Magicians of the Cup: Football New South Wales

Magicians of the Cup: Football New South Wales


With the draw completed and the details set, the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 is almost upon us.

At present, the FFA Cup presents the only opportunity for clubs from outside of the Australian top tier to mix it with A-League sides; presenting an intoxicating clash of styles, culture, and histories as the Australian footballing community experiences the magic of the Cup.

In this preview, looks at the sides from Football New South Wales that will be competing in this year’s Cup.

Marconi Stallions:

Founded by members of Sydney’s Italian community as a place to meet up and play the traditional Italian game of bocce in 1956, Marconi took their name from the renowned Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi at the behest of club founding member Oscar Michelini.

Fielding a youth side for football in 1959, Marconi entered its first side in senior football two years later and won the 1961 NSW amateur league by eight points. From there, Marconi developed into one of Australia’s most successful clubs: winning a competition record four NSL titles and becoming one of two – the other being South Melbourne – clubs to compete in every season of the former national competition.

The Stallions have played out of Marconi Stadium in the Sydney suburb of Bossley Park – 22km West of the Sydney CBD – since it’s construction in 1972.

As well as being the home for the celebrated Marconi, the stadium also holds the record for highest attendance to a standalone regular season W-League game – 3084 people attending a Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers game in 2014.

Marconi began their journey to the last 32 of the FFA Cup in the fourth round of NSW preliminary qualifying: defeating NPL2 side Parramatta FC 2-1 at Marconi Stadium.

Successive victories over State League sides Gladesville Ravens and Southern Districts Raiders followed to set up a meeting with NPL2 side Gladesville Hornsby FA Spirit at Marconi Stadium with a spot in the national stages on the line.

Goals to Brandon Vella and Sean Rooney propelled the Stallions to a 2-1 victory over the Spirit and sent Marconi to its second FFA Cup Round of 32 in club history – having previously been knocked out of the Round of 32 by Hume City in 2016.

Currently seventh in the 12-team NPL NSW competition – having lost to fellow Round of 32 competitors Rockdale City Suns 2-1 in their last run out – Marconi will bring a bevy of former A-League talent in its pursuit of a Cup run; with the likes of Michael Beauchamp, Sean Rooney, Marko Jesic, Mateo Poljak and Marc Warren all playing for the Stallions.

This talented side will be led into the national stages of the FFA Cup by head coach Peter Tsekenis. A former defender with Sydney Olympic, Jets precursor Newcastle United, Belmore Lions and Bankstown City Lions – as well as an Australian representative at the Atlanta Olympics – Tsekenis, who works as a real estate agent in Sydney when not guiding the Stallions, took over at Marconi in May of 2017 and guided the club back to the top tier of NPL NSW in his first year in charge.

Round of 32 Fixture: @ Avondale FC, ABD Stadium, 25 July, 7:30

Bonnyrigg White Eagles:

Founded as the Avala Sports Club by Serbian migrants in 1968 – Avala being the name of a small mountain that overlooks Belgrade – the club took on its current title in 1992 and competes within NPL NSW.

A former home of luminaries such as Socceroos Milan Blagojevic, Milos Degenek, and Danny Vukovic; Bonnyrigg have played out of the Bonnyrigg Sports Club in the Western Sydney Suburb of Bonnyrigg since 1986, the ground hosting a friendly between the White Eagles and former European Champions Red Star Belgrade in 2001.

The White Eagles began their run to the Round of 32 in the fourth round of NSW preliminary qualification, defeating State League side Woongarrah Wildcats 6-1 at the Bonnyrigg Sports Club. A trip to the North Turramurra Recreation Area would follow in round five, the White Eagles defeating NPL2 side Northern Tigers FC 3-1.

The White Eagles then traveled to Seymour Shaw Park to take on NPL3 side St George City FA in round six: forced to go to extra time with the lower league side after the game ended locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes. A goal from Raymond Miller saved the White Eagles from embarrassment and lifted them to a 1-0 win, setting up a round seven meeting with NPL2 side Hills United with a spot in the Round of 32.

Down 1-0 at halftime, the White Eagles rallied in the second half of that fixture at Valentine Sports Park; using goals from Jewook Woo and Shervin Adeli to lift them over the Brumbies of Hills United and into the Round of 32 for the second time.

