The wait is over as the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland Men competition makes its return for 2023. It is shaping up to be an exciting season as the top tier premiership men’s competition is set to get underway this weekend.
Round 1 will bring plenty of action as the top Queensland men’s premiership teams are set to clash and it all kicks off with a huge Gold Coast derby as Champions Knights face off against a Gold Coast United team who will want to be a powerful force in 2023.
2022 Premiers Lions FC will defend their title with a chance to get their names on the Football Foundation Cup for a second time as they take on the newly promoted FQPL 1 Premiers Redlands United. Having improved an already talented squad, Lions will be looking to match the success story of their Women’s side, earning a second premiership – championship double.
Elsewhere in the league last season’s Grand Finalists, Olympic FC, will be away at Moreton Bay United to kick off their campaign. They enter the 2023 season with a new coach in Royce Brownlie after Ben Cahn departed for the Victorian NPL with Melbourne Knights in the off season.
THE FRESH FACES:
Redlands United and Rochedale Rovers are the new boys on the block after securing promotion from FQPL (Football Queensland Premier League) 1 in 2022. Redlands had a year to remember finishing as both Premiers and Champions, while Rochedale were hot on their heels, finishing just two points off the lead in the league and by a goal in the Final.
Redlands United returns to the NPL after a disappointing 2021 saw them relegated with a final day loss to local rivals Capalaba. The pair leapfrog each other this season however with Capalaba FC being relegated to the FQPL 1 for 2023. Rochedale Rovers will compete in the NPL Queensland for the first time in the club’s history, despite being a household name among Queensland football fans.
Both sides will be hoping they can bring their 2022 form into the 2023 season as they compete in Queensland’s premier men’s competition. An added boost for both sides is that they have managed to retain many of the key players who helped win promotion last season.
Redlands will start with a difficult away trip as they face off against the reigning Premiers in the Football Foundation Cup at Luxury Paints Stadium. Rochedale will start their 2023 campaign at home against an Eastern Suburbs side who finished mid-table last season.
Lions on the hunt – Lions will aim to be contenders in 2023. No side has ever won the Premiership and Championship in the same season twice and Lions will look to be the first side to achieve that. Last season Lions won the Premiership with a 12-point advantage but came just short in the finals, falling to defeat at the hands of Olympic FC in a Semi Final clash.
Back-to-back on the cards? – Gold Coast Knights have never won the Premiership despite having two NPL Championships under their belt. Knights will be wanting to tick that league title off the bucket list and start their campaign on a high as they come up against cross-city rivals Gold Coast United in what is expected to be a thrilling derby.
The Quest for Silverware – 2023 will mark ten years since Olympic FC last won a trophy, but they’ve come closer than most in recent years as they’ve featured in five consecutive Grand Finals. Can they go one step further this season and get their hands on the elusive Championship trophy?
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jez Lofthouse: Current Brisbane Roar winger Jez Lofthouse will be one to watch for the upcoming season. Lofthouse has had previous stints in the NPL Queensland with clubs Sunshine Coast FC, Brisbane Roar and Olympic FC, where he made a name for himself by helping guide the club to four Grand Finals. Local fans will be hoping the promising youngster can prove his talents on his quest for more match minutes in the A-Leagues Men’s side.
Izaack Powell: The former Brisbane Roar and Australia U17 player joins Peninsula Power for the upcoming 2023 NPL season after spending the last 18 months on the sideline recovering from leukemia. He is now ready to resume his footballing career as he and his Power side aim to push for a title challenge. Power Senior Director of Football Ben Ryan told Peninsula Power, “Izaack is a player we’ve admired from afar for a long time. To be able to bring him to the club is a real coup for us. When we spoke to him for the first time it was clear that he isn’t done and has unfinished business in the game. We certainly hope that we can provide him with an environment that helps to reignite his professional career.”
Mitch Nichols: The former Socceroo and A-League champion has joined Gold Coast United for the 2023 season. With previous stints at Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory, Western Sydney Wanderers, Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix, Nichols brings a wealth of experience to Grae Piddick’s side as they eye off a push for a Finals place in 2023.
Emilio Martinez: Martinez joins Eastern Suburbs FC for the 2023 season from NSW State League 1 side Blacktown Spartans. With him he brings some valuable experience including stints at Blacktown, Nike Academy, Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney Wanderers. The attacking player will be a key member of the team for Easts as they aim to improve on last season’s mid-table finish
Oskar Dillon: Oskar Dillon returns home to Gold Coast Knights FC where he previously won the 2019 NPL Queensland Grand Final and the NPL Queensland Young Player of the Year Award. Dillon’s 2019 form earned him a stint with A-League side Western United, before he moved to NPL Victoria outfit Oakleigh Cannons. The Knights pick up a proven player who will boost their chances of going back-to-back.
