The 2019 NPL WA season begins on Friday night with Inglewood United ready to move on from a bumpy summer when they host Bayswater City.
Andres Oliveira became the new first team coach at Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium this week, replacing Trim Morgan who took charge after Andy Keogh’s departure at the end of last season.
On the pitch United had lined up 2018 joint Golden Boot winner Chris Jackson but that failed to materialise, while forwards Kenny Keogh and Brian Woodall departed in the summer.
Oliveira, who has returned to Inglewood after a brief stint as assistant at Gwelup, will look to new recruits Chok Dau and Steve Sokol for goals.
A goal threat is something Bayswater possess in abundance. Daryl Nicol, who shared the Golden Boot with Jackson, and Gordon Smith have joined from ECU Joondalup while Steve Hesketh is another impressive addition to Chris Coyne’s squad.
All of the other opening round fixtures are on Saturday.
Champions Perth SC are at home against ECU Joondalup. Skipper Francis Soale said at the season launch on Monday that the Azzurri were “in a better position than in the previous three years”. That could spell trouble for the rest of the league as Perth have won two titles in that time.
ECU have big shoes to fill in their forward line with the loss of Nicol and Smith. Coach Dale McCulloch will want new boys Joe Knowles and Jakub Sklenar to hit the ground running, starting at Dorrien Gardens.
Floreat Athena are many people’s tips for the title after finishing last season on a nine-game unbeaten run and then defending the NPL Night Series.
Garrett McDulling, yet to taste defeat as coach, will want to ensure his side don’t repeat their sluggish start of 2018 which left them battling relegation for most of the campaign. Indeed after their penalty shootout wins in the semi-final and final of the Night Series, McDulling told his players that would have been two points from six in the league.
The signing of Adrian Madaschi from Perth SC could be a masterstroke from Athena if the experienced defender stays fit.
Opponents Perth Glory, who saw the title slip away on the final day, have a new coaching set up with Richard Garcia the main man in the NPL and Steve McGarry his No2.
Rockingham City start their first year in the NPL at Balcatta, one of three successive away matches for Cam Lord’s team. Rockingham skipper James Harmer admitted the Rocky players were initially overawed in their first NPL Night Series match. “That lasted for about 20 minutes, then we realised we belonged at this level,” the Welshman said.
Balcatta coach Goran Stajic said youngster Shub Mokala is one for the future, while brothers Michael and Alex Zimarino have bolstered the ranks.
Sorrento have brought in two centre backs, David Stokoe from Bayswater and Scott Robertson from Inglewood. The Gulls face a tough opener at home to Cockburn, who finished third last season.
Belt Up Cup holders Armadale, who lost all five of their Night Series games and must do without the goals of Chris Jackson, are at home to Stirling Lions, whose coach Keegan Ashley has talked up his side’s attacking potential.
“We have some great young talent also pushing hard for first team football and have signed Mile Petkovski, a former professional footballer from Macedonia,” he said.
Friday, March 15
Inglewood United v Bayswater City (Perth Plasterboard Centre Stadium, 7.30pm)
Saturday, March 16
Perth SC v ECU Joondalup (Dorrien Gardens, 3pm)
Balcatta v Rockingham City (Grindleford Reserve, 3pm)
Stirling Lions v Armadale (Macedonia Park, 3pm)
Sorrento v Cockburn City (Percy Doyle Reserve, 3pm)
Floreat Athena v Perth Glory (E&D Litis Stadium, 7pm)