NPL Queensland Mid-Season Report Card and Team of the Mid-Season

We’ve hit the mid-season point of the NPL so it’s time to mark the performances of each team in our mid-season review and we name our team of the season to date.

BRISBANE CITY

Obviously a horrendous start to the competition after collecting only one point prior to the Easter break and leading to Glen Volker relinquishing the coaching reins.

There has been a gradual improvement in performances with every match that has been played from the pre-season and into the main event, culminating in their most recent form where they have collected three successive victories, two of those against top four contenders Western Pride and Sunshine Coast Fire.

There now seems to be some belief in the squad, new coach Darrin Heseldon has given youth players the opportunity to step up and show they are capable of making the grade. The mid-season break has probably come at the worst timing given the momentum that has been building in recent weeks.

Mark: C-

 

BRISBANE ROAR

It’s a little difficult to make an assessment on the Roar who has a changing eleven from week to week due to A-League commitments. They have also played four less matches than they should have by this point of the competition, due to varying circumstances.

What has gone relatively unnoticed is that they have only lost one match so far, that to the second placed Brisbane Strikers. What will be disappointing are the four draws they have played out. They should have beaten SWQ Thunder and Brisbane City, both who were in questionable form at the time while they’ll lament their most recent result where they were 2-0 up against Palm Beach only for last year’s Premiers to bring it back to 2-2 by fulltime.

The most satisfying accomplishment must be seeing players like Luke Pavlou, Lachlan Jackson and Abraham Yango given chances at A-League level in the latter part of the season.

Mark: B

 

BRISBANE STRIKERS

No surprise to see the Strikers near the top of the table. Along with Olympic, they have been the most consistent club in the three years of the NPL.

Almost had the perfect opening to the season but were thwarted in the last minutes of the match against Redlands who came back and clinched a draw. Nonetheless that was the start of a six match unbeaten streak that ended at the hands of Olympic.

The loss of Matt Thurtell and his attacking prowess doesn’t appear to have upset the apple cart too much, Strikers have scored the third highest number of goals in the league with Jheison Macuace sitting equal second in the Golden Boot standings scoring eight goals assisted by Trent Clulow who is becoming more comfortable in his new surroundings, chipping in with six of his own.

Even losing high profile ‘keeper Michael Turnbull to the Melbourne Victory hasn’t proved a setback. Despite a shaky debut against Olympic, teenage replacement Michael Weier is proving to be a worthwhile replacement and continues to improve and develop week-on-week.

Mark: A-

 

FNQ HEAT

Where do we start? They would be a psychologist’s dream at the moment in determining why they have suffered a lack of consistency. Sitting tenth on the ladder, they have been unable to string together back-to-back wins in 2015, a stark contrast to 2014’s run.

The attacking side of the equation is fine, Alex Smith and Jamie Carroll are near the top of the league’s Golden Boot standings and have contributed eight and seven respectively to the team’s total of twenty-six. Defensively, conceding also twenty-six is the reason why they are in the position they are in.

It’s been an unsettled defensive unit with the loss of gloveman Daniel Valcicak in the off-season while injury and suspension in the back four has caused coach Martin Docherty uncertainty in being able to determine his ideal line-up from week to week.

Have shown they can turn it on when they get it clicking, the round nine 3-1 victory away to Olympic proves they do have it in them to match the top sides.

Mark: C-

 

NORTHERN FURY

Good early signs for the Fury after they collected two wins on the road in the first four weeks but since then, it’s been a Jekyll and Hyde string of performances.

The worst performance was the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Sunshine Coast before Easter and while it was a loss, one of the better matches was against Moreton Bay in a close 3-2 defeat. That effort is what coach Ian Ferguson will be looking for from here on in.

The setback of having two of their front three out injured through Sam Herlihy and the experienced Michael Eisenhut hasn’t helped their cause and like their northern cousins, consistency is the key for the second stanza.

Mark: C


OLYMPIC

Olympic backed up last year’s effort in a slower than expected start to the season than they would have liked. Two matches that will come back to haunt them is the 1-1 draw with Redlands back in round three, a match where they created enough chances to win the match several times over and the 3-1 loss to FNQ Heat at home, both those sides in the bottom half of the ladder.

