The start of the 2019 National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland season is only three days away, and there are a number of new faces who will be featuring in this year’s competition.
With the addition of the Gold Coast Knights and the promotion of FQPL Premiers Peninsula Power and Grand Finalists Eastern Suburbs, the 2019 NPL season is shaping up to be an exciting one.
Here are four new faces to look out for in the NPL Queensland this year:
Youeil Shol – Olympic FC
2018 Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) Golden Boot winner Youeil Shol will return to his junior club in 2019, signing with Olympic FC for this year’s NPL Queensland season.
Shol helped his Eastern Suburbs FC side to a top two finish in the FQPL last year, but will come up against his newly-promoted former team after signing for last year’s NPL Grand Finalists Olympic FC.
Scoring an impressive 35 goals in 25 games last season, Shol claimed both the FQPL Golden Boot and the joint Most Valuable Player Award.
He joins a strong attacking side, with other players like Jez Lofthouse and new signing Chris Lucas also featuring in the 2019 Olympic FC squad looking to go one better following last year’s Grand Final loss.
“Olympic is a great club and we’ve got a good bunch of boys who all want to work hard and challenge for everything; the Premiership, the Grand Final, the FFA Cup and the NPL Finals Series,” Shol said.
“It’s good having other players like Chris Lucas and a few of the other boys to drive each other – they’re definitely good competition when it comes to scoring goals.”
As for his own season, Shol said he will have the Golden Boot in his sights again this year, this time in the NPL Queensland, and hopes to top his goal-scoring tally from last year’s FQPL season.
“I’m looking forward to proving myself; my personal goal is to score at least 35 goals this season.”
With other strikers such as Sam Smith also joining the NPL for the 2019 season, time will tell if Shol can replicate his form from last year to claim the top goal scorer title this season.
Image: Alison Langevad
Sam Smith – Gold Coast Knights
2017 NPL Queensland Golden Boot winner Sam Smith returns to the league in 2019, signing with new NPL side Gold Coast Knights.
Following a season with Port Melbourne Sharks SC in the NPL Victoria, the Englishman will be back to make his mark on the competition he dominated in 2017.
“I’m excited about the standard of the NPL Queensland, and the teams that have come in will make the league stronger,” Smith said.
“Some people are saying this is the strongest the league has ever been so it’s exciting for me – I want to challenge myself, but also being able to play at the Gold Coast where I love to be is a bonus.”
Smith’s 2017 NPL Queensland campaign saw him score 22 goals for former team Gold Coast City FC, helping his side reach the NPL finals and the FFA Cup quarter finals – in addition to securing the Golden Boot for the league that year.
With 2018 NPL Golden Boot winner Dylan Wenzel-Halls now playing for Brisbane Roar in the Hyundai A-League, the title could be Sam Smith’s to claim once again.
“I go into every match thinking I can score a goal, otherwise there would be no point stepping onto the pitch,” Smith said when asked whether the Golden Boot would be in his sights again this year.
“First and foremost though, I want to do everything I can to help the team be successful.
“Come the end of the season if I’ve scored a few less goals but we’re winning then I’ll be happy.”
At the very least, the striker’s goal-scoring prowess is set to bring some excitement to the 2019 NPL Queensland season.
Michael Thwaite – Gold Coast United
Former Hyundai A-League and Socceroos defender Michael Thwaite will bring vast experience to a Gold Coast United side looking to improve on their 2018 season in which they finished 10th.
Returning to the club he first signed with and skippered in its inaugural Hyundai A-League season in 2009, Thwaite will provide a major boost to the Gold Coast side, especially with the addition of fellow coast team Gold Coast Knights.
Boasting 13 caps for the Socceroos and having played over 200 Hyundai A-League games, Brisbane-born Thwaite will join former Gold Coast United team mate and incoming coach Kristian Rees at the club in 2019.
“It definitely brings back memories being back here,” Thwaite said.
“Last season was a disappointing one for the club, but we’ve had a good start to the pre-season, winning the Inter City Cup where we came up against two other NPL teams, Western Pride and Eastern Suburbs.
“I’m looking forward to the first game.”
The addition of Knights to the league will see Thwaite come up against fellow former Gold Coast player Sam Smith in what is set to be an exciting Gold Coast derby in Round 7 of the NPL Queensland season.
James Egeta – SWQ Thunder
SWQ Thunder signing James Egeta is no stranger to finding the back of the net, but the experienced futsal player from the Solomon Islands will look to translate his goal-scoring prowess to the outdoor field, joining the NPL Queensland for the 2019 season.
Egeta has played futsal for the past 15 years, most recently for Redlands United Futsal Club in the South East Queensland Futsal Premier League (SEQFPL).
His 2017 campaign saw him crowned SEQFPL Golden Boot winner, scoring 18 goals in one season for Redlands United, and scored five goals in 2018
While futsal has been the focus for most of Egeta’s sporting career, he also has experience playing the outdoor game back home in the Solomon Islands, and played for Marist FC at the 2017 Oceania Football Confederation Champions League.
“When I’m in the futsal off season, I play outdoor and when the futsal season starts I come back here to play futsal,” Egeta said.
Egeta said the physical side of the outdoor game will provide a challenge for him this season, but it’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“Outdoor is more physical than futsal, but I’m really looking forward to playing with Thunder and I’m hoping that I can help the team in whatever way I can, bringing the skills I’ve gained playing both futsal and football.”
OTHER NPL KEY MOVEMENTS:
In addition to the fresh faces in this year’s NPL, there have been some other key movements for each NPL club for the 2019 season.
Brisbane City will be without midfielder Preston Hugo, who has signed with newly-promoted Eastern Suburbs for this season.
Brisbane Roar Youth:
Though 2019 will see the loss of Danny Driver, Tom Miller and Adam Sawyer, the Brisbane Roar Youth side will enter this season fresh off a strong campaign in the Foxtel Y-League, and are set to play in the Grand Final to be held this Friday evening.
After helping Lions FC to the 2018 Premiership-Championship double, Chris Maher has signed with cross-town rivals Brisbane Strikers for the 2019 season.
Newly-promoted Eastern Suburbs will welcome former Moreton Bay United captain Matthew Byrne for the 2019 season.
Despite losing a number of key players, the 2018 Premiers and Champions have signed two of the NPL’s strongest players from last season in Western Pride’s Joe Duckworth and SWQ Thunder’s Chris Hatfield.
Magpies Crusaders will have a boost to their defense for the 2019 season after signing Irish centre-back Shane McInerney, who has experience playing in professional leagues in Europe and the United States.
Moreton Bay United:
Mitchelton’s Mustafa Jafari joins the NPL in 2019 after scoring seven goals in 13 FQPL games last season, signing with Moreton Bay United for this season.
While Peninsula Power’s squad is relatively unchanged following their unstoppable 2018 FQPL season, they will welcome new signing Brenton Fox from Moreton Bay United in 2019.
Redlands United will welcome Spanish defender Fernando Perez to the squad for the 2019 season, as well as new Head Coach Cleberson Souza Santos.
Sunshine Coast FC:
Sunshine Coast FC have signed twins Hiroto and Kirito Higuchi from Southside Comets for the 2019 season – Kirito scored a goal a game in the 2018 Far North Queensland Premier League, while twin brother Hiroto also scored a handful of goals last season.
Western Pride FC:
Joe Duckworth’s move to Lions will be a big loss for Western Pride, but they will also be joined by a number of new faces for the 2019 season including Wolves FC’s Noriki Nahata, former Strikers player Feli Sheriff and new Head Coach Sergio Rai.