The White Eagles previous dalliance with the Round of 32 came in 2016: when they defeated Manly United 3-0 at home in the Round of 32 before being knocked out 3-0 by FFA Cup specialist Blacktown City in the Round of 16.

Sitting second last on the NPL NSW table on 4 July, the White Eagles made the decision to part ways with their 61-year-old manager Brian “Bomber” Brown.

Previously in charge of Blacktown, Marconi, and Sutherland Sharks in his coaching career, Brown had moved to the White Eagles in 2009: winning premierships with the club in 2010 and 2012 and championships in 2013 and 2015.

Brown has been replaced for the rest of the 2018 season by former first-team assistant Milan Susak, who finished his playing days in 2015 after stints with the Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United in Australia and overseas at clubs such as FK Vojvodina, Sepahan S.C, and Al-Wasl.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Hakoah Sydney City, Bonnyrigg Sports Club, July 25, 8:30

Hakoah Sydney City:

One of Australia’s most celebrated clubs, Hakoah will be making their third appearance in the national stages of the FFA Cup after previously reaching this stage in 2014 and 2017 – with their Round of 16 elimination against Melbourne City in 2017 the same game in which City captain Bruno Fornaroli suffered an ankle fracture that ruled him out for much of the 2017/18 A-League season.

Founded in 1939 by members of Sydney’s Jewish community, Hakoah were one main forces behind the push for the creation of a national footballing competition in the 1970s, with Hakoah going on to become four times champions and two-time premiers of the National Soccer League and fielding Australian football royalty such as Jimmy Mackay, Jim Patikas, and John Kosmina.

Under the leadership of future FFA chairman Frank Lowy, Hakoah famously withdrew from the NSL after the first round of the 1987 season amidst disagreements on the future direction of Australian football and return to the State Leagues of NSW, competing within the NSW federation ever since and scoring a promotion to NSW NPL in 2016.

Playing out of Hensley Athletic Field in the Eastern Sydney suburb of Eastgardens, Hakoah currently sits second last on the NSW NPL table: defeated 2-1 by Blacktown City in Round 19.

Hakoah began their road back to the FFA Cup’s Round of 32 with a 3-1 win over NSW NPL2 side Bankstown Berries at the Crest Athletic Centre.

Defeats of NPL NSW side Sutherland Sharks and NSW NPL2 Side Mounties Wanderers would then follow to set up a meeting with State League side Tarrawanna Blueys at Hooka Creek Park with progression to the national stages of the Cup on the line.

There would be no “Magic of the Cup” for the State League side on that night though, with a brace from Takayuki Noji and goals to Harry Jones and Anthony Frangie sealing a comprehensive 4-0 victory for Hakoah.

Featuring Andre De Jong, who made his debut for the New Zealand national team on June 7 against India in the 2018 International Cup and Anthony Bouzanis – brother of Melbourne City custodian Dean – between the posts, Hakoah is managed by Gavin Rae, who took over in January of 2018.

Prior to taking the coaching reigns at Hakoah, Rae had a glittering playing career: featuring for Dundee United, Rangers, Cardiff City, Dundee, and Aberdeen before finishing out his playing days in Sydney.

Rae will be quite familiar with the magic that can accompany a cup run, having been a member of the Cardiff side that reached the FA Cup final in 2008 as a Championship club. Rae started for the Bluebirds in that match, getting subbed off in the 86th minute as Cardiff went down 1-0 to Portsmouth.

Round of 32 Fixture: @ Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Bonnyrigg Sports Club, July 25, 8:30

APIA Leichhardt:

The reigning NPL NSW Premiers, APIA were founded in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Leichhardt by Italian immigrants in 1954, who bestowed upon the club the title of Associazione Poli-sportiva Italo Australiana Leichardt.

Rapidly finding success, APIA won NSW Premierships in 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1975, Waratah Cups in 1962, 1966 and 1975 and was the home of legendary Australian footballers such as Jimmy Rooney and Peter Ollerton.

Entering the NSL in 1979, APIA would become champions of the league in 1987 on the backs of players such as Charlie Yankos, Jean-Paul de Marigny, Arno Bertogna and Peter Katholos, only to be forced to withdraw from the national competition in 1992 due to financial difficulties.

