Football Alive

Canberra NPL- The season so far.

Canberra NPL must have one of the shortest seasons in world football. The teams play 18 league games before going onto the Finals series. This is woefully inadequate for top level football in Canberra and I wonder how serious the clubs and the local administrators are about NPL football?

This is a shame as there are some very well run clubs and some very good players in the league but in my opinion there needs to be three rounds instead of two in a ten team competition. The reality for some teams is that their pre season build up is actually on a par, if not longer, than their actual playing season.

However let’s focus on what we have and who is performing well at NPL level. This is a rundown on the teams and top players in the league.

Current table toppers are Tony Vidmar’s FFA Centre of Excellence. These young lads are in their second season together and have improved markedly this season. Unfortunately, this is the last time we will see them together as the FFA has made a decision to discontinue the programme whereby Australia’s top young players hone their skills at the Australian Institute of Sport. The argument is that with A league clubs now established the kids can play in NYL teams in their local competitions.

This argument has some merit, but in my view not a lot, the reality is that for Australia many of our golden generation of players came through this system at the AIS. Indeed, as the kids make their way to training and games they must surely be inspired by passing along Mark Viduka Walk as they get to the pitches. The kids value add to the local competition and with general concerns about how Australian youth teams have been doing of late I am very surprised at the decision to end this programme.

Tony Vidmar has been more animated than usual at the games this season and he and Ufuk Talay have been doing a fine job over the past few seasons. I suspect they want to win the league, albeit they cannot play finals, and send a message to the decision makers at FFA. Their shining light this season is young Jacob Italiano a winger who can beat players on the inside and outside and possesses a goalscoring threat. The kids are a joy to watch sometimes and despite their youth they can take care of themselves in the physical contests.

Next up is Canberra Olympic. They have been the dominant team in Canberra over the past few seasons and had a superb FFA cup run last season, reaching the semi finals. Coach Frank Cachia has recruited strongly and the nucleus of this team has been together for the past few years. Striker Stephen Domenici, a former Australian youth international, has been a brilliant recruit for Olympic and has been scoring goals for fun since his move from Cooma Tigers. Domenici has been complemented by evergreen Robbie Cattanach. The former Manly NSWNPL player continues to be a creative force in the Canberra league and proved to be the match winner in the FFA qualifying Cup Final.

Other players of note are Daniel Colbertaldo the diminutive holding midfielder who allows others to stream forward whilst protecting the defence and the silky skilled wide man Jeremy Habtemariam. Olympic will be embarking on a FFA journey again this season comfortably beating Tuggeranong United in the qualifying final at Deakin Stadium thanks to a Robbie Cattanach double.

Despite their success Olympic’s ground at O’ Connor is not up to the same level as Cachia’s side and they will likely play their FFA Cup games at the Deakin Stadium again should they receive a home tie.

Canberra FC. The Deakin based giant is always there or thereabouts when honours are given out and come Finals time they will be a force to be reckoned with again. Coach Marko Vrkic has an abundance of talent at his disposal and his shining star is English import Thomas James. James has been missing of late and there was some speculation he had left the Deakin club, but he is a fantastic finisher and creates so many chances for his team. This is a young man who could in my view crack the A league. Former A league player Kofi Danning adds pace to the attack and the combative Ian Graham patrols the middle of the pitch with purpose and energy. A place in the Grand Final is a must for this team and anything else will be viewed as failure by the passionate Vrkic.

Belconnen United. Dean Ugrinic teams always play with style and employ a short passing game that is easy on the eye. Mc Kellar Park is host to the best playing surface in the league and the Blue Devils are usually good to watch. Ugrinic is not afraid of giving young players a go and young goalkeeper Finn Jurak and forward Daniel Fabrizio have made themselves first picks this season . The coach’s son Jason Ugrinic is a rare talent a goalscoring winger and he leads their goalscoring chart by some way. This season has seen the belated return from injury of bustling centre forward Michael Taurasi. The hitman was slated for great things but alas the past five years or so has seen him bedevilled with injury. Ugrinic is nursing him back slowly but when Taurasi plays Belconnen are a better team.

Gungahlin United has been the surprise packet this season. Under the former Cooma and Canberra City midfielder Marcial Munoz the Gunners have surprised a few teams this season. Munoz was a skilful player to watch and it looks like he intends his team to play in a similar vein with the focus on possession based football. Gungahlin player Jack Green is the outstanding defender in the competition and offers an aerial threat going forward. Young Tom Krclec is another fine player and works tirelessly up and down the right flank. The Gunners may just lack the goals in the final third to really impact this season but they are good to watch and I suspect they will improve further next season.

The mercurial Cooma Tigers are languishing in sixth spot at the moment. This is a team that is packed with flair and play all out attacking football. This will be a disappointment to a club that loves to be in the mix for honours. The coach Gaby Wilk is the most passionate football person in Canberra and wears his heart on his sleeve in the coaching area. Argentinian import Nicholas Abot has been on fire in front of goal and at the back young Osman Fofannah is a player of talent. Cooma Tigers will cause problems for every team and their coach only knows one way to play. Attack, attack, attack.

Tuggeranong United are led by their amiable former striker Irishman Sean Murphy. Murphy  replaced the well regarded Miro Trnic earlier this season and guided his team to the FFA Cup qualifying final. Murphy has been reliant on his Greek imports, Aimilio Kishta and Niko Kalfas to guide his young charges and he has the outstanding young defender Nick Faust in his side. The youngster excelled in the final against Olympic and hopefully will pick up a professional contract with an A league club next season after he finishes school later this year .A season ending injury to new recruit Nik Popovich would have been a big blow to the Tuggeranong side.


Woden- Weston is a team that has improved as the season has went on. Coach Tony Olivera’s team play a nice brand of football and have the lightning fast Olaide Yinka  Kehinde as a creative focal point. The goals are provided by former Queanbeyan City marksman Danny Crkovski and he has found the net for almost half of the team’s league goals in his first NPL season. Goals against show that there have been some defensive issues for Olivera’s side but recent games against top side FFA COE and a highly rated Gungahlin side have been won with the concession of just one goal. If Olivera’ s side had shown this form in the first half of the season they would have been Finals contenders.

Riverina Rhinos. This is the Rhino’s first season in the NPL and their goal under Ross Morgan  would have been to be competitive. They have not always been so but have shown they are capable of raising their game against the very top sides, as evidenced with their recent one all draw with Canberra FC. Morgan will know what is expected next season but the Rhinos have been a welcome addition to the league this season. And players like Sean Bremner have certainly added to the competition.

Lloyd Hewitt’s Monaro Panthers complete the top division. The coach would have been hoping for more from his young team and his French imports, Joakim Moussinga and Christian Kayumba  have had some injury problems. The Monaro team are capable of great things; their run to the FFA Cup qualifying semi finals contained the scalps of Belconnen and Gungahlin and on both occasions the Panthers up set the odds. They are well marshalled by the experienced Chris Ruiz and have many fine young players but need to start accruing points soon or they will be collecting the wooden spoon.

By the Canberra Cosmospolitan!!!

(deliberate misspell because of the old Cosmos).

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