The 2022 NPL Victoria season is only one sleep away. We take a look at our opponents ahead of our round one clash against Dandenong City.
All 14 clubs from the 2021 season remain in the competition due to COVID-19 interrupting last season yet again.
Altona Magic SC – the Magic suffered quite the reckoning in 2021, finishing the season in the relegation play-off position.
Since then, the club has attempted to resurrect from the woes of last season, making important off-season moves. Altona began to lock in the coaching and supporting staff for 2022, highlighted by the re-appointment of head coach Savvas Patikkas. Work began, as they re-signed 12 players ahead of the 2022 season, along with many new recruits across the pitch. With a number of departures in the off-season, the Magic have gone on an extensive recruitment drive, signing the likes of goalkeeper Akim Abdul, defenders Jamal Ali and James Xydias, midfielders Jordy Vleugels, Mohammad Rahimi and Ashton Ahluwalia, rounded off by the attacking trio of Tommy Semmy, Peter Skapetis and Robert Harding. The Knights face the Magic for the first time in May – Round 12.
Avondale FC – the would-be champions have been busy over the off-season, securing the Dockerty Cup, defeating Hume City 1-0 in the Grand Final.
The side also went on an FFA cup run making it through to the round of 16, as Wellington Phoenix eventually knocked them out. With the 2021 success, the Avengers have more or less kept the same squad for 2022. The squad is full of NPL veterans that are sure to give any opposition they face a challenge. Stefan Valentini remains with the side and as always will test the back line of any side caught ball watching. The side will continue to play out of Avenger Park (Reggio Calabria Club) in 2022 as their permanent premises are built. With the Knights’ key recruitment in the back, 2022 Captain Ayden Brice will have to shepherd his seasoned backline to thwart any oncoming attacks. The Knights face off against the Avengers in a scintillating home match, the first of 2022, next Friday night.
Bentleigh Greens SC – after making an impression on the league last season, the Greens finished third before the season came to a halt.
Their impact on the clubs around the top was mixed, having beaten the Oakleigh Cannons – who finished second, however falling to Avondale and Hume City who finished first and fourth respectively. The club made a some re-signings in the off-season, including Lucas Derrick and Pierce Waring, along with a handful of new additions to make a further impact in 2022, including the likes of Jack Andrews, Yagoub Mustafa, Ajak Riak, Seb Matosevic, Pierce Clark, Jordie van der Laan and Thomas Strickland. The Knights shortly face the Greens for the first time this year in Round 4, an away match on the 11th of March.
Dandenong Thunder FC – the Thunder will be looking to impress following their fifth-place finish from last season.
Powerful forward Nahuel Bonada left the club and will be missed, following his twelve-goal haul last season, making the switch to neighbours Green Gully. The Knights were able to get on top of the Thunder in 2021, beating the side at home 2-1. This year, the Knights face the Thunder in Round 10 at the end of April.
Eastern Lions SC – the Lions struggled last season, ultimately finishing in eleventh on the league ladder, only one point above the relegation zone.
During a packed off-season, newcomers to the NPL and yet to complete a full season in the competition, the Lions found themselves competing in the Gippsland Cup. The seniors won the tournament in their division, dispatching the Melbourne Victory under-21’s and Mornington SC. On top of their pre-season hit outs, the Lions enhanced their backline, signing defenders Kostas Stratomitros and Jarrod Ross, as well as goalkeeper Mohamed Faddal. The Knights were able to secure a pre-season game against the Lions, the match resulting in a 1-1 draw. This year, the Knights face the Lion in Round 9.
Green Gully SC – the Cavaliers finished in tenth last season and have made inroads to changing their squad for the new season.
The re-signings of existing players, on top of the new additions are sure to make a positive impact. The new signings into the squad include Luke Adams, James Doyle, Yared Abetew, Ethan Brooks, Brodie Paterson, goalkeeper Liam Driscoll, Gianluca Iannucci and Nahuel Bonada – who makes his way over from Dandenong Thunder – where he bagged 12 goals last season. In 2021, the sides shared the spoils after a 2-2 draw in round 9. With an organised back line, the Knights should be able to subdue Bonada, and utilise their strong forwards to take the W. This year, the Knights face the Thunder in Round 10 at the end of April.
