handsomely on league trophy presentation day. This form was proved in 1975 and 1976 when the club won many junior league championships and knockout competitions and was one of the largest junior clubs in the state.
Balga first entered senior football in 1973, when the club entered the old Amateur Third Division (now known as Amateur Division Two). Balga gained successive promotions and entered the top division of the Amateur league in 1975, where the club finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd over the following three seasons.
In 1978 the club decided to go semi-professional, and entered the old Fourth Division. After a fifth place finish in 1978, Balga then gained two promotions in a row and found themselves in the old Second Division in 1981 (now known as the First Division). More success was to soon follow when after only fourteen years of the club's existence, Balga won promotion to the top flight of WA football after the 1984 season under coach Reg Davies. Balga stayed there for three seasons and had players such as Steve Sceats, Ray Illott, Willie Kelly and John "Bomber" Saunders play for them. The Reserves also won the State Premier League in 1987.
Balga were back in what would today be known as the First Division in 1988, and after an initial struggle, were on the improve and in 1992 finished runners-up. Coach Eddy Hodgkinson joined Inglewood Kiev the following year, and many players joined him. With a new squad under coach Don Mann, the club were relegated at the end of 1993 and would play in Division Two for the first time in fourteen seasons. In 1996, Balga finished runners-up and were promoted back to Division One.
At the end of the 1997 season, the then governing body Soccer West Coast forced Balga to go back to the amateur league, after a brief spell in the Amateur Premier Division, the club did not have too much success and were relegated down to Division Three. Martyn Day took over as coach in early 2012 and won two successive promotions. During 2013, the club applied for entry back into the State League semi-professional competition, where the club have now been since 2014. The club has finished in the top half of the league in all but two seasons, just missing out on the promotion play-offs on three occasions. In 2018 Balga established the Fee Free Football model for it's juniors. Danny Cain took over as senior coach for the 2020 season after a two year successful stint by Aleks Vrteski. Danny Cain took over as coach for the 2020 season after a two year successful stint by Aleks Vrteski.
SEMI-PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE HONOURS (Using current divisional names)
First Division runners-up - 1984, 1992 (SFWA)
Second Division winners - 1980
Second Division runners-up - 1996
Third Division runners-up - 1979
EPL CLUBS ‘IN TALKS’ TO FINISH SEASON IN PERTH
With football out of our lives, many can’t wait for the resumption of games and it was reported over the weekend the biggest league in the world could be heading to WA. The English Premier League is being offered an amazing Plan B escape route — to end the season in sunny Perth. Worried chiefs are trying to find ways of playing the final 92 games in England — with a neutral venue masterplan in place — but are constantly finding hurdles.
TV pundit Gary Neville claimed the top flight should finish behind closed doors overseas, and now English agent Gary Williams is masterminding the astonishing alternative. Williams, who lives in Perth, has received backing from a local Perth senator. He is also in contact with the Australian government and Ministry for Sport to get their backing for the eye-catching idea.
It has already been put to the EPL, while several clubs have also been alerted and are happy to oblige. One club official said: “We go on world tours in pre-season. This is no different. And the climate in Australia is ideal just now.” Perth has four major sporting venues that can be used — Optus Stadium (capacity 65,000), Perth Oval (20,500), cricket’s WACA (24,500) and Joondalup Arena (16,000).
“I have had discussions with contacts at Premier League clubs and they like the idea,” Brummie Williams said. “I have also spoken with government officials and they are enthusiastic. We are speaking again this week. Everybody is safe here. The government has lifted many restrictions. We are sitting round in groups of ten, we can walk around and the beaches are open. We have had four new cases in the last ten days.”
Australia has reported 93 COVID-19 deaths, compared to over 28,000 in the UK. Perth is proud of the claim to be the ‘most isolated city in the world’ and would be a money spinner for the local economy. Perth state senator Glenn Sterle said it could happen. “I’m watching what’s happening in England with a heavy heart and we want to help,” he said, despite the invasion sparking health worries.
“We have almost no new cases. It would just be a case of some quarantine for our friends when they arrive and then we are up and running. When Gary first mentioned it, I thought it was a wonderful idea. “I’m glad he is getting the same response from the people in the game he has called. This is the centre of the sporting universe in Australia. We have fresh air and good weather. It would be ideal.”
Government guidelines released by the Australian Institute of Sport on Friday said elite sports should recommence “in a spectator-free environment”, with rugby league due to restart on May 28. If the government are happy with the health aspect, then the doors will be thrown wide open. Other countries have been suggested as Prem hosts, including Qatar and Malta. The Maltese idea has snags as it may be hard to control crowds and those supporters who try to travel to the games. It will also be very hot in summer.
Neville, 45, is in the camp supporting a move to Malta. He has strong links with the country and insiders revealed he is lobbying for them. The ex-Manchester United and England defender and his pals have a hotel on the island where he often holidays, including a trip when he proposed. He also vowed to make it the first place he goes after lockdown.
