Four quality clubs set to contest the Macron Cup

Rafe Griffin (@griffofootball)

With the winners of the three seasons of the NPL and the club that has won the previous three BPL Grand Finals, it has all the hallmarks of a high-level tournament.  Let’s take a look at each club’s credentials in relation to clinching the title that kicks off at Peninsula Power’s AJ Kelly Park on Saturday afternoon.

The contenders

Gold Coast City

The 2014 NPL Premiers and Grand Final winners are likely to take a youth-based squad into this tournament if the team they fielded at the Silver Boot is anything to go by.

The ability to score goals last year was their achilles heel last year when Chris Lucas moved to Victoria after their 2014 success but with key members of that squad heading back to the coast and other key off-season acquisitions, the final third should be much strengthened this time round.

Gold Coast has already achieved early success in the pre-season with a 3-1 defeat of the BPL’s Logan Lightning and a 3-2 defeat against Capalaba last night in the Silver Boot.

Moreton Bay

Last year’s NPL Premiers and Champions will be looking to get their title defence off to the best of preparations in this tournament.

It will be a new look Jets lineup with several of last year’s squad moving on. Amongst the notable departures are keeper Luke Borean, defender Alex Henderson, winger Ryota Nakaooka and forward Charles Mendy.

On the plus side though, there are some quality replacements who have joined during the break. Sunshine Coast Fire trio Jacob Fulluck, Ray Schultz and their captain Reyze Kelly make the move south. Matt Byrne from Olympic will provide a worthy replacement for Henderson with Alex Janovsky going across town from last year’s BPL Premiers Lions. Matt Stein takes Borean’s place with the gloves.

The ‘ins’ will balance out those that left so it’s now a matter of how the squad can gel in order to replicate last year’s success.

The Jets have scored two pre-season wins in the last week against Mitchelton and North Pine.

Olympic

The defending champions of this tournament, the 2013 NPL Premiers have faced a major drain from their 2015 stocks. Matt Byrne will be a hefty loss from what was already a leaky-at-times defence while the creative Kazuya Ito was in the top three players in the NPL in recent years.

As a consequence, youth is likely to figure highly in Jim Bellas’s 2016 plans so it might take some time for squad members in this bracket to develop to the level required of a senior competition.

Bellas will be looking for considerable improvement from his squad who suffered a 6-0 thumping at the hands of Brisbane Strikers at the Silver Boot on Tuesday evening.

Peninsula Power

Coach Terry Kirkham defied all expectations in guiding the club to their third successive BPL Championship but will be looking to take his side one step further in 2016 with hopes of claiming the overall Premiership crown.

He’s shown serious intent to the rest of the competition in achieving that goal with the dual signings of Charles Mendy from Moreton Bay and leading BPL goalscorer Kado Aoci from Lions FC. If those two can get their combination right, they’ll form a lethal duo in Power’s final third.

Peninsula has played the one pre-season match this preparation in a 2-1 loss to fellow BPL club North Pine.

Players to watch

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Kado Aoci and Thomas Mendy (Peninsula Power) – Frenchman Mendy once again links up with coach Kirkham and immediately will come up against the club where he tasted success with last year. Quick down the left side of the park and with height on his side, he’ll be looked upon in tandem with Aoci.

Aoci, meanwhile, is another player to have switched clubs in the off-season. Knocked off his usual perch as the Brisbane Premier League Golden Boot last year, he loves to bang them away and will be very keen to go back to top of the pops.

Tip to contest the final

Peninsula and Moreton Bay are most likely to take the strongest squads into the tournament given this is the only competition that both clubs are competing in. I’ll therefore stick with them to go through to the Cup’s decider.

Pool games (Saturdays)

23 January 5:00pm Olympic v Gold Coast City

23 January 7:00pm Peninsula v Moreton Bay
30 January 5:00pm Peninsula v Gold Coast City
30 January 7:00pm Olympic v Moreton Bay
6 February 5:00pm Moreton Bay v Gold Coast City
6 February 7:00pm Olympic v Peninsula

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