Ryo Ono: League icon Ryo Ono joins Lions FC from Moreton Bay United. A standout player with years of experience in the NPL competition, the Japanese forward will be an exciting player to watch in the 2023 season. Netting 15 goals in last year’s competition, Ono will be a player who can make all the difference in their fight for the title and a fitting replacement for Alex Fiechtner, who left for Oakleigh Cannons this year.
Zachary Kierpal: The young striker will continue to make his mark in 2023 as he re-signs with Olympic FC for his second season with the club. Last year Keirpal was the club’s top goal-scorer as he guided them to the NPL Grand Final. It was in fact his spectacular last-minute goal from range in the Semi Final against Lions that booked his side’s place in the Grand Final.
Jordan Farina: Jordan Farina returns to Moreton Bay United for the 2023 season. Farina has previously played for the club, helping them win the 2015 NPL Queensland Championship with a last-minute effort against Brisbane Strikers. He was the top goal-scorer for the Strikers last season, but with his former side missing promotion to the NPL, Farina has made the move to return to the state’s premier competition. Head Coach Cameron Millar told Moreton Bay United, “Jordy has been a top player for a number of years now and has scored goals everywhere he has been.”
Oliver Duncan: Oliver Duncan will be a key player for the Sunshine Coast Wanderers in the 2023 season. The midfielder has previously played for the Brisbane Roar Youth side and has also represented New Zealand U17. Wanderers Head Coach, Paul Arnison told Sunshine Coast Wanderers this about the talented midfielder; “Delighted to have Oli back on board for 2023. Oli is one of the best midfielders in the NPL on his day.”
Marek Mádle: The top goal-scorer in the FQPL 1 last season, the Rochedale Rovers striker helped guide the side to promotion to the NPL Queensland. All eyes will be on the Czech born striker to see if he can continue to implement his golden form. A proven NPL goal scorer, Mádle will be key to Rochedale’s campaign as they aim to impress in the top level of Queensland football.
Ryo Emoto: Emoto featured in last season’s FQPL 1 Team of the Season as he helped his side earn promotion to the NPL competition after being crowned FQPL 1 Premiers and Champions. The Japanese footballer’s ambition to take his game to the next level is clear and a player of his quality will no doubt prove extremely useful to Redlands for the upcoming season.
Matthew Thurtell: Thurtell joins Brisbane City with eight years of experience in the NPL Victoria where he played for Bentleigh Greens and Oakleigh Cannons. A respected striker with over 100 goals on his resume, he will be leading the line for a City side who will push to make a Finals appearance and return to their former glory.
| BRISBANE CITY
After missing out in the previous campaign, Brisbane City will be eager to play Finals football in 2023. City finished the season in hot form with the Azzurri winning their last five matches. After a slow start to the 2022 season in part due to the impacts of floods, City will be hoping things go their way when they kick off their season against Brisbane Roar at AJ Kelly Park.
Last season: 5th
Home Ground: Spencer Park
Coach: Karl Dodd
| BRISBANE ROAR
Brisbane Roar would have been disappointed with their finish in the previous campaign but will have some more confidence in their side after a year of playing together. They have some exciting talent joining from the A-Leagues side and will need to make the most of that if they are to be successful this year. The Roar kick their season off against a Brisbane City side who they lost to in the Kappa Pro Series earlier this month.
Last season: 11th
Home Ground: AJ Kelly Park
Coach: Chris Grossman
| EASTERN SUBURBS:
Eastern Suburbs found themselves in a mid-table finish in the previous season, so pushing higher into a Finals spot will be the goal for the Tigers. They kick-start their season against newly promoted Rochedale Rovers who will be searching for a strong start to life in the top tier of Queensland football.
Last season: 7th
Home Ground: Heath Park
Coach: Matt Chandler
| GOLD COAST KNIGHTS
The Champions will be aiming for back-to-back Grand Final trophies and a Premiership title in the 2023 season. Scott McDonald’s side come into their opening round match fresh off impressive performances in the Kappa Pro Series, recording wins over Brisbane Strikers and Brisbane City.