HERE WE GO?
The news we’ve all been waiting for was confirmed on Friday afternoon with Football West CEO James Curtis sending out a letter to the WA football family regarding the return of the game.
“Football West is pleased to announce the resumption of limited and modified football activities from next week. Football West recognises the important role of football and community sport in the response to COVID-19 and improving the physical and mental health of the community, however we must do so whilst ensuring that community safety remains the highest priority.
Following today’s meeting of the National Cabinet, the relaxation of restrictions announced by the WA State Government this week, and the development of Football Federation Australia guidelines and the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment, Football West advises that clubs and Associations who are in the position to do so, can restart limited and modified activities from Monday, 4 May, 2020.
A set of guidelines will be released over the weekend to ensure Associations and clubs can put in place the necessary measures for the resumption to happen. This will include but will not be limited to restricting training groups to 10 people or fewer; maintaining the social distancing rules and adhering to the relevant WA Government guidelines.
Since the suspension of all football in Australia was announced in mid-March, Football West has worked closely with State and Local governments, FFA, clubs and Associations to ensure we can resume activity in a safe and measured manner. Football West is proud of how the WA football community has heeded the expert medical health advice and we urge everybody to continue to practise safe behaviour in relation to COVID-19. However, please note that the current suspension is still in place until Monday, 4 May, 2020 and that clubs and Associations will engage with you in due course to ensure that activities can commence only when they are practical given the differing circumstances across WA.
We recognise that whilst this is a positive step there is a long way to go and we need to play our part as part of the broader WA community. To further aid the fight against COVID-19, Football West supports the Australian Government’s COVIDSafe app and encourages all members of the football community to get behind this initiative. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App store and Google Play. We will continue to engage and update as we progress and we appreciate your continued understanding and support.”
CEO, Football West
A-LEAGUE NOT READY TO RETURN SAY’S JOHNSON
The lock down in top flight football in Australia is far from being resolved according to FFA chief executive James Johnson. As the A-League’s COVID-19 enforced suspension moves into a second month, Johnson admits it’s too early to know if all 11 current clubs will survive.
Johnson is refusing to follow the lead of the NRL by laying down a set date for the league’s resumption, explaining it remains too unclear just when restrictions will start to be eased to lay down a firm plan. Despite the uncertainty, Johnson remains committed to completing the 2019-20 season and believes should the league resume within a couple of months, but will the clubs overcome the financial impact of the crisis?
“Do I think that all the clubs will make it through? I think that’s too early to say at the moment,” Johnson said. “But I am confident that the league will start again soon so naturally the clubs should be able to get through. All clubs should be able to get through.”
Johnson announced the league’s postponement on March 23. Since then seven of the 11 clubs, including Perth Glory, have stood down players and staff due to a lack of revenue. Sydney FC, one of those yet to take such action, revealed earlier this week they may have to alter their position if the league cannot resume soon. Macarthur FC’s position also remains unclear with the expansion club expected to join the league in 2020-21.
Every A-League club has applied for the federal government’s JobKeeper relief package, a measure which Johnson says will buy some time until a return to on-field action. “It’s not enough but it is something, and it is something that is good for the clubs … but it’s also good for the players and staff as well,” he said.
Resuming the league would take an alteration in several factors, Johnson said, though he believed the current campaign could be wrapped up inside two months once it gets the green light. “Player health and safety and then the logistical issues with state and federal border restrictions need to be softened so that we’re able to get the sport going,” he added. “These are really the primary issues for us, as soon as they can be resolved we’ll be back on the pitch.
“I’m confident that we’ll finish the season. There are two issues, one is the player contracts but that requires negotiation with the players and the other is the starting date of next season. We’ve still got quite a long window between now and then in which to complete a season which could take less than two months.” Johnson also confirmed adopting an isolation hub option, as has been mooted by the AFL, was one of the options being discussed.
There is light at the end of the tunnel with reports of an August 1 return, while they have cleared a major hurdle for the resumption of the season after Football Federation Australia belatedly received its full quarterly payment from Fox Sports. Football industry sources have confirmed Fox has now paid the near $12 million instalment of its broadcast deal with FFA, which was due mid-last month.
It is a positive development for FFA amid tense negotiations with the pay-TV operator, although it does not come with a guarantee that Fox Sports will continue as the A-League's broadcaster for the final three seasons of the contract. But the fact it has been settled is a sign that relations between the two parties are perhaps not as frosty as first feared, while also enabling the continuation of planning for the last few rounds and finals series of the A-League to be played.
FFA declined to comment, while the head of Fox Sports, Peter Campbell, did not return calls. But in a separate statement welcoming the federal government's new principles for the return of professional sport, FFA chief executive James Johnson - who has led the game's negotiations with Fox - said: "We will, in conjunction with our own guidelines, use the principles and ‘The AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment’ to guide our ongoing plans for the return of the Hyundai A-League and community football."
