NPL WA Round 11 Preview

It is the halfway mark of the NPLWA - Men's competition this weekend with unbeaten Floreat Athena six points clear at the top.

The chasing pack do all have a game in hand. Such is the leaders' form, however, those in pursuit know they cannot allow the gap grow much wider.

Perth SC are in second place and have found their groove in the league despite Wednesday’s surprise FFA Cup exit to Cockburn, their first loss in all competitions since April Fool’s Day.

On Saturday they are away to Balcatta, who are down in ninth. The season hasn't taken off yet for Bobby Taneski's side but they did chalk up a second league win of the season last week with a 1-0 victory over Rockingham City despite playing more than half the match with 10 men.

That result moved them five points clear of the bottom and captain Calum O’Connell is hopeful their home form stands up again on Saturday.

“It felt like one of those games where there was a lot of the line for both teams, especially with the way the table is at the moment, so for us it was vital to win,” O’Connell said.

“In general, it was a confidence booster, because we’ve been here and there in a lot of games without being able to finish them off, so getting the three points was big with 10 men in the second half.

“We think we’ve matched most teams when we look back on the games we’ve played, but that win will give us more confidence for Perth at the weekend and we always seem to get up for the bigger games.

“It’s an Italian derby, it’s usually a good atmosphere and we’re confident we’ve got the quality in the playing group to be able to take them on. We have the second half of the season coming up, so to go and get a positive result against Perth would push us up the table which is what we want to do.”

O’Connell has been a mainstay at Grindleford Reserve but his entry into football at senior level as a teenager was unusual, as he competed in Season One of the reality TV show Football Superstar.

The left-sided player was eliminated at the Top 10 stage of the competition, but the experience proved worthwhile for O’Connell who went on to play senior minutes at A-League side Brisbane Roar.

“At the time it was a good opportunity because it was a door that could potentially open for a player to get into the A-League,” he said.

“Back then, I was doing everything I could to try and get into a professional environment. It was an unconventional way to do it, but I met some great guys who were on the show and worked with people who were quite influential like John Kosmina and Steve O’Connor who were part of the Sydney FC set-up.

“It was an opportunity where I thought, if I don’t do it I’ll regret it, but if I don’t get anything out of it then at least I got my mug on TV! For me, when I got out of it, it gave me that bit of a stepping stone and helped me move forward in my career and towards opportunities which came after that.

“We trained every day, if not every second day, and we’d probably play a game every second day too as part of the show. But as a bunch of lads who kind of got thrown together from leagues around the country, we played against the likes of Central Coast Mariners youth team, a few of the local sides and then went to Canberra to play against the AIS.

“The incentive was definitely there. You’re putting yourself up for a youth contract and Adam (Hett) who won it unfortunately did his ACL. It was a good, tough environment where we were looked after, but we were all there for a purpose. And it was also great to be able to see behind the scenes of how they do a reality TV show!"

Elsewhere, ECU Joondalup and Cockburn City meet just days after the pair enjoyed FFA Cup victories.

Sorrento also moved into the last four of the FFA Cup, but last week’s defeat to Perth Glory in Geraldton means they are only a point clear in the final top four spot. The Gulls face a Bayswater side who battled from two down to draw with Gwelup Croatia last week but who are on a run of just one win in six.

It's bottom versus top at SafeRad Stadium as Rockingham host Floreat, who were the final team to go through in the FFA Cup. Athena are out to extend their unbeaten start to 11 games at a side who are three points adrift at the bottom.

Armadale host Gwelup at Alfred Skeet Reserve while Inglewood United and Perth Glory meet with the two sides on the fringes of the top four.


Saturday 3pm

Armadale v Gwelup Croatia
Balcatta v Perth SC
ECU Joondalup v Cockburn City
Inglewood United v Perth Glory
Rockingham City v Floreat Athena
Sorrento v Bayswater City