On their day they have proved that they are capable of beating the sides currently above them in the standings in Moreton Bay and the Strikers. Tim Smits has begun to find his feet again in recent weeks with two consecutive hat-tricks. He will now need to continue that form after the departure of Rhys Meredith.

It is those banana-skin type matches that will determine their second half fortunes. Not slipping up will mean that they still remain in with a chance to reel in the Jets and the Strikers and have a shot at repeating 2013’s success.

Mark: B+

 

MORETON BAY

Top of the class and still get the top mark despite their loss to Olympic on the weekend.

Previous coach Terry Kirkham’s woes were in the defensive line and that has been addressed this year by new gaffer Adam Piddick, the Jets with the fourth best defensive record in the league. Scott Stewart’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in strengthening up the backline, the move of Ryota Nakaooka to right back has assisted and tall defender Alex Henderson looks to be displaying his best form in recent years. The back four are also playing ahead of one of the best custodians in the competition, Luke Borean.

We all know what a potent attacking line they have, scoring thirty-four goals so far and they’re four ahead of their nearest competitor Olympic while also having played one less match. Royce Brownlie and Charles Mendy are still the leading goalscorers at the club, despite both not quite being in the same touch as 2014 but Jordan Farina, Jackson Hall and Joseph Champness have all stepped up in varying degrees to assist. The departure of Daniel Clark to Victoria left a major hole but Stephen Green’s signing from Brisbane Premier League’s Logan FC is already showing promising signs.

Mark: A

 

PALM BEACH

With the number of departures from the club in the off-season, it was always going to be a tough struggle to repeat last year’s effort. Defensively, they are one of the benchmarks of the competition, conceding the third least goals with former A-League player, Kristian Rees deciding to make a comeback and anchor the backline.

With the loss of last year’s Golden Boot runner-up Chris Lucas and his 34 goals, the Sharks have struggled up front beating only the bottom-placed SWQ Thunder in terms of 2015 goals scored.

Captain and influential midfielder Justyn McKay continues to steer the ship and perhaps illustrating their goalscoring woes, is the club’s leading goalscorer. It’s a squad with good mix of experience and youth and the chance to go back-to-back champions remains alive.

Mark : B-

 

REDLANDS

Early season losses are beginning to turn into wins after the return of Nico Bechar, the addition of Lyndon Dykes and a revived Igor Sao Jose, who at last appears to have adjusted to his old but new again side’s style of play.

Unbeaten now in their last four matches, the return of Bechar has benefited fellow forward Elliott Ronto who looked a little out of sorts at the beginning of the season but once again sees his combination with the Frenchman flourishing in the same manner as it did in the latter stages of last season.

Anyone who had seen goalkeeper Brendan White in action in the Brisbane Premier League for Logan FC in recent years will know what a handy acquisition he was going to be and that has proven to have rung true. Redlands would have been in a lot more trouble and conceded far more goals in that earlier run of losses.

They are looking like the side most likely from the bottom half of the table to make a late season charge for a finals berth.

Mark : C

 

SUNSHINE COAST FIRE

Another side that has had an up and down run. After going on a four match winning run, the last three results have ended up in losses, conceding nine goals in the process.

Considering that a new coach was installed and it’s was a virtual turnover of the complete squad as players interchange in and out of the Sunshine Coast Premier League, it’s been a pretty impressive performance to sit in the top four at the halfway mark.

Having Dale Hill, Tim Hollingworth and Ray Schultz back at the club has been a proved the right tonic while captain Reyze Kelly leads from the front and has been a tireless worker for his side.

They’ll need to find the confidence again that they had during the early season to ensure there’s no second-half slide in what is looking like a legitimate finals run.

Mark : B-

 

SWQ THUNDER

If we’re talking about report card terms, they are the kid in the corner who tries their hardest but still struggles on exam day. No doubt there has been an improvement in performances compared to 2014 but still not quite at that stage yet in getting results on a regular basis and playing out the full ninety minutes.