Heidelberg United FC – Alexandros rounded out the top six in 2021 in a very tight mid-table battle.
The Bergers made many re-signings for their 2022 campaign, highlighted by their captain Reuben Way. Looking to strengthen their position in the final’s scene for 2022, the Warriors have opted for several ins. During the off-season, Heidelberg recruited the Franjic brothers Ivan Franjic, Joey Franjic, who used to play at the Knights, midfielder Brian Summerskill, Joshua Pin, goalkeeper Brendan White and Jordan Tucker. Knights fans won’t have to wait too long for this match, as the side faces off against the Bergers in round 5.
Hume City FC – Hume City finished the 2021 season in fourth and will be looking to kept the momentum going.
Hume have been busy in the pre-season making it to the final of the Dockerty Cup, where they were defeated 1-0 by Avondale. Hume also reached the round of 16 of the FFA Cup, where they were ultimately knocked out by A-League Champions, Melbourne City. Hume City have been active on the squad building front in the off-season, re-signing several first team players and bringing in fresh faces, including youth promotions Ali Turgut, Paul Kuol and Brandon Lauton. This year, the Knights face Hume City in the middle of the season, in Round 7.
Oakleigh Cannons FC – In 2021, the Cannons launched themselves to second in the league, however still seven points from the top.
Striker Matthew Thurtell notched up nine goals during last season, ranking fifth in the league. At the conclusion of the 2021 season, Oakleigh announced that captain Tom Matthews would depart the club, leaving space for some new recruits. The players welcomed into the Cannon’s squad were goalkeeper Lachlan Hart, the attacking midfield duo of Scott Lochhead and Daniel Clark, with striker Nicholas Niagoriam rounding out the additions. This year, the Knights face the Cannons in Round 11 at the end of April.
Port Melbourne Sharks SC – During the off-season the Sharks made it to the semi-finals of the Dockerty Cup where they were defeated 5-0 by eventual winners Avondale FC.
The Sharks also managed to make it through to the round of 32 of the FFA Cup, being knocked out of the competition by fellow NPL side Hume City. Port Melbourne have managed to keep several players at the club for the 2022 season, whilst managing to sign fresh blood in Valli Cesnik, Josh Wilkins, Troy Ruthven, Luca Tevere and Fletcher McFarlane. This year, the Knights face the Sharks in Round 13 in May.
South Melbourne FC – During the off-season, our perennial rivals continued to play in the Dockerty Cup and FFA Cup, where they were ultimately knocked out by Hume City and Melbourne City respectively, prior to the end of 2021.
Following their exit in the cup competitions, South went on a signing spree – bringing in plenty of new faces whilst re-signed 12 players from the 2021 season. The incoming players for Hellas are goalkeeper pair Javier Diaz Lopez and Christopher Couesnon, midfielder Pat Langlois, and plenty of attacking threats in Joshua Addo, Jai Ingham, Max Mikkola, Henri Scott, Andy Brennan and former Knight Alun Webb. The Melbourne Derby returns in 2022 in quick fashion, with Hellas playing host in Round 3.
St Albans Saints SC – The Saints have welcomed a swath of new players into their rankings including former Knight Nikola Jurkovic, goalkeeper Hayden Browne, Mouad Zwed and forward Breno Naranko Guerrini.
This year, the Knights face Dinamo away in Round 6 at the end of March.
Round 1 Preview.
The Melbourne Knights excitedly return to the competitive scene after a 200 day absence, when they face Dandenong City in round one of the 2022 NPL Victoria season.
A lot has happened over the summer at Somers Street, from pre-season friendlies to player exits and arrivals. During the season break, the Knights have been busy playing a full pre-season, enduring some positive results and displays. Despite the singular 2-1 loss to the Bergers in the pre-season, the Knights remained undefeated in their remaining matches. These results include a 2-0 win over Dandenong Thunder, a 4-1 win over Green Gully, a 1-1 draw against the Eastern Lions and a 3-0 win against former NPL Victoria side – Northcote City.
