Monday, February 26, 2007


Welcome to the Coalface

The NSW Premier League – no longer sponsored by Vodafone, sadly – kicked off this weekend.

The state leagues can, in many ways, be considered the coalface of Australian football. It’s where the younger players (including several young A-Leaguers) get to test themselves in a semi-professional environment. Much of the football is of a good standard, there are plenty of scouts in the crowds, and there are many old stagers with distinguished records in the Australian game, still plying their trade.

Last night I caught the Sydney Olympic v. APIA Leichhardt game at Belmore. Olympic won 4-0, and already looked a far more cohesive unit than they did last season. APIA, for their part, were diminished by the absence of several key players through injury.

Shannon Cole, a youngster who has recently returned to his native country after spells in the USA and New Zealand, caught the eye especially. Involved in most of Olympic’s better attacking moves, he scored two goals and played important roles in the other two. Olympic’s fourth goal would have done credit to any level of football; Cole played a marvellously cheeky one-two with the talented Lisandro Berbis on the edge of the APIA area, before firing sweetly home.

I would encourage any Sydneysiders with an interest in the game to support the local league. The gap in standard between the A-League and the NSWPL is not nearly as great as you might think, and plenty of the players on show – particularly the younger ones – will be gracing the national competition before long. Shannon Cole may be one of them.

Incidentally, on a personal note, I had a brief encounter with the astral body whose idiosyncrasies I commented on a little while ago. It was heartening to discover that he has taken my recent criticisms in good part, and recognizes the distinction between a difference of opinion and a personal antipathy (which I certainly do not feel).

Respect, Mr. Murray.

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