The final position in the 2018 Play Station 4 NPLWA competition is up for contention this week with Mandurah City and Forrestfield United battling it out in a two-leg playoff.
The first is at Hartfield Park on Wednesday, September 20, before the second match on Saturday, September 23 at Securitas Protect Stadium.
In their first season in top flight since 2011, Mandurah City started strongly to reach the QBE Night Series Final but finished last on the league ladder.
Coach Doug Hesketh is determined to keep the Dolphins in the PS4 NPLWA.
“I think we have embraced the NPLWA as a club and we give a good account of ourselves,” he said.
“Our league position wasn’t ideal but we have gained great experience and I believe this has helped us develop some very good quality young players during the season.”
Hesketh will coach Mandurah for the last time during the play-offs before stepping aside from the role.
“I’m proud of the work done over last three years at the club,” he said.
“We had success, we have developed quality players and we have stuck together and grown as people, players, coaches and a club.
“I really have enjoyed the opportunity to lead the club and I see a very positive future.”
Hesketh, who led Stirling Lions to the PS4 NPLWA title in 2013, said his side was ready for tough play-off matches.
“I have a lot of respect for (Forrestfield coach) Rod (Banjac) and Forrestfield and how they are going about their business,” he said.
“They are a good side and we are playing for the ‘Ben Nowak Cup’ which links our clubs. It’s a shame there is so much at stake in view of next season.
“I feel Mandurah and Forrestfield are setting great standards for game day with excellent support and facilities.”
It’s been a steady rise for Forrestfield United, who began playing in the Sunday Amateur Premier League in 2004.
A great deal of hard work, and the coaching philosophy of Rod Banjac in recent years, has seen United hold their own in the All Flags State League Division One.
“We have worked hard and maybe there is a certain bit of knowledge in regards to life and, in particular, ‘the beautiful game’, but at my age you would expect to have some experience,” he said.
“But that certainly doesn’t make me any more important than any other member of our hard working and committed community club who contribute regularly each week.”
Forrestfield were in the title race all season and, despite finishing second on the ladder to Western Knights, Banjac said his young side have earned their stripes.
“Our state (league) squad has been outstanding throughout the year while being subjected to some serious challenges, on and off the park,” he said.
“But to finish second in such a tough and competitive league, while scoring the highest number of goals for the third year in a row, is a just reward for a nice brand of football our boys deliver each week.
“We now appreciate the situation we created for ourselves and are fully focused, well prepared and look no further than the next two games. But if we don’t enter the PS4 NPLWA this year there is no doubt that we’ll benefit from the much needed experience – so no pressure.”
Banjac has prepared his side for the quality players Mandurah have in their ranks.
“These one-off games are tough on players, coaches, the committee as well as the members due to so much riding on them,” he said.
“Mandurah has one of the best coaching teams in Doug and the Everton legend Mike Lyons, and they have a good squad. It was no coincidence that they reached the Grand Final of the Night Series.
“I understand that they struggled at certain phases during the season through injuries but they are back to full strength.”
Ben Nowak, who was a junior at Mandurah and Forrestfield, died in military service during the Iraq war more than 10 years ago. Last year, the clubs inaugurated the Ben Nowak Cup in memory of the fallen soldier.
For information on play-off competition rules, see Article 16 – Promotion and Relegation Play-Off on the NPLWA Competition Rules.
Play-off Match Details
First leg – Forrestfield United v Mandurah City – Hartfield Park – 7pm
Second leg – Mandurah City v Forrestfield United – Securitas Protect Stadium – 2:30pm