After 12 rounds of PlayStation® 4 NPL Queensland 2015 we are officially at the half-way point of the season.
With early season weather interruptions, it’s been difficult to judge just where each club stands - with some boasting games in hand and others yet to meet.
However, we have taken this all into account as we review the performances and prospects of all twelve Senior Men’s competition sides in our mid-season review.
BRISBANE CITY FC
Record: 11P-3W-1D-7L (11th position)
Goals For: 17 (1.55 per game - 10th)
Goal Against: 33 (3.00 per game - 11th)
Clean Sheets Kept: 0 (equal 11th)
Top Goalscorers: Antonio Murray (7), Mat Biggins (3), Young Jae Joo (2), Kai Smith (2)
Not a start befitting their proud tradition. City took only one point from their opening eight matches before opting to part ways with inaugural PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland coach Glen Volker over Easter. Youth coach Darron Heselden has since stepped up on an interim basis and promoted a number of promising talents from the club’s youth set-up. After a tough initiation, a recent run of three straight wins has eased fears of claiming the wooden spoon, however it’s still a long way back to the top half of the table.
City’s first victory of the season – 2-1 win over Western Pride – has done wonders for team morale and may have delivered Heseldon the necessary buy-in he needs from his squad.
Matt Stein (goalkeeper) - In-and-out of the starting eleven at the start of the year, Stein has returned more assured than ever under his new coach but his side need him to be at his sharpest for the rest of the campaign.
Finals football is a bridge too far but a mid-table finish remains a possibility and could be easily viewed as a triumph when compared to the early season free-fall.
BRISBANE ROAR FC YOUTH
Record: 8P-3W-4D-1L (7th position)
Goals For: 25 (3.13 per game - 2nd)
Goals Against: 13 (1.63 per game - 5th)
Clean Sheets Kept: 2 (equal 2nd)
Top Goalscorers: Mitchell Hore (8), Nicholas D’Agostino(4), Patrick Theodore (3)
The great unknown at the season’s midpoint, with games in hand on all other clubs. Winless in their opening three matches, Young Roar haven’t been beaten since Round 3 against Brisbane Strikers. The statistics suggest a formidable attacking output but without their 12 goal rampage against Western Pride, Young Roar average less than 2 goals a game. Still capable of the sublime but also susceptible to youthful indiscretions, they will have a big say in the make-up of the top four despite being ineligible for the 2015 Finals Series. In a major plus for the squad, several members of the team stepped up for Hyundai A-League debuts earlier this year.
A 5-1 loss to Brisbane Strikers in their third outing of the season suggested tough times ahead - instead, they responded with maturity and determination.
Luke Pavlou (midfield) - Following the mid-season departure of Ben Litfin, Young Roar need someone to provide leadership in the midfield. Pavlou appears the perfect candidate following his Hyundai A-League debut earlier in the year.
A log jam of catch-up fixtures will be hard to navigate but a top six finish appears likely based on their current trajectory.
BRISBANE STRIKERS FC
Record: 11P-7W-2D-2L (2nd position)
Scored: 27 (2.45 per game - 4th)
Conceded: 12 (1.09 per game - 1st)
Clean Sheets Kept: Four (1st)
Top Goalscorers: Jheison Macuace (8), Trent Clulow (6), Greig Henslee (3)
One of the most consistent performers since the league’s launch, Strikers continue to demonstrate a steady club philosophy under Kevin A’herne-Evans - their third coach in as many seasons. Always capable of scoring goals, the club has responded well to the off-season departure of all-time club leading goalscorer Matt Thurtell. Most impressively, the team currently boasts the best defensive record in the league built in large part on three straight clean sheets in recent rounds. Unsurprisingly, their quick-passing game has noticeably benefitted following off-season upgrades to the playing surface at Perry Park.
A 1-0 backs-to-the-wall away win against FNQ Heat demonstrated this Strikers team has the resolve to grind out the difficult results - a trait that was arguably absent in previous campaigns.
Trent Clulow (attacking midfielder) - A revelation since joining the club from third-tier community club Wolves FC. How he deals with the increased defensive attention in the second half of the season will have a huge impact on Strikers’ goal returns.
Likely to remain in the hunt for the Premiership until the final rounds and near certainties for a third consecutive Finals Series appearance.
FNQ FC HEAT
Record: 11P-3W-2D-6L (10th position)
Goals For: 26 (2.36 per game - 5th)
Goals Against: 26 (2.36 per game - 9th)
Clean Sheets Kept: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorers: Alex Smith (8), Jamie Carroll (7), Crios O’Hare (3)
The new season has yet to click into gear for FNQ Heat after going within minutes of a maiden Grand Final appearance in 2014. Home form is the most pressing concern, with their four losses in Cairns twice as many as last year’s breakthrough campaign. The rub of the green has arguably been against them in some matches, however the consistency of their defensive lapses are getting harder to deny. Despite scoring plenty of goals, significant injuries to any of their top goalscorers will likely put paid to hopes of a revival.