The money from Fox will be forwarded on to clubs but further decisions will need to be made regarding how much they will receive and what players will be paid, with commercial revenues nosediving for both FFA and the clubs as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. Pay cuts are inevitable for players, while FFA and the clubs will also have to reach agreement with Professional Footballers Australia over a short-term extension of player contracts, which expire on May 31. Sources at FFA do not foresee that being an issue.
FFA has refused to set a public target date for the resumption of the A-League - nor has it revealed how it plans to stage games or if the 'hub' concept being contemplated by the AFL and NRL could be used - but it remains committed to playing on as soon as state and federal governments allow it. Club sources indicate, however, that even a return to training is not likely to come until July at the earliest.
Foxtel, the parent company of Fox Sports, is in significant financial turmoil following declines in advertising revenues and the suspension of sporting competitions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has also accelerated the shift of audiences towards over-the-top streaming platforms. Foxtel made 70 staff redundant this week, the organisation's third major round of job cuts this year.
Fox has been the A-League's major broadcast partner since the competition's inception in 2005, but has been unhappy with the terms of the current deal, worth nearly $60 million a year, for some time - primarily because of the negative publicity surrounding the code in recent years during the the A-League clubs' fight for independence, as well as poor ratings on linear television.
Football stakeholders have feared that Fox could use the COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to tear up the contract and abandon the sport, but the company is yet to declare any intention to do so. FFA had engaged the services of prominent barrister Bret Walker, SC, in anticipation of a legal showdown with Fox over the contract, which is worth $346 million over six years and was secured by former chief executive David Gallop.
PETTERSON ON LOCK DOWN IN BALI (Part One)
The corona-virus lock down has hit everyone hard, but Bali United goalkeeping coach Andy Petterson is sitting tight on the Indonesian holiday island. The 50-year-old sat down this week to chat to us about his journey and life in lock down. Petterson had a successful 16-year career in UK football and was the first West Australian to play in the English Premier League, making his debut in its inaugural 1992/93 season for Ipswich Town against Nottingham Forest.
He also played for Luton Town, Charlton Athletic, Portsmouth, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers, winning promotion to the Premier League with both Charlton Athletic and West Bromwich Albion. He headed back to Perth in 2007 and had three successful seasons between the sticks at NPL club ECU Joondalup. He then headed overseas in 2017 and joined Philippines side Ilocos United for a season before heading to Indonesian side PSIS Semarang.
“The Philippines was very challenging to say the least,” Petterson said. “Former Perth Glory coach Ian Gillian bought me out in 2017 as he was Head Coach at Ilocos United. They were a newly formed club in the newly formed Philippine Football League. It was a league of eight teams with the majority of them based in Manila. We were based in a town called Vigan which was an 8-10-hour bus journey from Manila so every second week it was a marathon trip to play our away games. Unfortunately, the League never got the attention it needed to prosper, with no tv deal, no major league sponsor and with the Philippines being a Basketball country very little in terms of supporters.
“It was a good grounding for me in SE Asian football as you quickly learn that politics and several underlying outside factors affect the game, it’s not just about football. Unfortunately, Ilocos United went out of business after just one season and the league there is still struggling itself despite them having one of the most successful club sides in SE Asia, Ceres Negros, who always do well in the AFC Cup. Even the Philippine National Team are doing well but the domestic league always seems to be on the brink of collapse. I do see myself being back there one day as my fiancé is Filipino and I do have an affection for Manila.”
Like us all life without football is hard with the Coronavirus putting the game on hold, but Petterson said his club (Bali United) have been great and he is waiting, like us all to get back to football. “Like just about everywhere the league here in Indonesia was closed mid-March and remains closed still. We are only three games into a 34-game season so hoping that Indonesia can recover and complete the league this year,” he explained. “For the time being I made the choice to sit the Covid19 pandemic out in Bali and not return to Perth. Officially there is no lock down in Bali and only recommendations to stay home and self-isolate so I am just staying in my villa and only go out if I need to shop.
“To be honest 90% of things are closed at the moment and it is unbelievably quiet here. I'm lucky the club provide me with a nice villa in Seminyak so it easy to lock myself away. I have gotten myself a little home gym so I spend my days working out, swimming and generally getting in some sunshine. I have also been keeping my football mind active by doing online courses, reading football material and watching plenty of Goalkeeper Coaching videos on YouTube. So, although very frustrating not to be on the training pitch I am still able to keep learning and improving.”
Next week we talk about his first season at Bali United where he helped them win the league and play in the ACL. He talks about the keepers he’s worked with there and in Australia, and he also drops a few big names when asked about the best players he’s played with and against in the UK.
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This page was last updated on the 27th April, 2020