Monday, February 04, 2008
The NSW Premier League begins in late February as usual, and the warm-up tournament, the Johnny Warren Cup, has been in full swing recently. The first round was washed out, but there have been plenty of opportunities to watch the new teams in action recently, with a midweek round squeezed in between the two weekend games this last week.
On Saturday at Jensen Park, two teams who have reached the NSWPL top four in the last two campaigns gave every indication that they would be there once again in 2008.
The Marconi Stallions have recruited well in the off-season; Blacktown City’s Tolgay Ozbey, one of the league’s most prolific scorers, has arrived, along with the pacy ex-Bankstown frontman Tallan Martin. These two should guarantee Marconi plenty of goals this season, especially with the tricky Stefan “Nugget” Donevski there to support them.
But it’s in midfield that Marconi look particularly good. They have retained the services of Vuko Tomasevic and his formidable left foot, and obtained perhaps the most classy midfielder in the competition in NSL veteran Nahuel Arrarte, who was influential last season for both Bankstown and Sydney Olympic.
Arrarte had a very fine game on Saturday, distributing neatly, nearly scoring with a sumptuous 25-yard free kick, and slipping Ante Deur (another arrival from Olympic) through on goal with a delightful through-ball; Deur was brought to ground in the box, a penalty and a send-off ensued, and Marconi’s opponents, Wollongong, subsequently collapsed.
Marconi looked a little less sure-footed at the back, with Luke Casserly just starting to show his age, and Wade Oostendorp demonstrating why he didn’t quite make the grade at Sydney FC. The final result, 4-0, was ultimately somewhat flattering for the Bossley Park club; defensive inattention forced their new ’keeper Cem Akili (another ex-Bankstown man) into superb saves on two occasions.
Yet there is plenty of quality in the side, and they will undoubtedly be a threat this season.
If Marconi were impressive, Bankstown City, last year’s runners-up, were imperious.
After a poor start to the Johnny Warren Cup, in which they lost to both Manly (another of last year’s top four) and Marconi, Bankstown were clearly in the mood to turn it on at home against one of the competition newcomers, the West Sydney Berries (the former Canterbury-Marrickville). And they did.
At half-time, when I had to leave, Bankstown were up 5-0. And this time, the scoreline did not flatter them.
The Macedonian-backed club has held on to the spine of its tough, organized 2007 side, and the familiarity within the team was obvious from their first-half performance on Saturday…as was the individual quality that was apparent last year.
Robbie Mileski, playing a little deeper this season, still looks a player of tremendous potential. In that frantic 45 minutes, he scored two goals and set up a third, causing the Berries insurmountable problems with his pace, adroit dribbling and precise shooting. His first goal capped off a sweeping, intricate move involving half the Bankstown team; one of the best goals I’ve seen, at any level, for some time.
If Mileski can show just a little more consistency this season, he will surely get his break in the professional game before long.
Although Bankstown have lost the aforementioned Nahuel Arrarte to Marconi (along with Martin and Akili), the experienced George Nohra is still there, and Tayfun Devrimol, a versatile operator for Blacktown last season, has joined him in the engine room. Shane Webb and Steve Liavas still patrol the flanks most effectively (both made goals with smart crosses in the first half), and the defence, marshalled forcefully by player-coach Peter Tsekenis, looks powerful and composed, although Bankstown were caught out on the flanks once or twice.
Bankstown apparently took their collective foot off the pedal in the second half, but that first 45 minutes was surely enough to suggest that they will be strong contenders in the NSWPL once more in 2008.
But as part of 'smell the fear' posts you may want to read today's article from AFL journo Trevor Grant in the Herald Sun.
Why everytime we get an important (and sold out) football game these sorts of diatribes get published?
Trevor Grant article