The PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2016 action kicks off in Queensland this week and it’s building as the most competitive and unpredictable season yet.
Gold Coast City FC v Redlands United FC
Saturday, February 27 / 3:00PM
Duncan McKenna Field, Gold Coast
Head-to-Head (W-D-L): Gold Coast City – 3, Redlands United - 3, Draws - 1
Last Meeting: Redlands United won 1-0 at Cleveland Showgrounds (July 7, 2015)
The season commences on the ‘glitter strip’ as two of the competition’s entertainers – and genuine Premiership contenders – go in search of the first three points of 2016.
Gold Coast (formerly Palm Beach SC) midfield stars Justyn McKay and Ben Litfin will have plenty of options in the attacking third with off-season recruits Lyndon Dykes, Rhys Saunders and Daniel Dragicevic running the angles.
Redlands are also blessed with a bounty of scoring options including last year’s Golden Boot Graham Fyfe, wily winger Nico Bechar, and Stephen Green – recruited from last year’s Premiership winners Moreton Bay United.
However, looking to thwart them at either end are two of the competition’s best shot-stoppers – Gold Coast’s Westfield FFA Cup hero Shane Viitakangas and 2015 Safe Hands Award winner Brendan White for the Red Devils.
SWQ Thunder FC v Northern Fury FC
Saturday, February 27 / 6:00PM
Cliver Berghofer Stadium, Toowoomba
Head-to-Head: SWQ Thunder – 0, Northern Fury – 4, Draws - 0
Last Meeting: Northern Fury won 3-1 at Clive Berghofer Stadium (July 11, 2015)
The competition’s whipping boys for two straight seasons, SWQ Thunder could crack their first ever league win over a Northern Fury side that has failed to flatter in pre-season.
Thunder have recruited impressively from outside their Toowoomba base – signing 2015 Premiership winning goalkeeper Luke Borean as well as striker Mustafa Jafari (ex-Olympic FC), South Sudanese international Majok Piok (ex-Western Pride) and former Wellington Phoenix youth player Xavier Pratt.
Fury have added a host of unheralded talents from the local North Queensland Premier League to their squad for 2016 but how will they respond to the extra travel demands of the national second tier?
With both sides shaping as likely to finish in the bottom half of the table, these opening three points could prove telling in avoiding the wooden spoon come season’s end.
Brisbane Roar FC Youth v Brisbane Strikers FC
Saturday, February 27 / 6:00PM
Perry Park, Brisbane
Head-to-Head: Brisbane Roar Youth – 0, Brisbane Strikers – 3, Draws - 1
Last Meeting: Brisbane Strikers won 2-1 at Perry Park (June 27, 2015)
Strikers have been the form team of the pre-season but will be under no illusion of the challenge awaiting them from a Roar Youth side sharpened by a summer of Foxtel National Youth League.
Finishing second in 2015, the always strong Strikers are bolstered by several impressive recruits to their line-up including former Hyundai A-League goalkeeper Seb Usai, and goal machines Rhys Meredith (ex-Olympic FC) and Alistair Davis (ex-Wolves FC).
After shedding a dozen players prior to the summer, Young Roar will be relatively green but can rely on the returning experience of Cameron Crestani and 2015 Young Player of the Year Nicholas D’Agostino.
With both clubs based at Perry Park there will be no home ground advantage – and no edge given - in the season’s first Capital Derby.
Brisbane City FC v Moreton Bay United FC
Saturday, February 27 / 6:30PM
Corporate Travel Management Stadium, Brisbane
Head-to-Head: Brisbane City – 2, Moreton Bay United – 4, Draws - 0
Last Meeting: Moreton Bay United won 2-1 at Corporate Travel Management Stadium (July 3, 2015)
The Jets are defending Champions and Premiers but they will find that counts for nought as they line-up to face a City side seeking to recapture what they see as their rightful place atop Queensland football.
City pulled off the coup of 2015 by signing John Kosmina as coach and backed it up with a bounty of impressive recruits including Westfield FFA Cup stars Scot Coulson and Greg King from Strikers and Young Roar products Samuel Sibatuara and Luke Pavlou.
Meanwhile Jets are much changed from 2015 – with a new coach in Dave Harris and a raft of fresh faces including Sunshine Coast FC trio Reyze Kelly, Ray Schultz and Jacob Fulluck and ex-Olympic defender Matt Byrne.
Expect the result to be determined by each team’s former Golden Boot winning ‘number 9’s’ – cultured City striker Antonio Murray looking to best Jets’ evergreen veteran Royce Brownlie.
Western Pride FC v Sunshine Coast FC
Saturday, February 27 / 7:00PM
Briggs Road Sporting Complex
Head-to-Head: Western Pride – 1, Sunshine Coast FC – 5, Draws - 0
Last Meeting: Sunshine Coast FC won 1-0 at Sunshine Coast Stadium (August 2, 2015)
Replacing a coach only days before the opening round is hardly ideal preparation but that’s the circumstance for Fire as they face a tough away game at Pride.
Fire this week recruited highly regarded – and sometimes controversial – Sam Saif to guide a team that stuttered through 2015 and hoping for immediate impact from local Sunshine Coast recruits including goalkeeper Sam Nickolls, striker Jeremy Stewart and fullback Chris Jancevski.
Pride retain their mantle as the competition’s favourite underdog following an intensive but inconsistent pre-season and a recruitment process that has brought former New Zealand youth international Geoff McIntyre and several highly regarded Ipswich locals to the squad.
Fire and Pride are widely considered only outside chances for the top four and the match shapes as an early test of character and resolve for both.
Olympic FC v FNQ FC Heat
Sunday, January 28 / 3:00PM
Goodwin Park, Brisbane
Head-to-Head: Olympic FC – 3, FNQ Heat – 3, Draws - 1
Last Meeting: FNQ Heat won 2-1 at Barlow Park (August 8, 2015)
Perennial Premiership contenders Olympic will be under the pump from the get-go against a Heat side that made a clean-sweep of its pre-season - including two big wins over tropical rivals Fury.
Heat retain much of last year’s squad and remain a potent attacking threat despite the departure of all-time leading goalscorer Alex Smith at the end of 2015 – with newly-appointed captain Jamie Carroll and English recruit Keiran Sanders banging in the goals.
Olympic have sought to temper fan expectations in 2016 despite retaining a wealth of talent from last season including ever-reliable skipper Danny Byrne, Hyundai A-League winning defender Matt Mundy and fan favourite fullback Kazuya Ito.
In a game that suggest fine margins it could take something special to claim the points – a perfect set-up for Olympic midfielder Sam Cronin who has shown an uncanny knack for converting from 20 or more yards throughout pre-season.For more from Football Queensland -
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