PS4 NPL Victoria 2015 Preview

The 2015 edition of the PlayStation 4 NPL Victoria could have it all.

14 clubs will compete for top honours in the PlayStation NPL while 20 teams in the NPL 1 division below will fight it out to earn their spot in the top tier next year.

This is the biggest competition to date, and also promises to be one of the most hotly contested given the popularity and interest the competition generated in 2014.

The biggest change in 2015 is the addition of a three-week finals series involving the top six in the league.

Not only does that mean the season will be extended, but the interest levels will remain high well into September.

Defending champions South Melbourne have managed to retain much of their squad, while strengthening their forward line with the additions of Tasmanian golden boot-winner Andy Brennan, and former Bentleigh Greens striker David Stirton.

The title-holders will be in hot pursuit by last year's runners-up Oakleigh Cannons.

Oakleigh Cannons coach and former Gold Coast United boss Miron Bleiberg will be spurred on by last year's lack of honours in not qualifying for either the Westfield FFA Cup or the PlayStation 4 NPL National Finals Series.

Bleiberg has recruited strongly, adding pacey forward Ben Clarke to his stocks, as well as former A-League hardman Steve Pandelidis, while retaining his strongest, and most-consistent, players from 2014.

Heidelberg United is another club which has recruited strongly with the aim of a prolific 2015. Coach George Katsakis will be hoping to better his team's third-place, and has recruited former Box Hill United striker Kenny Athiu in his bid to do it.

Westfield FFA Cup semi-finalists Bentleigh Greens have had their cup success, and now they're firmly focused on the league. The Greens have left no stone unturned in their bid to win the league, bringing NPL Queensland's top striker down to Melbourne in Chris Lucas, as well as bolstering their stocks with some solid local signings.

Melbourne Knights are a team with a proud history, but in 2014, they suffered an injury crisis that crippled their hopes of a successful season. But 2015 is a new year, and with the return of talismanic striker Andrew Barisic, the Knights' front line is looking dangerous.

Hume City were a club with potential in 2014, but inconsistency meant they fell short of that potential. They're another side which has recruited strongly, bringing South Australia's Calvin Mbarga across the border and into a new proving ground.

Northcote City and Pascoe Vale were similarly inconsistent in 2014. On their day, both teams had the capacity to match it with the best teams in the league, but dropped points against teams languishing at the foot of the table.

Dandenong Thunder had two key youngsters in 2014 in Kieran Dover and Matt Millar, and both have departed for greener pastures with Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City respectively. Dandenong was a young side to begin with, and it'll hope it can find two fresh youngsters to fill the holes Millar and Dover have left.

Green Gully started 2014 off defeating Werribee 4-0 in the first week, before losing the next four, including a 6-1 drubbing to Oakleigh. The side has the capability to take points off of the big teams, but will need to be at its best to better the 10th place last year.

Port Melbourne and Werribee only narrowly escaped relegation on the last day of the season in 2014, courtesy of a last minute Weribee equaliser, which consigned Ballarat Red Devils to the second tier.

There are two new additions to the top tier in 2015: Avondale FC and North Geelong Warriors. Avondale FC come into the 2015 PS4 NPL Victoria after five promotions in six years. They're a true fairytale story of a club that has risen up the ranks, and given their performance in 2014, should prove competitive in 2015.

North Geelong Warriors are the opposite. A club with a proud history in the top tier, they made their return to the top flight for the first time in 20 years after a second place finish in 2014.

Victoria’s second division was recently split into two conferences – NPL 1 East and NPL 1 West – to accommodate for six new additions: Eastern Lions, Moreland City, Nunawading City, Murray United, Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City.

In the NPL 1, along with the two A-League sides, it will be the first time a team from the Albury Wodonga region competes against the best in Victoria.

Each NPL 1 team will play every team in its conference twice, and teams in the opposing conference once. The champions of each conference will contest the NPL 1 Grand Final on September 18-20.

The runners-up of each conference will meet at a similar date, with the winner to come up against the 12th-placed NPL team on September 25-27 for a spot in the top division in 2016.

2015 truly promises to be a long and exciting season in Victorian football.