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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 February 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2016 25 SPORT Bergers building head of steam for title race GEORGE STOGIANNOU Stability and momentum are two very important factors in a championship-winning team, according to Heidelberg United coach George Katsakis. The Bergers would appear to have both at present, which augurs well for the season ahead. Having retained the core of last season's squad, together with a stable coaching team, and building on the energy and momentum created by its FFA Cup run, the team's preseason form has been encouraging. Having finished third in the last two NPL seasons running, coach Katsakis is confident the Bergers have recruited well enough to narrow the gap between themselves and the likes of South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens, providing the team can maintain its defensive focus. Last season, Heidelberg got off to an impressive start, keeping eight clean sheets in the first half of the season. But in the second half, it only kept one clean sheet. "Hence we were on top of the ladder and then we started to fade away in the second half,” Katsakis says. “If we get that right then I'm confident we'll narrow that gap." The Bergers have recruited WA defenders Lewis Hall and Josh Wilkins, as well as Northcote City keeper Chris Theodoridis to strengthen the defence and Sean Ellis and Emmanuel Tsakiris to sharpen the attack. Englishman Harry Noon comes into the midfield. Katsakis says: "It's probably the best recruiting year we've had. We've probably increased our ability going forward by at least 20-30 per cent. That's obviously due to people like Sean Ellis, Harry Noon and (attacking full back) Josh Wilkins, who gets down that line really well." Katsakis believes Bergers fans can expect to see more flair going forward from their team this year, starting from defence. "We've brought in defensive players who penetrate really well ... and in Kenny Athiu, Kaine Sheppard, Sean Ellis, Andreas Govas, you've got a lot of flair going forward. It's been an integral part of what we're trying to build." Katsakis says the Bergers squad is almost finalised, with room for one more outfield player. "It would probably be someone like a utility type player, where he could slip into a few positions. However the goalkeeping position, with Griffin McMaster walking, has opened up another position there. Over the next few days, I think we're going to be quite busy because the deadline is 13 February. So we're going to have to push and finalise it." Cannons aim to rebuild competitive team in 2016 GEORGE STOGIANNOU The last time Oakleigh Cannons played a competitive match under joint senior coaches was in the 2012 VPL Grand Final at AAMI Park, under then coaches Billy Theodoropoulos and Peter Zois. This season, under newly-appointed joint coaches Peter 'Gus' Tsolakis and Con 'Tanga' Tangalakis, the expectations aren't quite as high. But there are hopes that the two will help lay the foundations of a new era at Oakleigh. "On the pitch we've got a lot of work to do, but that's the same with any team that's been restructured," Tangalakis says. The restructure follows last season's disappointing league campaign in which the team, initially under Miron Bleiberg, and then Arthur Papas, finished 11th in the league, despite performing well in the Cup competitions. Papas has moved on to coach at Green Gully, while some of the big name signings such as Mirjan Pavlovic and Sean Rooney (Marconi Stallions), Kofi Danning (to Hume City) and Matt Foschini (to South Melbourne) have also departed Jack Edwards. The club has signed six to seven new signings, including, among others, strikers Dimi Hatzimouratis (from Sydney Olympic) and Ross Frame (Carson-Newman University, USA), midfielder Ioannis Georgopoulos from OFI, Crete, and utility/defender Steven Topalovic from reigning champs Bentleigh Greens, while former midfielder and best and fairest, Dominic D'Angelo, is a late signing. Cannons’ 2016 coaching team: (L-R) Mark Tsiorlas (assistant coach), Peter Tsolakis, Con Tangalakis. PHOTO: OAKLEIGH CANNONS/FACEBOOK. New coach Tsolakis says that the Cannons' recruitment in the pre-season has been hampered by the NPL points system, which limits the opportunities to make further signings. "It's like a salary cap,” he says, “and we're very limited in the number of points we've got, so that's really hampered us to an extent. “But in saying that, the players we've got are very experienced, and if you mix them in with the players who were here from last year - again I think we've got a decent squad - we need them all on the same page." It's no secret that Oakleigh had problems in the dressing room last season, and one of the first aims of the new coaches was to rebuild team spirit. Coach Tangalakis says: "At the moment we're psychologists just as much as we're coaches and trainers. The problem this club had last season was that the change room was lost. It all stems from there. We've actually got hold of that at the moment. The boy's are gelling and they're a good bunch. They're mates. It's good high spirits in there." Tsolakis is confident that the squad has enough offensive weaponry to produce winning scores, particularly if Dean Piemonte, Dusan Bosnjak and Goran Zoric can regain their goalscoring touch from season 2014. It's in central defence that he's got some injury concerns at present with a number of central defenders still recovering from injury. He doesn't mince words when he says "we've got our work cut out”. “It's going to be a tough season. Teams like Pascoe Vale, Bentleigh, Heidelberg have been together for five years with the same coach. We're not pretending we're going to be anything like that by a long shot. But we've just got a bit of work to do." While all teams are looking to make a good start, Tsolakis believes the draw for the Cannons' fixtures makes it very important to start well. Playing three of their first four games at home, the Cannons kick off the NPL season at Jack Edwards on Thursday 18 February against Port Melbourne Sharks. "All the games we've got in the first four or five games are winnable. It's important we do get a good start, because after Round 4, we're not back here for another six weeks, because they resurface the ground, so we play six away games." "We've got a very support- ive committee behind us,” Tangalakis adds. “They know all about what we're doing. We're restructuring and regrouping. You know it's new times for Oakleigh. It's a three-year plan they've asked us to put together. So expectations aren't extremely high. Obviously we don't want to be bottom three. Hopefully if the team gels and the boys combine, we might have a half decent season. Looking forward to it actually." Western Sydney Wanderers fined Heidelberg United coach George Katsakis (R) in discussion with his players during a recent pre-season practice match. PHOTO: HEIDELBERG UNITED/FACEBOOK. The FFA has fined the Western Sydney Wanderers $50,000 and imposed a suspended three-point ALeague deduction after finding the club guilty of bringing the game into disrepute. The suspended points penalty will remain in place for 12 months. Fan trouble in the Wanderers' end caused a dis- ruption to the A-League game against the Victory at Docklands in Melbourne. Some 25 flares and detonators were set off in the away end and outside the stadium, causing play to be held up as smoke cleared from the ground. The scenes brought condemnation across the ALeague and in the head offices of the FFA.
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