Due to the nature of the pandemic, the Knights sustained a number of departures following season 2021. The club farewelled Oliver Zafiridis (Adelaide), Nikola Jurkovic (Dinamo), Matt Breeze (retired), Alun Webb (Hellas), Caleb Mikulic (North Geelong Warriors), Trevor Zwetsloot (MLS), Felipe Sanchez (Pascoe Vale), Dor Jok (Central Coast Mariners), Nick Glavan (Nunawading) and Daniel Petrov (Werribee). The club thanks them for their efforts and wishes them all the best in the future.
Despite the outbound players, many familiar faces recommitted to the club, with Harry Cakarun, James McGarry, Mohammad Sumaoro, Gian Albano, Trevor Ssemakula, Anthony Duzel, Jack Marth, Tom Manos and Captain Ayden Brice all continuing with the Knights in 2022.
With the squad space, Steve Bebic was able to flex his recruitment muscles and subsequently brought in a number of fresh faces to the locker room as well. Joining the club in 2022 are Anthony Frangie, Theiry Iradukunda, ex-Melbourne Victory youth player Jack Morton, NPLWA golden boot winner Steve Sokol, Justin Micallef, former Knight Atilla Ofli, Andy Robertson, Lionel Masudi and internationals Luka Celic and Fuki Ishibashi. Along with the new signings, the club was able to promote youth players Luka Kolic and Ivan Miletic to the senior side to round out the squad.
Our Round 1 opponents have had a busy off-season also with plenty of action over the break. Dandenong was able to secure re-signings throughout their squad and also in turn signed new additions. Players arriving to the 2022 squad include Argentinian goalkeeper Pedro Formosa and experienced fullback Shaun Timmins, who Knights fans will remember as a former squad-man. Dandy City have also made additions to their front line with the likes of Ardi Ahmeti, Cooper Legrand, Jon McShane and Johnny Kuol.
The two sides met recently in the I&D Croatia Cup earlier this year, where the Knights came up trumps in comfort – defeating Dandy City 5-0. Be sure to get behind the Knights this weekend, as we hope to start our season with a win!
Melbourne Knights FC:
Squad: 1- Harry Cakarun (GK), 2- Jack Marth, 3- Fuki Ishibashi, 4- Theiry Iradukunda, 5- Ayden Brice (C), 6- Anthony Duzel, 7- Atilla Ofli, 8- James McGarry, 9- Luka Celic, 10- Gian Albano, 11- Justin Micallef, 12- Andy Robertson, 14- Anthony Frangie, 16- Mohammad Sumaoro, 17- Trevor Ssemakula, 18- Jack Morton, 19- Luka Kolic, 21- Thomas Manos (GK), 23- Steve Sokol, 24- Ivan Miletic, 77- Lionel Masudi
Head Coach: Steve Bebic
Dandenong City SC:
Squad: 1- Jasko Keranovic, 3- Dominic Cep, 4- Nathan Cook, 5- Shaun Timmins, 6- Kurt Kouakou, 7- Cooper Legrand, 8- Gavin De Niese, 9- Jon McShane, 10- Delarno Pharoe, 11- Ardi Ahmeti, 12- Tasos Houndalas, 14- Jayden Unmack, 17- Pedro Formosa, 18- Luca Slavica, 19- Patrick Ayoul, 22- Patrick Spaleta, 23- Nick Kalmar, 27- John Kuol, 30- Martin Palinic, 33- Marko Delic, 36- Steve Topalovic (c)
Head Coach: Micky Colina
2022 NPL Victoria Round 1 – Dandenong City SC v Melbourne Knights FC
Date: Friday, February 18
Kick-off: 7:30PM (AEST)
Venue: Frank Holohan Soccer Complex, Endeavour Hills
Where to watch: Livestream via NPL.TV
– By Tom Hayes and Ryan Schopp