2024 NPL Round 1 – The OG Melbourne Derby

The Melbourne Knights return to the park tomorrow night as they look to cause an opening round upset against South Melbourne FC away from home in the OG Melbourne Derby.

After a lengthy preseason, the Knights make their emphatic return to football after a hugely successful 2023. With the departure of former head coach, Ben Cahn, assistant and club stalwart Ben Surey was promoted to the top job and quickly got to task on season 2024 preparations. With more than 80% of the squad retained, Surey set out to bolster the current side with key signings across the park.

This saw four newcomers join the Club, defenders Tom Woerndl and Ben Carrigan, and forwards Saif Eddine Sakhi and Tommy Semmy. Speaking on their additions, Surey mused that ‘the goal for this season was to highlight the gaps from last year and make some key signings to strengthen the squad this year’.

Eager to impress in round one is new signing Woerndl, who comes in to replace outgoing defender Josh Phelps. The left footer will don the number 23 and is excited to get underway here at the Knights, stating that ‘Melbourne Knights is a massive club with a lot of history and big ambitions, I’m really looking forward to the new challenge ahead’.

However, most Knights fans will be eagerly awaiting to see the impact of new forwards Sakhi and Semmy, who have come into the squad to complement the efforts of Gian Albano, Mohammed Sumaoro, and Ciaran Bramwell. Most Knights fans will be aware of Semmy’s ability, having put two past the Knights in the club’s loss to Altona Magic last season, but it will be the French wildcard — Sakhi — who could make the key difference. Brother of former Melbourne City player Hamza Sakhi, Saif made an immediate impact on the sides 4-0 preseason win over O’Connor Knights.

Looking at our opponents, Esteban Quintas remains at Hellas as head coach and the club confirmed six departures, but have had more since the conclusion of last season to make way for a swath of new players, including Nahuel Bonada (Green Gully), Cian Cuba (Altona Magic), Ross Archibald (Port Melbourne), Jordon Lampard (Green Gully), Emile Peios (Melbourne City NPL2), Hayden Browne, Justin Paolilli (Melbourne City NPl2), Bol Tong (Promotion), Lucas Inglese (Promotion), Zak Spiteri (Port Melbourne), Joshua Francou (Melbourne Victory), Cooper Halfpenny (Promotion), and Seb Hernando (Manningham United Blues).

The two sides could not be more opposite in their approach heading into season 2024, with the Knights adopting an ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude, retaining a large amount of 2023 players, whereas South Melbourne have opted for a fresher squad after their 2023 grand final loss to Avondale FC.

One thing is certain, the OG Melbourne Derby is set for another fiery instalment. Catch the Knights in the NPL Victoria Season Opener this Thursday at 8:15pm when the team kicks off their campaign for season 2024 at Lakeside Stadium against traditional rivals, South Melbourne FC.

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