The Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL) 1 is back for a fourth season in 2021 with some massive signings and high-profile clubs about to bring a different dimension to the traditional dose of drama.
Two Friday night fixtures kick off the 22-round season as several teams eye a fast start in the race for promotion while others seek to begin safeguarding themselves against relegation, a new threat now that the FQPL 2 has arrived.
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Logan Lightning have left the building after securing promotion last term. They finished just two points above SWQ Thunder on the ladder and then overcame the Toowoomba team in an entertaining Grand Final, winning 2-1.
Thunder are expected to challenge again in 2021 but could face stiff competition from the likes of Brisbane City, who will have a point to prove after coming down from the top tier.
Mitchelton FC, Wolves FC, Rochedale Rovers and Ipswich Knights all finished within six points of each other last term, underscoring just how tough it will be to break clear of the pack this coming campaign.
City eye quick recovery – Though relegation in 2020 must have been tough for City to swallow, a spell in the FQPL 1 could be an opportunity for the club to reset and rebuild momentum. Head coach Matt Smith has recruited like a man determined to make an immediate return to the NPL Men’s arena. Ex-Brisbane Roar defender Daniel Bowles, last season’s leading FQPL 1 scorer Yuta Hirayama and former Gold Coast United striker Brandon Reeves are among the players that have arrived at Corporate Travel Management Stadium over the off season.
Thunder aim to go one better – It could be a psychological test above all else for SWQ at the outset of the new season. Thunder went agonisingly close to promotion last time around and were unfortunate not to secure at least one trophy after falling narrowly short in the Grand Final. But with quality players like Brodie Welch, Pasquale De Vita, Mirko Crociati and Veco Serugo all returning, Thunder have a strong core that should continue to serve them well.
Fire strengthen with local stars – One of the busier sides over the break has been Sunshine Coast FC, who appear to be primed for a move up the ladder. Fire have signed the cream of the local Sunshine Coast competition and brought back some familiar faces, including Cameron Nairn, Brady Cronk and Tom Land. The homegrown nature of the squad should contribute to a quality atmosphere for home matches.
Football Queensland commentator James Caughlin’s predictions for the 2021 season
Premiers: Brisbane City
Champions: SWQ Thunder
Top Four: 1. Brisbane City 2. SWQ Thunder 3. Rochedale Rovers 4. Ipswich Knights
Dark Horse: Western Pride
Player of the Year: Pasquale De Vita (SWQ)
Golden Boot: Chom Arop (Mitchelton FC)
Youngsters to Watch:
Connor Demerutis (Sunshine Coast FC) – A local talent with some experienced gained at Caloundra FC, Demerutis is a promising defender who has seen good minutes for Fire during pre-season.
Nikola Bugarcic (Holland Park Hawks) – Though still just 21, Bugarcic has already had stints in Serbia, Portugal and Germany. His travels served him well at St George Willawong last season and Holland Park will hope he becomes a key player for them in 2021.
Ethan Wildermuth (Brisbane City) – City academy product Wildermuth has been at the club since he was 11 years old and is tipped by head coach Smith to play an important role in the upcoming campaign.
Brisbane City – Daniel Bowles
Holland Park Hawks – Junji Yasuda
Ipswich Knights – Ben Barratt
Mitchelton FC – Alex Sartori
Rochedale Rovers – Scot Coulson
Souths United – Jacob Mengotti
Southside Eagles – Peter Yoo
Sunshine Coast FC – Cameron Nairn
SWQ Thunder – Pasquale De Vita
Western Pride – Jake Reesby
Wolves FC – Reece Hills
Image: SWQ Thunder