The National Premier Leagues gets underway in New South Wales this weekend and two of the competition’s powerhouses clash in our Game of the Week.
Former National Soccer League rivals Wollongong Wolves and Sydney Olympic lock horns at Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday, 1 March (4pm AEDT) with both teams eager to open their campaigns with maximum points.
The Wolves are once again under the guidance of former Socceroos defender Luke Wilkshire and out to build on a stunning 2019 campaign that saw them crowned NPL NSW Premiers and national NPL Champions – their first national title since their NSL heyday.
Wilkshire has retained a large number of players from last year’s squad including NPL NSW Men’s Player of the Year and Golden Boot winner Thomas James and creative Japanese midfielder Takeru Okada.
Also on deck are the entire backline that conceded a miserly 17 goals across 22 rounds of last season’s NPL New South Wales, including former Hyundai A-League goalkeeper Justin Pasfield and long-time club servant Chris Price.
Wilkshire has also recruited strategically to strengthen his squad with the additions of former St George FC striker Marcus Beattie, midfielder Ethan Kambisios, and Illawarra Premier League stand-out shot-stopper Hayden Durose.
By contrast, new Olympic coach Terry Palapanis has cast a wide net to help his side improve on last year's sixth placed finish following his move from Sutherland Sharks.
Among the big name signings are a trio of former Hyundai A-League stars with a proven record of winning titles.
Three-time Premiership and Championship double-winning defender Sebastian Ryall leads the charge of new signings alongside two-time Premiership-winning midfielder Fabio Ferreira and FFA Cup-winning forward Charles Lokolingoy.
Also added to the mix are Spanish playmaker Raul Beneit Romero, former Wellington Phoenix flyer Adam Parkhouse and former Japanese youth international midfielder Shuto Kohno.
While joining their coach in making the switch from Sutherland to Belmore are former Sharks foursome Anthony Bouzanis, Bai Antoniou, Romero and Alexander Lopez.
However, while club legend Will Angel and last season's skipper Jason Madonis have returned for 2020, the Olympic faithful were rocked in January by the unexpected departure of Spanish striking sensation Alejandro Sanchez.
While there is no doubting the talent in the Olympic ranks, the big unknown is whether the raft of new personalities will gel on the field quickly enough to replicate their 2018 Premiership-Championship double winning campaign.
Get the latest fixtures and results from the National Premier Leagues across Australia:
National Premier Leagues - Game of the Week
NPL New South Wales
Sydney Olympic v Wollongong Wolves
Sunday, 1 March, 2020
Kick off: 4.00pm AEDT
Venue: Belmore Sports Ground