Last season: 2nd (Champions)
Home Ground: Croatian Sports Centre
Coach: Scott McDonald
| GOLD COAST UNITED:
With former Socceroo and A-League champion Mitch Nichols added to the squad, a Finals spot will no doubt be the goal for a Gold Coast United side who is yet to qualify for the NPL Men’s Final Series. Could 2023 be the season in which Grae Piddick’s side take the next step up to join the league’s usual heavyweights?
Last season: 6th
Home Ground: Coplicks Family Sports Park
Coach: Grae Piddick
| LIONS FC:
Lions will be setting their sights yet again on the Premiership but will be looking mainly at completing the double. If they manage this feat, they will become the first team to win the double twice in 11 seasons of the NPL Queensland. Lions won the league comfortably in 2022 and will be contenders again under Head Coach Darren Sime having picked up some key recruits including Ryo Ono and Jesse Rigby.
Last season: 1st (Premiers)
Home Ground: Luxury Paints Stadium
Coach: Darren Sime
| MORETON BAY UNITED
Moreton Bay United avoided the drop into the FQPL 1 Men last season by just two points, with a win against eventual Champions Gold Coast Knights on the final day of the season helping them avoid relegation. They will be aiming to push higher up the table this time around and have looked good in the Kappa Pro Series, winning both their opening matches.
Last season: 9th
Home Ground: Wolter Park
Coach: Cameron Miller
| OLYMPIC FC:
Olympic FC finished fourth in the previous season and reached last season’s Grand Final. Of their past five seasons, they’ve finished in the top four each time, so there will be expectations of new Head Coach Royce Brownlie to continue this trend. With plenty of change across the Olympic squad, it will certainly be a challenge, but one they are capable of accepting.
Last season: 4th
Home Ground: Goodwin Park
Coach: Royce Brownlie
| PENINSULA POWER:
Peninsula Power lost last year’s Semi Final against Gold Coast Knights, but their 2022 highlight was their remarkable Australia Cup run which saw them make the Quarter Finals of the National Stage. The 2023 season will be an opportunity for a talented Power side to push for more, bringing in a range of talent including Lachie Hunter from fellow NPL side Olympic FC, Darcy Madden from Wollongong Wolves, and a returning Izaack Powell from Brisbane Roar.
Last season: 3rd
Home Ground: AJ Kelly Park
Coach: Rick Coghlan
| REDLANDS UNITED:
Redlands United secured promotion from FQPL 1 Men last season after winning both the Premiership and Championship titles. A dominant side in 2022, Redlands will be bringing that hot form into the NPL competition in 2023 as they aim to make an impact on their return to the league.
Last season: 1st (FQPL 1 Men Champions)
Home Ground: Compass Grounds
Coach: Daniel Varma
| ROCHEDALE ROVERS:
Rochedale Rovers were the other FQPL 1 side who earned promotion to the NPL competition with an impressive 2022 campaign after a number of strong seasons in the second tier of Queensland men’s football. They may have been runners-up in both the league and Finals Series, but they pushed Champions Redlands to the limit only losing the Premiership by two points and falling to a 3-2 Grand Final defeat. Fans of the league will watch on with interest to see how the side shapes up this season.
Last season: 2nd (FQPL 1 Men)
Home Ground: Underwood Park
Coach: Ross Davidson
| SUNSHINE COAST WANDERERS:
Sunshine Coast Wanderers saw some positive results towards the tail end of the 2022 season, staying alive in the NPL Men competition by four points. The Wanderers will be seeking a more comfortable 2023 season and should be hard to beat at their home ground of Ballinger Park.
Last season: 8th
Home Ground: Ballinger Park
Coach: Paul Arnison
Complete list of Round 1 Fixtures:
GOLD COAST KNIGHTS VS GOLD COAST UNITED
Croatian Sports Centre, Friday 24th February 8:00pm
MORETON BAY UNITED VS OLYMPIC FC
Wolter Park, Saturday 25th February 5:00pm
PENINSULA POWER VS SUNSHINE COAST WANDERERS
AJ Kelly Park, Saturday 25th February 5:30pm
ROCHEDALE ROVERS VS EASTERN SUBURBS
Underwood Park, Saturday 25th February 7:00pm
LIONS FC VS REDLANDS UNITED
Luxury Paints Stadium, Saturday 25th February 7:00pm
BRISBANE ROAR VS BRISBANE CITY
AJ Kelly Park, Saturday 25th February 7:30pm
Images: Ian Judd, Josh Springfield