Queensland football fans can finally sink their teeth back into the very best the state has to offer as the 2020 season gets back underway across FQ’s premier competitions this weekend.
Saturday brings a full schedule across the NPL Men’s, NPL Women’s and Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) competitions, so now’s the time to catch up on all the action you may have missed over the break.
From coaching surprises to big-name signings, let’s take a look at the major squad and staff changes in recent months.
At just 22 years of age, Jordan Manning cemented his place in the NPL Queensland record books as the youngest Head Coach in the competition’s history when he put pen to paper with Redlands United in June. But what he lacks in experience, the rookie Red Devils boss makes up for in education. Manning honed his craft under the likes of Karl Dodd and Graham Harvey at Western Pride before shifting his focus to sports science at Brisbane Roar, where he worked for the Academy in a high performance role.
Dabbling in coaching, he led an imposing U16 Roar side to a Grand Final berth in his opening season and nurtured three international debutants for the Joeys. Manning augments his CV with considerable academic pedigree and, though green on the senior scene, his scope of knowledge should hold him in good stead. A sudden influx of arrivals could be a sign of the progress to come, with Magpies Crusaders’ Lathan Dunn, James Piercy and Kai Barnes from Mitchelton FC and Western Pride trio Matt Haspels, Salomon Lukonga and Wilfred Phillip signing with the club in time for the season recommencement.
Joining Manning in the first-year coaching ranks is Brisbane City’s Matt Smith, a familiar face for Queensland football fans. Having made the switch from Gold Coast Knights at the turn of the year, the former Socceroo took up a player-coach role at Corporate Travel Management Stadium after the departure of Nick Green over the break. One of the Hyundai A-League’s most celebrated defenders, having captained Roar to two of their three Grand Final victories, the stalwart centre-half will be hoping to translate his successful on-field career into managerial triumph. City’s 4-2 loss to Eastern Suburbs before the season shutdown means tinkering and tightening will be the task at hand for Smith and the new man in charge has already enticed 2019 NPL Queensland Goalkeeper of the Year Bon Scott back to the club from Brisbane Strikers, where the goalkeeper starred last season.
A Round 5 win against City was Easts’ sole victory before the hiatus but there should be more to come for the side after luring Smith’s former Roar teammate and defensive partner Jade North to Heath Park. The 38-year-old ex-Socceroo returns to Queensland following a spell last season with Victorian outfit Murray United. With a plethora of experience in Asia and Europe and over 200 Hyundai A-League appearances to boot, North – alongside fellow new boys Mitchell Bird, David Salin and Ante Poljak plus the returning Jayden Balarezo – could transform Easts into a real team to watch.
That will certainly be the case when Easts lock horns with Peninsula Power and record-breaking 2019 Golden Boot winner Andy Pengelly on Saturday. The prolific Pengelly has headed back to AJ Kelly Park, where he signed last November, to recommence a relationship that was put on hold amid the striker’s adventure in Singapore. It’s a match not to be missed, much like the clash between heavyweights Lions FC and Gold Coast Knights that will feature Simon Hill on commentary and a host of new signings for Knights.
Defender Blake Thompson joins as a handy replacement for departed duo Matt Smith and Oskar Dillon, while former Hyundai A-League forward Jean Carlos Solorzano has signed on with the 2019 Champions from Brisbane City for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Capalaba, meanwhile, have secured an ex-Strikers custodian in the shape of two-time NPL Victoria Goalkeeper of the Year Michael Weier, who joins returning Bulldogs striker Stuart Edgar in swapping Victoria for Queensland after the pair left Hume City and Box Hill United respectively.
Capalaba have been among the more active NPL Women’s clubs on the transfer front, acquiring four players to boost an already impressive roster. Brisbane Roar defenders Natalie Tathem and Kaitlyn Torpey and goalkeeper Georgina Worth have all traded orange and black for blue and yellow and should create strong competition for starting spots this season. Tathem will link back up with Capalaba Head Coach Skie Hanifin, who coached her during her spell at Moreton Bay United last season. Torpey, who made her Westfield W-League debut aged just 16, supplements Capalaba’s plentiful options at the back and in midfield, while Worth is a promising young shot-stopper. The trio are joined at the club by Whitney Knight, who won the double with Lions last season and has spent time with Melbourne Victory.
Eastern Suburbs, still undefeated after four games, have themselves brought in two players with Westfield W-League experience in a sign of their ambition to build on last term’s sixth-place finish. Attacking pair Allira Toby and Rosie Sutton are set to offer plenty of goals following stints at the top level with Roar and Victory respectively. Toby helped Moreton Bay to a Grand Final appearance in 2019, while Sutton reunites with the club she represented intermittently between productive spells at Perth Glory, Adelaide United and Western Sydney Wanderers.
Table-topping Gold Coast United have gone from strength to strength, signing ex-Young Matildas midfielder Ayesha Norrie. The 23-year-old has had two spells at Roar either side of a stint with Victory and most recently turned out for Perth Glory in the W-League. Logan Lightning meanwhile have signed Anna Margraf, a 2018 NPL Women’s Grand Final winner with the Roar/NTC side and another talented prospect to have emerged from the ranks at Brisbane Roar.
Logan Lightning have seized the opportunity to make alterations to their men’s squad, bucking the trend that has seen the status quo largely maintained in the FQPL since the suspension of football. In disappointing news for the team, star winger Eddie Bidwell returned to Tasmania and former club Devonport Strikers in May, but since then a number of new arrivals have boosted the Lightning squad.
Well-travelled former Strikers and Blackburn Rovers gloveman Sebastian Usai has returned to Queensland and found a new home with Logan following sojourns in Sweden and Spain. Liam Goulding, a defender with English non-league experience, will further strengthen the team’s spine, while Nigerian attacker Obi Moneke has been handed a chance to impress after leaving his club in the Bangladesh Premier League.
Southside Eagles are among the teams hunting for promotion and have strengthened their chances by bringing in a host of players for the remainder of the 2020 season. 2018 FQPL Team of the Season midfielder Joshua Anderson joins from Redlands, alongside fellow new signings Kosuke Mizuno from Gap FC, Wolves FC’s Jake Maloney, Matt Wala from Brisbane Strikers and former Balmain Tigers forward Rushan Malek.
2019 Grand Final winners Rochedale Rovers meanwhile have announced some big signings of their own, including prolific goalscorer Kado Aoci who netted 13 goals in 21 matches for Redlands United in 2019. Former Peninsula Power defender Matthew Boyd also joins Rochedale for the remainder of the season to bolster their backline, while Giorgio Anastasi has also signed on.
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Words: Angus Barnes