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  • Writer's pictureJose Campo

NPL NSW 2024: Championship power rankings heading into the season's final stretch

We are heading into the final part of the regular season in the NPL New South Wales men's competition, with a handful of rounds remaining until the 2024 Finals Series. It is the second year of the competition's new format. It now sees 16 teams challenging for the honour of state league champion. Front Page Football  ranks the top eight teams in the NPL NSW right now based on their form across the last ten league games and whether the clubs can claim championship glory at season's end.

Rockdale Ilinden players celebrate a goal in their recent 5-0 win over Hills United. (Image: Brett Nielsen Photography)

1. Rockdale Ilinden

At the top of the table, Rockdale Ilinden has improved their form from last season, where they finished runners-up and six points behind defending champions APIA Leichhardt. In a turn of events, the St George outfit now leads APIA by nine points in 2024. They will aim to continue their positive form in the forthcoming matches. Rockdale has won four of their last five games, scoring 13 goals and conceding only two in the victories. However, their one defeat in that stretch was a stunning 9-0 defeat to the Marconi Stallions only a few weeks ago.

Head coach Paul Dee signed several players who have made a positive impact this season. Harrison Devenish-Meares, who recently joined Sydney FC, was the main goalkeeper for Rockdale, benching last season's number-one Ricardo Rizzo. Blake Ricciuto, Daniel Collins, and Georgio Speranza have all been standout defensive additions. Alongside defensive improvements, Dean Pelekanos and Lochlan Constable have shown their talent from their Western Sydney Wanderers days, having been regulars in midfield.

What is most impressive is the quality shown by those retained from last season's squad. Alec Urosevski is leading the league goalscoring charts, forming a prolific partnership with Brendan Cholakian to create the best attack so far. The duo has netted 33 league goals between them this campaign, 55% of Rockdale's total league tally.

Dee's system has made a convincing argument that his side is almost certainly the championship favourites. But there are promising contenders just below who are willing to change that.

2. APIA Leichhardt

Defending champions APIA have had a solid season, although not to the same standards as 2023, where the club claimed their first league title since 2017. Despite this drop-off, head coach Franco Parisi has implemented a system that is executed efficiently by the experience and quality of his players. The use of width in possession combined with intense pressing demonstrates APIA's on and off-ball versatility, making them a formidable opponent this year.

Their performances can be credited to a defence marshalled by Themba Muata-Marlow and Anthony Bouzanis, assisted by the leadership of the Symons brothers, who both play pivotal roles in all phases of the game. Ben Gibson is currently APIA's top goalscorer with 15 in the league, with Jordan Segreto and captain Adrian Uchinno consistently performing in midfield. APIA may also find comfort in their depth, which includes talents such as Rory Jordan and Jack Stewart, who create genuine headaches in Parisi's team selection.

Although APIA is farther away from first-placed Rockdale than they would have liked, Parisi has retained a capable side with the experience, professionalism, and leadership to challenge for the premiership and cause havoc in the Finals Series. Ten points separate APIA and Rockdale on the ladder, and with a quarter of the regular season to play, that gap could still be bridged.

APIA has scored the most goals and has the equal second-best defensive record, which displays the quality the team produces. However, greater consistency is needed to claim the premiership and championship.

3. Marconi Stallions

The Marconi Stallions have faced somewhat inconsistent form during the league season. From their shocking 9–0 win over league leaders Rockdale to drawing 3–3 with the Sutherland Sharks, who are in the lower half of the table, the Stallions have had an unpredictable year for spectators to watch. Head coach Peter Tsekenis has utilised his experience and resources to lead a side capable of beating title-contending teams, although he would want more consistency in winning the matches that are expected to be won.

On the ladder, Marconi is firmly in the top three, thanks to the critical performances of many players. Domenic Costanzo and Franco Maya are rightly the star men in midfield for this Marconi side, being equally present in attack and supporting build-up play from defence. Marko Jesic has proven goalscoring ability in the frontline, being the club's top goalscorer at 34 years old, above new signing and the much more youthful James Temelkovski, who helps drive a creative partnership between Marconi's front two.

Since that massive win against Rockdale in the Round 17 make-up game, Marconi has proven to be championship-material and can directly challenge for a Grand Final appearance. Finding more rhythm in their game would continue the momentum, which the Stallions can build on to be fancied to overcome APIA or Rockdale in the Finals Series.

Marconi is currently second, just above APIA, but has played two more games, with one point separating the two for the second semi-final spot.

4. Wollongong Wolves

Home to the largest stadium and one of the league's in-form teams, the Wollongong Wolves have only lost one of their last five games. They will look to finish the season in a better place than where they started. The Wolves started their campaign with only four wins from their first ten games and looked like a team destined to remain around mid-table during the year. However, the Wollongong outfit has shown otherwise, closing the deficit to the top-five teams and looking set to secure their Final Series place.

Head coach David Carney has improved his squad from last season, where they finished seventh and over ten points off the top five teams.

