After a year like no other, the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland Men’s competition returns in its full and most exciting form this weekend as the 2021 season gets underway.
Round 1 brings about the return of Magpies Crusaders United and a tough initiation for Logan Lightning, who face Premiers Peninsula Power in the season-opening Football Foundation Cup clash on Friday night.
Six more games across the weekend gives fans a cracking start to soak up on NPL.TV, where all games are live and free for Australian residents.
Despite the challenges of 2020, the NPL Men’s competition finished on a high last season with thrillers, upsets and a climax that seemed familiar in its level of orange elation.
Lions FC proved once again to be masters of the Grand Final domain as they sealed their second Championship in three seasons, defeating Olympic FC 1-0 in the decider. The coveted Premiership made its way into the hands of Peninsula Power, who in just their second year of NPL Men’s football sailed five points clear of an extremely competitive top half.
Meanwhile, Brisbane City have dropped down to Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) 1 following relegation. In their place arrive Logan Lightning. Fresh off a double-winning campaign, Lightning will be hoping to chart a course for Finals Series football.
With the NPL Men’s season kicking off this Friday, here’s a taste of what’s to come! 😋
— Football Queensland (@FootballQLD) March 1, 2021
Kossie returns to Strikers – Almost two decades after his last spell at Perry Park, John Kosmina has returned to lead a youthful Brisbane Strikers side into a new era. The former Socceroos striker is a vastly experienced coach at both A-League and NPL level, having recently spent time in charge of Brisbane City. His knowledge will be important in bringing through the club’s academy products and talented new signings, sourced from inside and outside Queensland.
Power seek second surge – Aaron Philp’s entertaining Power outfit were a force to be reckoned with in 2020, racking up 19 victories in 24 regular season games to finish first on the ladder. While some key figures have since departed, other big names have come in to replenish their playing ranks, including gun goalkeeper Brendan White, dominant defender Michael McGowan, play-making midfielder Jake McLean and exciting attacker Zander Guy. Other sides have strengthened too, though, so it will be fascinating to see whether the Premiers can repeat the feats of last season, and potentially even make it a double in 2021.
Grae back on the Gold Coast – It was not long ago that Grae Piddick’s Gold Coast Knights were flying high at the summit of Queensland football, celebrating a famous Grand Final triumph in 2019. While the title defence didn’t go to plan, Piddick remains one of Australia’s most decorated young coaches. He has now taken the reins at Knights’ local rivals Gold Coast United, adding an extra edge to the derby and giving him a new mission: to transform United into a powerhouse.
Football Queensland commentator Simon Smale’s predictions for the 2021 season
Premiers: Olympic FC
Top Four: Olympic FC, Peninsula Power, Gold Coast Knights, Gold Coast United
Dark Horse: Gold Coast United
Player of the Year: Jez Lofthouse
Golden Boot: Andy Pengelly
Youngsters to Watch:
Max Mikkola (Lions FC) – Recruited by the reigning Champions to fill the void left by Henry Hore, the wily winger set the FQPL alight with Wolves FC last season and will look to maintain his hot streak in the top tier.
Hassan Ramazani (Brisbane Roar Youth) – Ramazani was a key cog in the reinvigorated Roar of 2020, and with the centre-half on the periphery of the A-League squad, he’ll be looking to add another dimension to his game.
Joseph Scott (Moreton Bay United) – Having spent two years honing his craft in the American college system, Scott stormed back into the Queensland football fold with SWQ Thunder in 2020, netting nine FQPL goals. His free-scoring approach on the flanks could help take Moreton Bay United to the next level.
Brisbane Roar Youth – Cyrus Dehmie
Brisbane Strikers – Mustafa Jafari
Capalaba FC – Tristan Hugo
Eastern Suburbs – Abrahim Yango
Gold Coast Knights – Jheison Macuace
Gold Coast United – Shane Smeltz
Lions FC – Joseph Duckworth
Logan Lightning – Matthew Green
Magpies Crusaders United – Lathan Dunn
Moreton Bay United – Matthew Heath
Olympic FC – Steve Whyte
Peninsula Power – Andy Pengelly
Redlands United – Noah Hitchcock
Sunshine Coast Wanderers – Riley Campbell
Words: Angus Barnes
Image: Peninsula Power FC