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Canberra FC and Gungahlin United Season Preview: 2019 Capital Football Premier League

The 2019 Capital Football National Premier League (NPL) season will kick-off on Friday, April 5th with a Grand Final rematch between Canberra FC and Canberra Olympic.

Canberra FC will once again be the team to beat after their dominant 2018 treble-winning season, followed by their Charity Shield victory against Gungahlin United at Deakin Stadium to open their 2019 campaign.

The Deakin based club defeated the Gungahlin outfit 2-1, thanks to an unfortunate own-goal scored by Bareldin Abbas in the 52nd minute.

However, while the Charity Shield is the first piece of silverware on offer to clubs for the year and can often be a good measure for future performance, it’s only a pre-season match and counts for nothing when round one gets underway.

Following on from the Charity Shield final, we predict how Canberra FC and Gungahlin United will fare during the 2019 season.

Can Canberra FC again rise to the challenge and win yet another league title? Or can the youth of Gungahlin United be the surprise packets of the competition and knock Canberra FC off their perch? And who will fall to the dreaded depths of being relegated to NPL2?

Yes, that’s right. For the first time in the Canberra Men’s Premier League history, starting in 2019 Capital Football are introducing a new promotion and relegation format to the competition.

From the nine competing clubs in the Men’s first-grade competition, the club that finishes on the bottom of the table will be relegated to NPL2 for the 2020 season, making the numbers in NPL1 an even eight clubs.

Then, commencing in 2020, the winner of the NPL2 competition will be promoted to the NPL1 set-up.

The introduction of this new format has been unanimously well-received by the Canberra football scene.

Participating club coaches in the Charity Shield final, Luka Udjur from Canberra FC and Marcial Munoz from Gungahlin United sung the praises of the exciting new format.

Udjur is looking forward to the added level of competitiveness that the new promotion and relegation NPL format can bring, especially after being demonstrated across leagues in Europe.

“It’s obviously a fantastic thing, promotion and relegation creates an environment where only the fittest survive,” said Udjur.

“It gives those clubs that are in the lower tiers the ability to realise their aspirations to get promoted and what they need to do to make that happen.”

“It also puts those clubs struggling in the top-tier on notice. They have to pick up their game, if they don’t, they’ll be relegated and they’ll have to pay the price – I think it’s a good thing,” he continued.

Gungahlin United Coach Munoz also shared these sentiments.

“Promotion and relegation is a very exciting concept. It will make sure that clubs are always on their game because there is that constant reward or punishment factor at the end,” said Munoz.

The new NPL format follows talk of the potential restructuring of the national A-League competition, with suggestions that CEO David Gallop could introduce promotion and relegation to the competition within the next ten years.

The Charity Shield gives a good indication of form leading into the season by getting to look at new player recruits. Unfortunately, only Canberra FC and Gungahlin United’s playing squad rosters have been finalised so far heading into the season.

Canberra FC has also made a number of new signings, recruiting damaging midfielder Daniel Colbertaldo to further strengthen the side in 2019.

“We’ve obviously brought in ‘Colby’, he’s come over from Olympic. He’s experienced in the midfield role and brings us that professionalism and a levelheadedness which takes years to get to that level,” said Udjur.

“We’ve got competition for places and that what drives the team to go forward, which is something we’ve tried to instil this year.”

Canberra FC has also brought in Canberra United National Youth League strikers Lucas Mauragis and Nikola Jadric.

“They bring a sense of enthusiasm and they’re keen in everything that they do. They also drive the older guys to perform at a certain level – which is very good.”

The club will have to fill the void of losing 2018 Men’s NPL Golden Boot winner Thomas James to the Wollongong Wolves, who scored 19 goals for the side.

“We don’t have ‘TJ’ this year, so our philosophy and the way we want to play needs to change to adjust with that.”

Some other notable player departures for Canberra FC this season come in the form of Kofi Danning, who has moved to Olympic FC, and Ross Costanzo who exited to Gungahlin United.

“Kofi Denning moved on to Olympic, which is a bit of a surprise for us. I think Kofi is an experienced player and he would’ve added a lot of value to our midfield.”

The Deakin side had a near flawless 2018 season that saw them bring in three pieces of silverware.

In the league, Canberra FC finished the home and away season with twelve wins, two draws and two losses, while recording a whopping goal-difference of plus 33.

However, head coach Luka Ujdur has stressed to his team the importance of consistent hard work and that the team can’t rest on its laurels from last season.

