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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 September 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2016 27 SPORT Comeback kings Kingston land another trophy Kingston coach Nick Tolios and skipper Ryan Love lift the NPL 2 Grand Final trophy. PHOTO: KINGSTON FACEBOOK. GEORGE STOGIANNOU Last Sunday's NPL 2 grand final win by Kingston City over St Albans Saints at Lakeside capped off a memorable eight days for the club, in which they won two titles and Nick Tolios picked up the NPL 2 Coach of the Year award. In many ways, Sunday's come-from-behind 3-2 win against the Saints illustrated once again the qualities of Tolios' squad. Missing several key players including Velibor Mitrovic, Zendal Koukal and Muad Zwed, coach Tolios was forced to introduce some youngsters into the side, who managed to overcome a slow start and a two-goal deficit to stage a remarkable second half comeback which stunned the Saints, inspired by the dead ball skills of Slaven Vranasevic. After the grand final win, coach Tolios reflected on the season, describing the qualities of his team. "Our squad, I thought from day one, was probably the strongest squad in the league. There weren't any standouts, but there was a lot of consistency between the players. The gap between our best players and those on the fringe or thereabouts, was very close − I think that was the key. We had players who could step in (when injuries occurred). We were very versatile. We had a lot of players that were utilities." Certainly the depth of the squad was an area the coach prioritised after last year’s fade-out towards the end of the season on the back of some injuries. Coach Tolios also described his team as a young team "which didn't really know how to give up − we grind out right to the very end" − as Damian Iaconis' title-clinching injury time equaliser against Brunswick City testifies. "I think we were one of the fittest sides in the league − we never really got overrun by any team fitness wise." In contrast, Kingston's only real rival for the NPL 2E ti- tle and automatic promotion, Dandenong Thunder, were struck heavily by injury, especially to key defender Faisal Sakhizada and Brandon Barnes. Coach Tolios says the biggest game for his team was the come from behind 4-3 away win at Thunder in Round 26. "It changed the scope I thought that night. We did the job that no-one expected us to do." Last Friday, at the FFV Gold Medal Night, Tolios received an award for NPL2 coach of the year. He says receiving the award was unexpected but "it means the world to me. To be acknowledged by my peers (there's some qual- ity coaches in NPL 2) it's very humbling". Tolios praised his support staff at Kingston. "Without Billy Theodoropoulos by my side for the last two years none of this would've been possible. I didn't see him as an assistant. I see him as a good friend and a mentor. Also Michael Iakomidis and Lou Kastner. We're mates first and foremost but we've got an understanding. We know each other's boundaries, each other's roles." Tolios says he understands the challenges facing Kingston City as it steps up to the NPL 1 next season, having played himself in the old VPL. "The pace is going to get a lot quicker. You need to be a bit more physical because it's a very physical league. We know we need to strengthen but at the moment, everyone that's in the team that got us promoted are still required until we have a proper sit down and review what we're going to do moving forward. "Look, there's probably going to be a time when there's going to be some hard decisions made on some of these boys. That's unfortunate but it happens. But I couldn't imagine winning the league and doing everything we did with any other bunch of boys. They're fantastic, a pleasure to work with. Always willing to learn and always willing to push each other." Northcote City on the hunt for new coach after Loza’s departure There’s a sense of déjà vu at relegated NPL club Northcote City. City are once more on the hunt for a new head coach following the departure of coach Goran Lozanovski for the second time at the end two consecutive seasons. The club announced on Wednesday morning that Lozanovski had taken the decision to step down for personal reasons. After stepping down at the end of season 2015, when City had failed to make the finals, the 2013 Championship winning coach surprised many by taking on the assistant coaching role at Port Melbourne. Following Northcote’s disastrous start to the 2016 campaign, Lozanovski answered an SOS from his former club to return as head coach in a bid to salvage the season. With a host of new signings, the club fought tooth and nail to avoid relegation right to the very end of the season but it proved a bridge too far. When Lozanovski returned to the club in Rd 9 this season, he gave a strong indication that his return was “a long term deal”. “I’ll be there to do that. We’ve spoken about it. We’ve got a long term plan.” So it comes as some surprise that the club has announced his departure. In a statement on the club website, Lozanovski said: “It’s no secret that I love Northcote and it’s with an extremely heavy heart that I have to walk away. We made some huge improvements in a short time this season and I’m convinced that the club is on the right track. “I wish everyone the best and I have no doubt that we’ll see Northcote back where it belongs very soon.” No doubt the club will be look- ing for another experienced coach to take on the challenging task of winning promotion back into the NPL 1 in 2017. Meanwhile, in other NPL news, Northcote’s near neighbours, Heidelberg United, have moved quickly to secure the services of key personnel who made their mark at the club in season 2016. The club announced that five of its key players have signed up again for the 2017 campaign, including forwards Kenny Athiu, Sean Ellis, midfielders Harry Noon, Lewis Hall and Reuben Way. Goran Lozanovski PHOTO: NORTHCOTE CITY.
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