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  • Writer's pictureIan Pulczynski

A fitting clash for the very last dance in NSW

For the last time, the NSW NPL competition will play out its annual Grand Final. It's shaping up to be a classic between two fiercely competitive sides.

Matt Sim (left) and Travis Major (right) with the NPL NSW Grand Final trophy. Source: Football NSW Media

There have been some fantastic moments in the 2022 NPL NSW competition. From the signature of Roy O'Donovan to Sydney Olympic, the individual brilliance of Jaiden Kucharski, and more, it's been another thrilling season of football in the state.

And it's a fitting Grand Final between two teams of exciting, high quality to conclude the 2022 season.

We take a closer look at the last NPL NSW Grand Final between Manly United and Blacktown City ahead of the meeting between the two sides tomorrow night.

Grand Final experience is something Blacktown City, also known as the Demons, can proudly boast. They have lifted the NPL Grand Final trophy eight times, with their latest success coming in 2016.

City manager Mark Crittenden has over 300 games of NPL experience under his belt and knows what it takes to lift silverware, having won numerous accolades.

Mark Crittenden is the current manager of Blacktown City. Source: Football NSW Media

Regarding the 2022 season, things weren't bright for the Demons during the opening four rounds, with two losses, including a home defeat to the inconsistent Sydney United 58.

But just when people started to think 2022 was the year Blacktown would lose its consistency, they continued to prove their doubters wrong.

Between rounds 12 to 21, City went on an undefeated streak and recorded some impressive victories, including a 3-0 win at Rockdale and a 6-1 win at upcoming opponents Manly.

City might have thrown the minor premiership away to Sydney Olympic on the final day of the regular season. But they got their revenge last Sunday, winning on penalties at Belmore to qualify for tomorrow's decider.

Travis Major is Blacktown's starting striker and a player to watch out for, having returned to the club mid-season.

In his first game back for the Demons, Major scored a hat-trick against Northbridge Bulls. Since that day on June 26, he has scored seven goals in nine matches.

Travis Major is one of Blacktown City's key players. Source: Football Australia

Major has also netted 99 goals in City colours, having had previous successful stints at the club. He will want to notch up his century in the Grand Final.

Former Adelaide United and South Korean winger Danny Choi is another threat for Blacktown City.

Like Major, Choi joined Blacktown mid-season after a spell in Portugal and will be a handy option off the bench if the game is in the balance.

Looking at Manly United, their only NPL NSW Grand Final win was in 2017, when they defeated APIA Leichhardt on penalties.

Despite having little experience on the big stage, they will be full of confidence heading into the decider.

Brazilian import Bruno Mendes is their star player to watch and has had a remarkable 2022 campaign, scoring 13 times in 22 appearances.

Bruno Mendes is one of Manly United's key players. Source: jeremyng1987 Instagram

Former Central Coast Mariners and Sydney United attacker Matt Sim will bring a lot of big-game pedigree to the Northern Beaches side. He will hope to assist the playing group for the most significant game in NSW local football.

Manly United manager Adam Griffiths will also bring a lot of know-how and experience into this fixture.

Griffiths played professionally in Australia, Belgium, England, Saudi Arabia, China, and Malaysia during a long and extinguished playing career.

He won the A-League Grand Final in 2008 with the Newcastle Jets and knows what it takes to win deciders.

Adam Griffiths won the 2008 A-League Grand Final with Newcastle. Source: Newcastle Jets Facebook

United boast the least amount of goals conceded in the competition with just 24, one less than Blacktown's 25.

We can't forget that Manly lost out on the minor premiership on goal difference to Sydney Olympic on the final day. The men from Cromer Park will want to end the 2022 season with a trophy for their efforts this season.

Despite not scoring as many goals as other teams, Manly can easily switch into second gear, as they've managed to net three or more goals in six matches this year.

Regarding past playing history, these sides faced off twice in the regular season, as City were victorious both times, with 3-1 and 6-1 score lines.

In the finals series, Manly defeated Blacktown in an epic Major Semi-Final. Griffiths' side scored two goals in extra time, both from Alen Aganovic, to qualify for the next stage.

If that Major Semi-Final at Cromer Park was a preview of the drama that will unfold tomorrow between these two sides, it should be a classic.

Commbank Stadium in Parramatta is the venue for the 2022 NPL NSW Grand Final. Source: Commbank Stadium

It's the last finals series in the NPL NSW competition. From 2023, the competition will scrap the postseason format. Instead, first place on the ladder at the end of the season will be crowned the champions.

Manly United faces Blacktown City in the 2022 NPL NSW Grand Final tomorrow at 6pm at Commbank Stadium in Parramatta.

For more NPL NSW content, click here to read our interview with Marconi Stallions forward Domenic Costanzo.


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