“We’ve been working hard on putting that aside and saying that is what we’ve done last season, this is a new season,” said Udjur.

“We’ve got a new philosophy on how we want to play and what we want to do. I hope that’s pretty evident in our first game and throughout the season.”

On the other hand, Gungahlin has recruited strategically to suit their needs for the upcoming season, raiding Canberra Olympic to sign Michael John, Bernard Rene and Torren Blanch, as well as Samuel Habtemariam from Belconnen United, Jeremy Habtemariam from Canberra FC and re-signing former player Josh Gaspari.

Gungahlin United have had their fair share of player departures in the off-season too, with David Jenkins, Michael Rinaudo and Ben Basser-Silk all exiting to the Monaro Panthers, while Tom Krklec and Jason O’Dwyer have decided to move away from the game this year.

Despite losing the Charity Shield final, Gungahlin United are hoping they can bounce back to their former winning ways.

The North-Canberra side finished the 2018 season in 6th position on the ladder, with a minor-round record of four wins, four draws and eight losses.

However, the 2019 season is one that is holding a lot of promise for Gungahlin, with the club hoping to return to finals football following a year outside the top four.

Gungahlin United head coach Munoz is confident his team can bounce straight back to the form that saw them finish in the third position in 2017, following a frustrating 2018 season where the team failed to make the finals.

“We’ve always looked at ourselves as a highly competitive club and the aim is always to push into the top four spots,” said Munoz.

If Gungahlin United want to move up the ladder in 2019 they must find a new way to consistently score goals. Last season the side could only manage 21 goals for the year – with a goal difference of negative four. While in 2017, the team didn’t fare much better, registering 32 goals with a level goal difference.

“We have struggled in the last couple years to score a substantial amount of goals, hence the reason why we went out to recruit strikers in particular, to make sure we are far more effective in front of goal,” said Munoz

New signing, Michael John, might just be the answer for Gungahlin in 2019. Last season, the former Canberra Olympic striker scored 12 goals in 15 games, finishing runner-up in the Men’s NPL Golden Boot award.

Munoz has faith that his side can fix the scoring woes and improve the team’s goal difference that has been plaguing Gungahlin for the last two seasons.

“I have absolutely no doubt that they’re going to do a good job for us in that regard. We have the right mix of players up front who are hungrier and who have got more experience in the top flight,” said Munoz.

Gungahlin United have a Bye for the first round of the season, giving them extended pre-season preparation before facing Canberra Olympic in round two at O’Connor (Sunday 14th of April at 3pm).

“The bye bothers us a little bit, we would like to hit the ground running straight away. I don’t see it as an extra week of preparation, I see it as another week of pre-season that goes by and we just have to do everything exactly the same as we have been doing,” said Munoz.

Posted by NPL Capital Football on Thursday, 21 March 2019


CHAMPIONS: Canberra FC – it’s hard to look past the talented squad that Canberra FC posses. The additions of new signings have only bolstered the squad’s strength and barring any major injuries or misfortunes one would think the club will go on to be champions again in 2019.

TOP 4 (FINALS): 1. Canberra FC, 2. Canberra Olympic, 3. Gungahlin United, 4. Tuggeranong United – While Canberra FC should most-likely finish first on the ladder in 2019, Canberra Olympic will be hoping to bounce back following their 2-1 2018 Grand Final defeat. With Gungahlin’s new signings, as well as their decent pre-season form, the club should except to leap up from their 6th position of last year. Tuggeranong United should round out the top four, following on from their successful 2018 campaign finishing fourth on the ladder with eight wins and being eliminated from the semi-finals after an unlucky penalty shootout loss.

RELEGATED: Monaro Panthers/Riverina Rhinos – Both clubs have historically struggled in the men’s first-grade competition in Canberra. With the Panthers finishing in last position in 2018 with only nine points, while the Rhinos finished second last with 13 points, both clubs will have to dramatically improve in season 2019 to avoid relegation to the NPL2 competition.

Round One Fixtures:

Friday – 7:00pm @ Deakin Stadium | Canberra FC v Canberra Olympic FC

Saturday – 5:00pm @ Solar Mad Stadium | Riverina Rhinos v Monaro Panthers FC

Saturday – 7:30pm @ Melrose Synthetic – Pearce | Woden-Weston FC v Belconnen United FC

Sunday– 3:00pm @ Nijong Oval|Cooma Tigers FC v Tuggeranong United FC

Bye | Gungahlin United


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