Their 3-1 away win over Olympic FC in Round 9 exacted revenge for last year’s Semi-Final loss and proved that Heat can match it with a top three side.
Tamas Maffey-Stumpe (defender) - The Heat captain needs to call on all his leadership qualities to gel his back four and eliminate the errors that are costing crucial points.
A run of results will see them back in the mid-table mix but it will take an all-mighty turn around to qualify for the Final Series. Their current course sees Heat charting a bottom-half finish.
MORETON BAY UNITED FC
Record: 10P-8W-1D-1L (1st)
Goals For: 34 (3.40 per game - 1st)
Goals Against: 16 (1.60 per game - 4th)
Clean Sheets: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorer: Royce Brownlie (7), Charles Mendy (6), Jordan Farina (5)
The standouts of the season to date on paper, Jets are the only side to average more than twice as many goals for as against. With only one defeat in the league this season, they are also emulating the performances of previous Premiership winners. However, the club has never played in a Finals Series before, let alone dealt with the pressure of being genuine Premiership contenders. They have conceded the opening goal in four of their five matches in May - a worrying habit that needs to be eradicated.
Picked up the full six points from both trips up north to answers any questions over their ability to travel. So take your pick - 4-1 over FNQ Heat or 3-2 over Northern Fury.
Jordan Farina (midfielder) - an important link in the Jets’ transition and handy contributor in front of goal as well. He will need to maintain his consistency in the back-half of the season.
Early favourites for the Premiership, but can they handle the pressure? Yes or no, a first ever appearance in the Finals Series appears a near certainty.
NORTHERN FURY FC
Goals For: 19 (2.11 per game - 8th)
Goals Against: 18 (2.00 per game - 7th)
Clean Sheets Kept: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorers: Joseph Thornton, Samuel Herlihy (4), Michael Eisenhut (3)
Arguably the competition’s most unpredictable team. Ian Ferguson’s side are yet to draw in their nine matches but have only recorded back-to-back victories once. Those consecutive wins came in April and since then defeats to top-four teams have served as a timely wake-up call of the level required to play Finals football. Making home advantage count with games in hand will be crucial, but switching two of their upcoming matches to the regional centres of Ingham and Ayr may negate that advantage.
Their opening round win was Fury’s first ever against northern rivals FNQ Heat and proved the team can win high-pressure matches if they are on song.
Michael Eisenhut (striker) - the experienced Kiwi pocket-rocket adds an extra element to Fury’s attack but has been hampered by injury again this season. Expected to return in coming weeks, he needs to stay fit if Fury are to sneak into the top four.
Primed for a late season surge but the Final Series may have to wait for another year. Will likely be one of the club’s in a jam-packed mid-table come September.
Record: 11P-7W-2D-2L (3rd position)
Goals For: 30 (2.73 per game - 3rd)
Goals Against: 17 (1.55 per game - 3rd)
Clean Sheets Kept: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorers: Tim Smits (9), Danny Byrne (5), Michael Lee (5)
By their own admission, Olympic are yet to hit full stride in 2015 but even their stuttering first half to the campaign sees them comfortably in the Premiership hunt. The 2013 Champions-Premiers are the only team to beat both Brisbane Strikers and Moreton Bay United this season and still boast a core of players that know what it takes to prevail on the big occasions. A recent run of seven wins in eight matches suggests the Olympic juggernaut is again gathering pace and their defensive returns are notably better than their first two seasons.
It’s difficult to look past their 4-2 win over the league-leading Jets, but a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Redlands United in the Westfield FFA Cup served as a reminder not to take any match for granted.
Tim Smits (Striker) - One of the best finishers in the league, the veteran recorded back-to-back hat-tricks in recent weeks and now sits top of the Golden Boot race. An invaluable asset in Olympic’s Premiership push.
Definite Premiership contenders and looking the goods for a third straight Finals Series appearance.
PALM BEACH SC
Record: 10P-4W-2D-4L (6th position)
Goals For: 15 (1.50 per game - 11th)
Goals Against: 15 (1.50 per game - 2nd)
Clean Sheets Kept: Two (equal 2nd)
Top Goalscorers: Justyn McKay (4), Ethan Grimley (2), Joshua Riis (2)
Despite not yet replicating the performances of last year’s all-conquering campaign, the Sharks’ prospects for Finals football are intriguing. Their defence remains amongst the league’s best, however the absence of goal-hungry striker is proving increasingly evident. Only one point against the top three so far this season suggests Sharks are still off the pace but if their defence continues to frustrate opponents then there is still plenty to like about their Finals chances - especially if they can take all six points from upcoming away trips to the state’s north.
Sharks’ 4-1 defeat away to Jets might prove just the tough tonic needed to escape their slump. They responded by putting an equal season-high three goals past FNQ Heat.
Jarrod Kyle (Striker) - Hampered by injury again in 2015, doubts remain as to whether he genuinely suits Sharks’ set-up. He must repay the faith of coach Grae Piddick with goals in the back-half of the season or risk falling out of favour.
