Rafe Griffin (@griffofootball)
We’ve gone through the 2016 BLK Silver Boot fixtures with a fine-toothed comb and here’s our assessment of the five games you shouldn’t miss from the pool stage of the tournament.
Tuesday 19 January 6:30pm – Mitchelton v Logan Lightning – Group A
The opening game of the tournament is always one that many will circle on the calendar but this one has extra significance after the fierce rivalry that took place between the two clubs during last year’s Brisbane Premier League, including the brutal round ten clash at Terralba Park.
Leo Sirianni returns to the helm of the Mustangs and has already signalled a change in style to that of former coach Sam Saif while Logan used their appearance in last year’s Silver Boot semis as a springboard to an impressive opening to their 2015 BPL season before falling off badly and missing the semis.
With both clubs aspiring for a top four finish in this year’s BPL, neither will want to give the other a psychological edge going into the season proper.
Tuesday 19 January 8:30pm – Brisbane Strikers v Olympic – Group A
These two have been the benchmark of the NPL in recent years as the only clubs to feature in all three finals series of that competition.
Both come into 2016 with a significant amount of squad turnover so there may be a little tinkering and experimentation from both coaches in this affair but given the history of these clubs, it will still be a keen contest.
Wednesday 20 January 6:30pm – Holland Park Hawks v Rochedale – Group B
There’ll be considerable interest in Holland Park’s inaugural appearance at the competition after earning promotion to the Brisbane Premier League.
This clash, against the BPL’s fast finishers of last year, will provide Hawks coach Ben Ryan with a good idea of where his side are at in terms of finding their place in the higher division.
For Rochedale’s Scott MacNicol, it gives Rovers the opportunity for a tough first-up assignment with the perfect opportunity to integrate his new recruits into his already established squad.
These two sides met in the 2014 Canale Travel Cup in what was a keenly fought 1-0 win to Rochedale.
Sunday 24 January 7:00pm – Lions v Easts – Group D
No disrespect to the other clubs in the group but this looks to be the match that will most likely decide who will progress to the finals stage.
Featuring the top two finishers at the end of last year’s BPL season, encounters are always tight and of a high-quality nature.
If this is to be the match that does decide the group, the stakes are high. Lions as the host club have obvious high aspirations of winning their own competition but were stunned in this corresponding fixture last year. After taking an early goal to Brodie Kenyon, Alex Barnett and Ramone Close scored two goals in two minutes midway through the first half for the Tigers with Matt Heath going on to seal victory in the second period. That ultimately set up Easts claiming last year’s Silver Boot.
Friday 29 January 8:30pm – Gold Coast City v Brisbane City – Group C
The highest profile coaching appointment to Queensland football this season is former A-League and NSL coach John Kosmina so there’ll be plenty of eyes on what magic he’ll be able to weave on a Brisbane City who after making the 2013 NPL Grand Final, struggled at the bottom end of the table over the past two seasons.
Gold Coast City, the rebranded Palm Beach at NPL level, have recruited strongly in the off-season enticing many who left at the end of the victorious 2014 season back to the club for the upcoming year.
That mix makes for an enticing Friday night encounter.
QSN will have full coverage from each matchday of the tournament. Keep an eye on queenslandsoccernews.com for all the news.