Veteran and homegrown player Lachlan Scott leads the attack for Wollongong with Takumi Ofuka, who is in his second year with the club. The duo has 19 goals, while the rest of their teammates have shared the remaining 24 goals scored this season, a statistic highlighting the team's on-pitch chemistry.

Although the team is far from title contenders, Carney possesses a squad with enough quality to qualify for the semi-finals, now only eight points behind second-placed Marconi. A top-three finish is possible if the Wolves maintain their current form, making a Grand Final appearance more likely. Their final eight fixtures seem favourable; they will face only two teams above them on the ladder. Wollongong will aim to finish above Blacktown City and Sydney United, who sit directly above them on the table.

5. Blacktown City

Fifteen points behind the league leaders in fifth, Blacktown City's chances of claiming the premiership are more than slim, but there is ample opportunity to challenge for the championship and claim silverware. The Demons, judging from their last five games, could still be in a vulnerable position to lose their Finals Series spot, with only five points separating them from seventh-placed St George City. But Blacktown also sits five points clear of the Wollongong Wolves in sixth, having gained three massive points against Sydney United last weekend, who are now just below them in fifth.

Mark Crittenden, the head coach of Blacktown City, has overseen disappointing results in recent matches against the top sides, with the Demons failing to take advantage in matches against Rockdale and Wollongong, where Crittenden's side faltered to a 2–1 loss and 2–2 draw, respectively. Despite sceptical results against championship rivals, Blacktown still has the quality to progress through the Finals Series. Jak O'Brien has continued his excellent form in attack from last season as the club's top goalscorer this season. The club's all-time leading goalscorer, Travis Major, spearheads the attack alongside him.

City has other notable performers, including Mitchell Mallia and Danny Choi, whilst Mario Shabow and Nicholas O'Brien are the more consistent players in the squad.

Blacktown faces only two teams in the top eight in their remaining fixtures, being the definitive favourite to overcome most of them. The points dropped against higher-ranked opposition may have prevented Blacktown from premiership contention. But the opportunity to secure the championship still presents itself.

6. Sydney United 58

Sixth in the power rankings, Sydney United have recovered well from their underwhelming start to their 2024 campaign, where they lost twice, drew once, and won twice across their first five games, including being hammered 6–0 by rivals Sydney Olympic. Since then, they have brought themselves into contention for a Finals Series spot and look capable of making a run and progressing to a Grand Final. United have improved dramatically from last season under head coach Zeljko Kalac, who is in his second stint at the club.

Kalac's past experience as a player in Europe is evident through his team's style of play; short passing and movement to work the ball into the box describe Sydney United's primary form of attack, which has helped them in their most recent wins. However, there have been matches where United looked below-par, which signals the inconsistency the team has experienced throughout this season. Despite the challenges, they look like a team capable of challenging the league's top teams when they are at their best.

With 10 to his name, Patrick Antelmi has netted the most league goals for Sydney United, being the side's most consistent player, alongside captain Adrian Vlastelica, who has been in solid form in defence. Kalac signed almost a new squad to fit his system, replacing departing players with a much more youthful team and promoting a few from the club's youth academy.

This younger squad have shown the quality they possess in recent matches, and even if the club goes trophyless this year, it is a squad that can cause some damage to their fellow championship contenders.

7. St George City FA

After losing some key players from a team that finished fifth last season, St George City have recovered to be in a promising position to qualify for the Finals Series. Since being promoted two years ago, St George has progressed to having a midfield considered one of the best in the league. However, continuing to surprise onlookers by reaching a surprise semi-final may be difficult for the South Sydney outfit, considering the other top six teams and the talent at their disposal.

Head coach Mirko Jurilj will want to lead his side into the season's final stages. However, St George will need to find more consistency in their performances. They have scored the second-fewest goals out of the top ten teams on the ladder, with only 31 netted in 23 games. Despite this worrying trend, St George has found a balance with a solid defensive record. In possession, they display promising on-pitch chemistry and a collective patience in breaking down their opponent.

The club may not claim silverware this season. But they could be improved in 2025, continuing the same trajectory from the past two seasons.


8. Western Sydney Wanderers

A surprise league leader during the early part of the season, Western Sydney Wanderers Youth have recently suffered their worst stretch of results since being promoted to the NPL in 2022. Losing five of their last six games, the Wanderers will fail to qualify for the Finals Series should their form continue, particularly if fellow top-six rivals gain points around them. It has been a topsy-turvy season for the young side, with positives and negatives all around and the emergence of new talents who have the potential to become future stars in Australian football.

Marcus Younis leads the team as the Wanderers' rising star, having earned a few substitute appearances under Marko Rudan in the past A-League Men season. Other talents from this side have had a taste of the professional game, such as Zach Sapsford and Alex Badolato, who also earned several A-Leagues appearances in 2023/24. However, this factor has contributed to the Wanderers' poor form, losing such key players due to the recent mandatory break for A-Leagues players.

Though the team's form has suffered, these players receiving professional opportunities as a direct result of NPL development proves the purpose of a youth team in a senior league.


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