REDLANDS UNITED FC
Record: 11P-3W-3D-5L (9th position)
Goals For: 19 (1.73 per game - 9th)
Conceded: 19 (1.73 per game - 6th)
Clean Sheets kept: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorers: Graham Fyfe (6), Igor Sao Jose (4), Elliott Ronto (3)
Despite results going against them in the early part of the campaign, the Red Devils have been there or thereabouts throughout - only once losing by a margin greater than a single goal. Plenty of goal-scoring opportunities went begging through their opening seven matches, but that trend has turned in recent weeks in a five match unbeaten run. They have form against the top three - taking four points from Strikers and eliminating Olympic from the Westfield FFA Cup. And with two matches still in hand against the floundering Thunder they could well prove a dark-horse for a Finals tilt.
A 5-1 win over Brisbane City not only broke their duck in the league, but confirmed the suspicion they were much better than their lowly position on the table suggested.
Nico Bechar (Winger) - His return after Easter coincided with the club’s form reversal. A genuinely left-sided attacker that adds the width to stretch defences and the pin-point delivery to supply teammates in central channels.
Still plenty of work to be done but now entrenched in the mid-table battle. Every match going forward will be a ‘six-point contest’ - if they maintain their run they will quickly rise into Finals contention.
SOUTH WEST QUEENSLAND THUNDER FC
Goals For: 8 (0.80 per game - 12th)
Goals Against: 44 (4.40 per game - 12th)
Clean Sheets Kept: None (equal 11th)
Top Goalscorers: Christopher Hewson (2), Nykodah Smith (2), Thomas Fanning (2)
It’s been another tough year for a Thunder team that continue to give much away in terms of experience to their opponents. The statistics speak for themselves with an inbalance between goals for and against that will see Chris Wilkes’ side again struggle to rise from the foot of the table. There were some good signs early - including a draw against Brisbane Roar Youth - but the focus will continue to be on player development rather than results for the foreseeable future.
It's hard to find posititives without any notchs in the wins column, but Thunder’s 2-1 defeat away to Sunshine Coast bore the markings of a team able to trouble high-flying opposition if they can just find a 90-minute performance.
Michael Pike (Goalkeeper) - The experienced gloveman’s ability to organise his defence - and as a shot-stopper - was crucial to their early promise, but injury has curbed his contributions. His return is vital if Thunder are to find a win this year.
It seems unlikely Thunder will improve on their current position in the table, but the feeling remains their first league win will come by season’s end.
SUNSHINE COAST FC
Record: 11P-5W-1D-5L (4th position)
Goals For: 24 (2.18 per game - 7th)
Goals Against: 25 (2.27 per game - 8th)
Clean Sheets Kept: One (equal 5th)
Top Goalscorers: Jacob Fulluck (6), Brady Cronk (5), Reyze Kelly (4)
Expected to be amongst the also-rans in 2015, Fire player-coach Paul Arnison has defied the doubters to see his side well in Finals Series contention. Big wins against Brisbane City and Northern Fury early in the season suggested they were building momentum, but they have also shipped a combined 13 goals against the current top three to indicate they are not yet Premiership contenders. Their current three-match losing streak needs to be amended quickly with a raft of challengers nipping at their heels in mid-table.
Fire defied expectation in dispatching Northern Fury 5-1 in Townsville back in March to commence a four-game winning run.
Jacob Fulluck (striker) - the 18-year-old leads Fire’s scoring ranks despite not being a regular starter. A bright future awaits but he will need to keep scoring if Fire are to qualify for a second Finals appearance.
By no means assured a top four finish, Fire are still the best placed at present. The pressure may tell in coming rounds but they’ve proved the doubters wrong already this year, so write them off at your peril.
WESTERN PRIDE FC
Record: 11P-5W-1D-5L (5th position)
Goals For: 25 (2.27 per game - 6th)
Goals Against: 31 (2.82 per game - 10th)
Clean Sheets Kept: Two (equal 2nd)
Top Goalscorers: Harrison Sawyer (4), Jay Kitching (3), Todd Norris (3), Lincoln Rule (3)
It’s been a rollercoaster for Pride in 2015 - evidenced by a win over defending Champions Palm Beach SC that was followed by a 12 goal shellacking at the hands of Brisbane Roar Youth only a week later. After being top of the table in early March, a three-match losing streak saw them drop out of the top four. Their relative youth will continue to work both for and against them as the season progresses - afraid of no one but arguably lacking the edge to grind out results that only comes with experience.
Their 12-0 loss to Young Roar has severely dented their goal differential and it may just cost them a place in the Finals Series come the final rounds.
Harrison Sawyer (striker) - started the season with a bang but has gone off the boil in front of goal nearing the mid-season point. A return to goal-scoring form may well prove crucial in the run home.
PredictionToo unpredictable to be assured a first Finals Series berth this year, Pride should be in the reckoning for the top six - a big improvement on last year’s second-bottom finish.