There have been some impressive outcomes, the 2-2 draw against Brisbane Roar earning them their first competitive point in the club’s short history will be the most memorable so far but the other encouraging sign was the narrow 2-1 loss to Sunshine Coast where they threatened for at least a point and perhaps could have got all three. The 7-0 loss to Western Pride over the weekend was a major setback though in progress.

More game time, meaning more cohesion as a group and gaining fitness at this level is the aim at the moment in order to see longer term results.

Mark : D

 

WESTERN PRIDE

Were looking like a legitimate title contender to challenge the big three of Moreton Bay, Strikers and Olympic after winning three of their opening four matches but the big black mark came in the 12-0 annihilation at the hands of the Roar.

That had the potential to see the young side, most of whom are still in their teens, lose all confidence and go severely off the rails but they are still contenders sitting equal fourth but losing out on goal difference to Sunshine Coast.

They’ve shown good character but were guilty of not playing out the full ninety minutes against the Strikers, allowing them two late goals and in the process snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but showed the complete opposite in themselves grabbing two late goals in Cairns against the Heat to grab a point.

It’s a team of youngsters still finding their way being led well by coach Karl Dodd and the second half of the season will be shaped from what they’ve learnt so far. Goalkeeper Bon Scott has been probably the outstanding player so far this season.

Mark : C+

 

MID-SEASON TEAM OF THE YEAR

We’ve weighed up all the candidates and come up with our mid-season team of the year where the top four clubs have dominated the side. Some positions were more obvious than others, the goalkeepers in particular made for a very tough field.

GK – Brendan White (Redlands)

If not for White, Redlands start to the season could have been a lot, lot worse. Has been outstanding so far this year and has shown on current form, why he had previously been on the Roar’s radar.

DF – Daniel Crack (Olympic)

Solid and quietly goes about his business. Definitely not the flashy type and doesn’t do anything to bring attention to himself but just watch him closely and you’ll see how effective he is for his team.

DF – Scott Stewart (Moreton Bay)

Has turned out to be one of the best off-season recruits into the NPL. Has been a major contributor in the Jets improved defensive efforts from recent years.

DF – Matt Byrne (Olympic)

Always a consistent performer, he is a player that an attacker knows is going to be in a tight fight with in order to beat him.

DF – Tim Hollingworth (Sunshine Coast Fire)

Has been able to make the step up, returning to the Fire after a stint in the Sunshine Coast Premier League. Picked up where he left off and aids his sides in an attacking sense with raids down the wing.

MF – Justin McKay (Palm Beach)

Workmanlike, is the driving force for his side in providing the critical link between the backs and the forwards. There’s not much that doesn’t go through him whether his side is attacking or defending.

MF – Alex Smith (FNQ Heat)

When on song, shows the capability of being the best player in the league. Provides so much creativity for his side and it is no wonder that he figures amongst the league’s highest scorers this season.

MF – Reyze Kelly (Sunshine Coast Fire)

Has led by example in his role as captain of the Fire. Very rarely puts a foot wrong and can defend and attack adequately.

FW – Jamie Carroll (FNQ Heat)

In probably his best form since the formation of the NPL. His dashing runs and pace down the left-hand side provides the X-Factor for his side.

FW – Jheison Macuace (Brisbane Strikers)

Always a tough act to replace perennial club favourite Matt Thurtell after his Victorian sojourn but Macuace has been getting more and more into his work as the season progresses.

FW – Jordan Farina (Moreton Bay)

Perhaps the most improved player in the league. Has stepped into the breach in complimenting Royce Brownlie and Charles Mendy.

Substitutes:

GK – Luke Borean (Moreton Bay)

Is a class keeper and can probably consider himself a little unlucky not to be in the starting eleven. It’s not only his shot-stopping skills that benefit his side but also contributes to the leadership.

DF – Cameron Draper (Brisbane Strikers)

Another who was close to cracking it for a start. Getting back close to the form he displayed when he was part of Redlands 2012 Brisbane Premier League Premiership winning squad.

MF – Sam Cronin (Olympic)

A valuable off-season acquisition from the Brisbane Roar Youth, has looked very likely in both setting up goals and scoring his own.

FW – Danny Byrne (Olympic)

Mr Olympic. He’s a player you’d send out to battle for your life because he always goes out and gives 100% and expects so much of himself.

midseason

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