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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 January 2017
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 JANUARY 2017 Hercules on track to face challenges of NPL2 League New Nothcote City coach Zeljko Kuzman has experienced promotion into the NPL 1 before as an assistant at Richmond SC in 2015. PHOTO: NORTHCOTE CITY FACEBOOK. GEORGE STOGIANNOU It says a lot of the thorough preparation and careful planning approach of new Northcote City coach Zeljko Kuzman that he is taking his new squad to Bendigo this weekend for a training camp. Nine weeks into a carefully organised 12-week pre-season and just three weeks out from the NPL 2 East season opener away to Bendigo City, the training camp will give the team a chance to acclimatise for the opening away game and, more importantly, a chance for team bonding. As Kuzman puts it, "the biggest challenge for us it trying to get the stability and the culture right, having so many new faces". In fact, 15 of the 20-man senior squad are new to the club. "That's why we're going to Bendigo this weekend for a training camp. We hope to bring the boys closer together and get them to know each other a little bit deeper." It's fair to say that Northcote City's 2017 squad has more new signings than any of the other NPL 2 teams, with just five players remaining from the squad which found itself fighting to get out of the relegation zone from virtually the start of last season. They are James Papadimitriou, Danny Charalambous, Anthony Ramzy, Nicholas Bavcar and Anthony Taranto. The new signings include experienced keeper Griffin McMaster, defenders Nathan Cook, Matt Whateley, Tremayne Sadler, Milos Ilic, midfielders Andrew Milicevic, Peter Sawan, Trent Manicas and Josh Knight, and forwards Liam Flynn, Biaggio Youssif and Alec Goodwin. Several of these players have NPL 1 experience, and Kuzman has worked previously with five or six of them as an assistant coach at both Richmond and Port Melbourne Sharks. The new coach, who replaced outgoing coach Goran Lozanovski, says a priority in assembling the squad was to achieve balance all over the park. "I'm happy with the squad balance when you look at defensively minded players, link up players and attacking players." Last season, Northcote struggled to score goals, especially before the arrival of Braedyn Crowley, who has since been snapped up by Melbourne City's youth team. Kuzman is confident that he has options in attack. "Our natural attacking players like James Papa, Alec Goodwin, Biaggio Youssif, Josh Knight, Anthony Ramzy, Anthony Taranto and Liam Flynn ... we've got a lot of options up front who can do the job. Also having competition is important for us as well to make sure everyone is looking to perform at their best." Ask Kuzman to identify what he believes are the essential ingredients for a successful team and he says, " it's all about trying to develop a high performance culture. Trying to get the right people, the right characters on board". "For me it's all about having common shared values, beliefs and attitudes. On the other side, what is extremely important is the program. Things like sports science come into play − football conditioning and our vision of the way we want to play football. Obviously training sessions, making sure they're at the right intensity and everyone's on the right page. Without giving too much away, that's our model. Just getting winners on board." Keen to avoid putting his new squad under undue pressure, Kuzman is understandably reluctant to make any public statements of the team's objective particularly in terms of where they finish on the ladder at the end of this season other than to say, "we've got a big hill to climb with our squad bringing in so many new faces". "I think the real pressure is on teams like Moreland City. They've got a reasonably settled squad. They were extremely disappointing last year, I thought." He says Moreland Zebras could also be challenging for promotion. "The league's going to be tough, but I think Moreland City's going to be right up there. Our aim is to win as many games as possible. If we find ourselves in a position to challenge, that will be great. For us it's all about being ultracompetitive … I think the clear message for us is that we don't focus on the end prize. We focus on the process." DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Lawrence Thomas signs contract extension Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas has committed to the club by signing a one-year contract extension. Thomas, who is enjoying his best season to date in the Hyundai A-League, has signed on until the end of the 2017/18 season. The announcement comes a day after de- fender Jason Geria extended his Victory contract by a further three years. Thomas, 23, has made 46 appearances in all competitions for Victory – 33 in the Hyundai A-League, eight in the AFC Champions League and five in the Westfield FFA Cup. "I'm thrilled to extend my contract with Victory in what is an exciting time for me and the club," Thomas said. "I've worked hard to get an opportunity to play consistent first-team football and I'm thankful to Kevin Muscat for giving me that chance. "I feel like I have improved over my time at Victory so far, working with some great goalkeepers and coaches, and I look forward to continuing that." Thomas has missed just one game this season after taking over as Victory's first-choice goalkeeper. "Lawrence has worked extremely hard over a long period to get his opportunity to be the club's first-choice goalkeeper," said Victory head coach Kevin Muscat. "It's a credit to his professionalism and posi- tive attitude that he has improved to the level he is today, and we know there's plenty of improvement in him too." After arriving at Victory for the start of the 2011/12 season, Thomas improved his craft, working alongside the likes of Ante Covic, Nathan Coe and Danny Vukovic. His defining moment came during the latter stages of the 2014/15 season, when he stepped in for the injured Coe and kept two clean sheets in the Finals Series as Victory completed the premiership-championship double.
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