APIA currently sits at the summit of the NPL NSW table; drawing 1-1 with the Wollongong Wolves in round 19 to ensure they stayed ahead of second-placed Sydney Olympic on goal difference.

Playing out of Leichhardt’s Lambert Park, 2018 will mark APIA’s second appearance in the national stages of the FFA Cup: having advanced to the final 16 of the 2017 competition before being eliminated 3-1 by Blacktown City.

APIA started their run to the NPL’s Round of 32 in convincing fashion, defeating NSW NPL3 side Fraser Park 9-1 when they entered the competition in the fourth round of preliminary qualifying.

.@apialeichhardt secure back-to-back #FFACup Round of 32 appearances.

— FFA Cup (@FFACup) May 30, 2018

Dispatching State League side Wollongong Olympic 4-0 in round five, APIA would then defeat current NPL2 side, and former home of Johnny Warren, St George 2-0 at Lambert Park in round six to set up a meeting with NPL NSW leaders Sydney Olympic with a spot in the Round of 32 on the line.

Meeting at Olympics’ Belmore Sports Ground, APIA surged past their highly credentialed rivals; using goals from Jordan Murray, Tasuku Sekiya, and Corey Biczo to record a comprehensive 3-0 win and advance.

Murray – and Sekiya – scored four goals for APIA during preliminary qualifying, and with Murray leading NPL NSW with ten goals to his name the 21-year-old will be expected to be at the head of any APIA Cup run.

APIA will be led into the FFA Cup by manager and club stalwart Billy McColl, who has been in charge of the club throughout its entire NPL existence, appointed as caretaker coach after APIA’s disastrous start to the 2010 season.

Round of 32 Fixture: @ Port Melbourne Sharks, JL Murphy Reserve, 25 July, 7:30

Rockdale City Suns:

Founded in 1969, the NSW NPL’s Suns were originally named Ilinden after the Ilinden Uprising of 1903 and are based in the Sydney suburb of Rockdale, 13km south of the Sydney CBD.

Semi-finalists of NSW NPL in 2016 and 2017, the Suns’ previous high-water mark in the FFA Cup came in 2015: when they advanced to the Round of 16 and played host to A-League side Melbourne Victory after defeating Perth SC in the Round of 32.

With the fixture moved from the Suns home at the Ilinden Sports Centre due to insufficient lighting, 4,165 people would watch on at the Jubilee Oval as the Victory escaped with a 3-2 win thanks to a goal to Besart Berisha and a brace by current Moreland City player Jesse Makarounas.

Currently in the midst of the 2018 NPL NSW season, the Suns defeated Marconi 2-1 in the most recent round of the competition and sit in the fifth position of NSW’s top tier.

The Suns started their 2018 FFA campaign with a bang: defeating Eastern Suburbs Football Association State League club Glebe Wanderers 12-0 in the fourth round of preliminary qualifiers. They would then defeat NSW State League Men side Bankstown United 3-0 in the fifth round before being faced with the sterner test of having to defeat two fellow NPL NSW sides to advance.

Up to the challenge, 2017 Round of 16 competitors Sydney United were dispatched 2-1 in round six of preliminary qualification thanks to goals from Jonathan Grozdanovski and Bai Antoniou and 2017 quarterfinalists Blacktown City were bundled out 3-2 thanks to Antoniou, Haris Gaitazis, and an own goal.

.@RockdaleCitySFC are back in the #FFACup Round of 32 after a dramatic win over @BlacktownCityFC, who miss out for the first time!

— FFA Cup (@FFACup) May 30, 2018

Formerly managed by the likes of Atti Abonyi, Rale Rasic, and Branko Culina, the Suns are currently led by two-time Socceroo and former Brighton & Hove Albion, Adelaide United, Melbourne Heart and Sydney FC player Paul Reid, who took over from Culina as player-coach of the side in 2015.

Elsewhere on the pitch, the Suns feature a familiar face to many Australian football fans between the posts, with 43-year-old former Socceroos keeper Ante Covic donning the gloves for the side. Also featuring one-time West Ham player and Olyroo representative Trent McClenahan, the Suns are led by Grozdanovski and Gaitazis; who shared the national lead in preliminary qualifying scoring alongside Charlestown City Blue’s Scott Smith with six goals.

Round of 32 Fixture: vs Sydney FC, at TBD, 1 August, 7:30