We are in our third season as a club and are coming off a successful 2019 season where the team bounced back from a bumpy start to finish the season strong.
It was a milestone season where the team not only made the playoffs for the first time, but they managed to win two games in the playoffs and finish just one game away from a Grand Final berth. Along the way, the club lost its inaugural coach however this did not deter the squad as they made the FFA Cup fourth round in consecutive seasons along the way knocking off Illawarra Premier League opponent – Fernhill.
This year, the squad is looking to replicate its finish and perhaps even push for promotion. The club is under no illusion that the task is made so much harder with several clubs coming in from NPL3 and the introduction of the Newcastle Jets who no doubt are early favorites for promotion.
The club welcomes several new recruits Carlo Stella, Sandy Lowcock, Kasey Kulcsar, Luke Debrot, Alex Pappas and Yoji Ogawa who we hope will help bolster the squad and ensure we remain competitive throughout the season. Following the resignation of former coach Neil Mineef, the club is extremely lucky to secure the services of George Kulcsar who takes the reigns this year.
The team have had a disrupted preseason with injuries and un-availabilities preventing the coaching staff to field consistent line ups however there have been some learnings and positive signs across the preseason trials.
It all counts for nothing now as the season kicks off this weekend with a trip to UNSW who look to have recruited strongly this year and the boys face a tough first up road trip. The team is keen to avoid a slow start as this new look NPL4 has the makings of a competitive competition with almost every side harboring ambitions to finish inside the playoffs.
Goalkeeper Matt White captains the side again and his leadership and experience will be important for a squad that averages just over 22 years of age. If White can show some of last years form particularly in the latter stages of the season, this will give the team a huge boost.
Far South Coast prodigy Alex Boardman returns to the club and he has continued to grow in confidence and his tenacity and speed in the backline will surely be an asset to the squad. Joining Boardman in the backline is Andrew Christie who had his best season at the club last year and the club will look to his versatility to help keep teams out.
Daniel Lucas has had injury concerns throughout the pre-season and he is battling to be fit for Round 1 however a fit Lucas will add further depth to the defensive line which will also benefit from having new recruit Carlo Stella in there. Stella, who spent several seasons with Port Kembla had made the step across to Flame and it is hoped his experience will add some steel to an area the club has identified as an opportunity for improvement.
Another new recruit is Japanese born Yoji Ogawa who will fill the left back void following the loss of Jayden Smileski to Wollongong Wolves. He looks a handy player based on early season form. Another of our new recruits is Kasey Kulcsar (another South Coast product) who will add some size and versatility to the squad.
We are delighted to welcome back Wade Wilton whose versatility will help fill any voids as required. He was integral during Flame’s late season run where he played solid games across multiple positions.
Flame’s central midfield has a myriad of combinations and options. Playmaker Matthew Mazevski is central to Flames forward thrust and his creativity and link-up play with the forward line has the capacity to dismantle most defensive lines. Joining him in the midfield is the hardworking Justin Smith who will look to do a lot of the groundwork. Throw in Hiro Ushijima in the mix whose wizardry on the ball will turn some defenders inside out and we have a very handy midfield.
New recruits Alex Pappas and Luke Debrot also bring strength, speed and calmness to the midfield and weekly team selection may prove a headache for Kulcsar. Both guys have NPL Youth experience and are also capable of playing various positions.
Up top, Louis Connell’s pace is going to prove a handful for defences. He also knows how to find the net and if he can link up with the midfield, he has the capability to tear games open. Joining him is one of the club’s marquee signings in Sandy Lowcock. Lowcock is renowned for his goal scoring exploits and was his former club’s top scorer over the last two seasons. He has an eye for goal, and he will take some stopping this year.
The expectation is to at least match last season however one feels the squad (at least on paper) is deeper and stronger than that of 2019 and so we remain hopeful that the team plays with belief and heart across what will arguably be Flame’s toughest season to date.
Michael Panozzo once again takes charge of the Under 20’s. Over the last two seasons, this team has narrowly fell short of finals football however there is a warm feeling that something special is brewing with this group of boys.
There is a mixture of old and new in among this squad but overall, the boys look strong across the park and if they can consistently put it together, they may just find themselves one of the teams to beat this year.
The team’s preseason form has been solid however this means nothing if the boys can’t take that same intensity and efficiency into the competition.
We are excited to see just how far this group of boys can go this year.
U20 SQUAD: Godfrey Franco, Brandon Groom, Sebastian Arancibia, David Au, Joel Dowling, Ethan Lehn, Terrance Jah, Joshua Montgomery, Lachlan Morgan (c), Jonathan Mushaba, Venas Mutaka, Luke Paull, Preston Ridely, Fabian Zapata, Gelgelo Degu Chelo and Julio Mushaba.
Our Under 18 team sees a number of Under 16 Association Youth League players graduate and earn promotion to senior football. The squad is coached by Stan Pappas who has a great track record in junior football however this will rank as one of his toughest challenges.
The squad is relatively young and inexperienced however what they lack in experience, they certainly make up for in heart and desire. They have shown some positive signs in pre-season and one feels that the longer the season goes, the stronger this team will get.
U18 SQUAD: Deakin Southern (c), Sam Alston, Zander Alston, Hasan Ayoub, Andrew Balaskas, Ryan Chard, Ned Glasgow, Ethan Hawken, Luke Hoefsloot, Noah Lehn, Christian Nadj, Ethan Reynolds and Corey Burling.
The season kicks off on Sunday 8 March at Heffron Park Synthetic with the boys taking on UNSW FC. Under 18 kick off 11.00am, Under 20 kick off 1.00pm and First Grade kick off at 3.00pm.
Follow us on twitter @SCFlameFC for live match updates.