After a season to remember in Victoria, where they won the Premiership by three points from rivals South Melbourne and Avondale, the Bergers made their first appearance in the PS4 NPL Finals Series in 2017.
A Westfield FFA Cup run which was only ended recently at the Quarter Finals stage by Adelaide United, was also a highlight.
Heidelberg also took out Victoria’s knockout competition, the Dockerty Cup. The only blemish of a superb season thus far was defeat in the PS4 NPL Victoria Grand Final to Bentleigh Greens.
ROAD TO THE GRAND FINAL
Heidelberg were forced to make the tough trip to Perth to face PS4 NPL WA Premiers Bayswater City in the Elimination Final. Ken Athiu – who scored 22 during the PS4 NPL Victoria season – got their scoring underway via the penalty spot, before impressive Colombian Gustavo Marulanda equalised for the hosts.
The second half was tight, and as neither side could find a winner the match headed into extra time. Athiu grabbed the go-ahead goal, before Sean Ellis sealed the Bergers’ passage into the final four as they ran out 3-1 victors.
Heidelberg then returned home for the Semi Final and met PS4 NPL NSW Premiers APIA Leichhardt Tigers.
In a tense and at times ill-tempered match, Corey Bizco sent the NSW side to the sheds with the lead. However, with a strong breeze at their backs in the second half, Heidelberg overran the Tigers as Harry Noon and Andrew Cartanos scored to send them into their first PS4 NPL Grand Final.
HEIDELBERG'S KEY PLAYERS
Athiu has been outstanding for the Bergers in 2017, scoring crucial goals across the season, including the winner in their Westfield FFA Cup defeat of Perth Glory, and the go-ahead goal in the Elimination Final two weeks ago against Bayswater City. The star striker finished top goal scorer in the NPL Victoria with 22, and has passed 30 goals across all competitions this season. Playing as a target man, he represents a physical challenge for the Brisbane Strikers’ defence.
With fellow centre back Steven Pace missing with injury in recent games, a lot of responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of veteran Byles. He showcased his quality, when he starred as Heidelberg eliminated Perth Glory from the Westfield FFA Cup. The Bergers’ skipper leads from the front and is one man the Strikers must be wary of come Sunday.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS (GEORGE KATSAKIS)
“We’ve done a bit of homework on them. It looks as if they have got a good unit, looks like they are a good ball-playing team and work well on the rotations. They look like a very strong outfit. They are very good in that last third of the park. We’ve got a very strong defence as well so it promises to be a great game.”
On their incredible season so far…
“It’s great to be the first Victorian club to make it to the final of this tournament. However, I think it just caps of a season that is remarkable in Australian football to be honest. We’re a team that has won the Dockerty Cup, finished minor premiers, played in a Grand Final, playing in the Grand Final of the national premiership and finished off in the Quarter Finals of the (Westfield) FFA Cup. It’s a script that probably couldn’t be written for an NPL club, so I think it’s an indication of how far we’ve come.”