Five things from NPL Queensland Round 1

By Rafe Griffin – NPL Correspondent

Pre-season results count for nothing

You can concede seven in your final pre-season hitout and then score six of your own in an opening league fixture, thanks Sunshine Coast Fire for teaching me a lesson that I try and tell myself every year that I have learned. On exposed form, it was a 50/50 proposition going into kick-off but the Fire rarely looked troubled.

There’s plenty of work to do at Brisbane City, having 60% possession and coming away with nothing from a match should hit home hard. Coach Glen Volker was spot on in his post-match assessment, too slow with the ball and cheap turnover, symptoms on display during pre-season too.

It is only round one though and City dropped their opening matches in 2013, 6-2 to Olympic and 5-3 to the Strikers before going on a 13-match undefeated streak to make that year’s Grand Final.

‘Kiwi’ to be the league’s best recruit of the season?

The 2013 Fury player of the year, Michael Eisenhut, spent last year back in the local Townsville Premier League after an injury setback but went a long way way on Saturday night in proving to be the one to fill the goal scoring void after the departure of Braedyn Crowley to the Newcastle Jets.

A double against the Heat showed that the goal scoring boots are on. His experience as a 31-year old will aide a squad of mainly early 20-year olds in their aim to climb the ladder this season.

Pride in youth

Thunder opened the scoring early on Saturday night and last year, that might have triggered a drop in confidence from the Western Pride and a flood of goals from the opposition thereafter so it was pleasing to see the Pride go onto score five after the early set back.

The addition of coach Karl Dodd looks to be a positive influence on a Pride squad that consists of just three players over 21, most are still in their teens with evergreen striker, Peter Drager the veteran of the group at age 25. Joe Duckworth, Harry Sawyer and Gab Hawash were impressive during the pre-season and featured on the scoresheet in round 1.

An interesting encounter this weekend against a club with a similarly aged squad and similar performances in seasons past, the Fury. Both clubs going in as last round winners.

Greig Henslee is still the business

Someone once provided an opinion to me that Henslee was the best central defender in Queensland and I’ll admit, I was a little sceptical at first but as time has gone on, I’m more than happy to go with that. Probably the only other player I’ve seen with a very similar approach is Paul Mikula, now at Mitchelton in Brisbane’s Trophy Superstore Premier League.

No wonder incoming Strikers coach, Kevin A’hearne-Evans was keen to link up with his former Sunshine Coast Fire teammate and make his signing one of the priorities in the off-season. Henslee just quietly goes about his business in a no-fuss fashion, hard to the ball, doesn’t seek the limelight and proved again on Saturday night how much he is willing to give for the badge with a last-ditch clearance off the line. He can also bob up at the other end of the park, scoring what looked like the winner for his new club before Redlands’ Igor Sao Jose put paid to those plans.

Tip of the hat

Coaches, players and others that are critical to a football team’s preparations, take a bow. Two games I saw over the weekend were of the highest quality and entertaining affairs, Moreton Bay v Olympic and particularly, Brisbane Strikers v Redlands. It’s a credit to those involved that pre-season preparations have been stepped up to such a point that teams have hit the ground running from the get-go, so kudos to all . (That sentiment is also extended to Trophy Superstore Premier League clubs. The BLK Silver Boot and Macron Cups, in general, produced some of the best pre-season football seen in Brisbane in recent times and that has been reflected by performances in both leagues over the weekend)

This weekend’s live match coverage:

Friday 7pm – Redlands v Moreton Bay on QSN Radio

Saturday 7pm – Western Pride v Northern Fury on NPL Queensland live stream

Sunday 2:15pm – Sunshine Coast Fire v FNQ Heat on QSN Radio