- THE GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY | We rate the playing kit of all nine WPL clubs
Welcome to the Central Western Daily's official season preview for the 2021 Western Premier League.
This year the soccer competition will comprise of nine teams, three from Dubbo, two from Orange and one apiece from Lithgow, Bathurst, Mudgee and Parkes.
Newcomers to this year's competition will be Mudgee Gulgong Wolves and the Orange Waratahs.
But will they, or anyone else, be able to knock off the Dubbo Bulls who come into the season as defending premiers?
Let's find out.
SQUAD: Bryce Deaton, Matt Walker, Brooklyn Crain, Cameron Kopp, Steve Howlett, Isaac Skinner, Justin Pickering, Connor Crain, Brad Matiuscenko, Aeedan Todhunter, Rhys Osborne, Glen Shein, Justin Sutton, Marty Jeffery, Jarryd Abbott, Will Hodges, Brad Turner, Matt Hull, Tyler Austin.
COACH: Paul Craine
CLUB SAYS: From the words of coach Craine himself, last year's minor premiers have had a "horror" pre-season. Injuries to Cameron Kopp, Aeedan Todhunter, Connor Crain and Isaac Skinner have put them behind the eight ball. To make things harder, they will kick off the year against the Bulls in a local derby that could set the tone for the year.
Their goal? To scrape into the top five, which may be a tough ask following the departure of Jesse Spang, who led the league with 13 goals last season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Rhys Osborne will once again captain Macquarie, and if ever there was a time to lead from the front, it is now.
2020 FINISH: Minor premiers
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: Sixth and a near miss of the finals.
SQUAD: Adam Brackenridge, Adam Kelly, Andrew Vogler, Bastien Fougerolle, Christian Ramos, Conner Stewart, Craig Sugden, Drew Apps, Guy Burgess, Jackson Sinclair, Jayden Slater, Leigh Miller, Matt Pugh, Niall Gibb, Ryan Hutton, Ryan Sinclair, Tim Kelly, Trent French, Adam Scimone
COACH: Adam Scimone
CLUB SAYS: Expectations are high for the Waratahs who make their return to the WPL this year. The Orange club is one of just three competing in this year's tournament who have ever been crowned WPL champions (four times), alongside Bulls (four times) and Orana Spurs (once). Coach Scimone believes it will be the reigning champions who will be the team to watch out for, but floated newcomers Mudgee and last year's wooden spooners Parkes as clubs to keep an eye on.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Niall Gibb has made the way over from England this season and could be the x-factor Waratahs need.
2020 FINISH: Not in the league
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: Second and a grand final loss
SQUAD: Marcus Tieppo, Joe Kocanda, Ethan Mackay, Ben Giumelli, Dylan Halls, Brock Logan, Duncan Logan, James Hamilton, Jackson Fuda, Tyler Mendham, Grant Koch, Alex Elliott, Jared Kerr, Lachie Peet, Lachie Mchatton, Brendan Reilly, Luca Ross
COACH: Josh Ward
CLUB SAYS: Barnies are hoping to surprise teams this year. Coach Ward says they will be playing a new formation for the upcoming season, something that "nobody has probably seen" them play before. After coming agonisingly close to making the top five last year, Barnies will look to the road games where they can steal some points.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Brendan Reilly is a former NPL1 player and although the heights of his game may be in the past, the bruising defender will look to stamp his authority out in the Central West.
2020 FINISH: 5th out of 7
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: Seventh and once again watching finals from the side-lines.
SQUAD: Alex Bateson, Daniel Clark, Haiden Clark, Marty Doherty, Ryan Dunn, Lachlan Hando, Mitch Hutchings, Jimmy Kuntze, Blake Medlyn, Brent Morgan, Sean Noble, Adam Parker, Shane Percy, Brent Tucker, Hayden Westcott, Jayden Wirth
COACH: Meaghan Kempson
CLUB SAYS: They have come into this year with one of the most valuable things a team can have, consistency. Parkes have retained a majority of their squad from the 2020 campaign, something captain Brent Tucker believes will propel them into a finals push.
"Last year we lost a lot of close games, so this year grinding out those wins in close games and getting good results is key to make a top four push."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Mitch Hutchings has been a staple of the Parkes soccer community for many years and will make his return to the WPL side for this season.
2020 FINISH: Last place
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: 3rd and the biggest jump forward for any side from 2020.
Last year we lost a lot of close games, so this year grinding out those wins in close games and getting good results is key to make a top four push.Parkes skipper Brent Tucker
SQUAD: Bailey Delany, Josh Allan, Connor MacDonald, David Ferguson, Lockie Taylor, Joel Tongue, Duncan Cahill, Jared Corby, Duncan Ferguson, Justin Gibson, Angus Cusack, Ben Manson, Jordan Bailey, Bailey McCabe, Jake Clarke, Aidan Shields, Brodie Caton
COACH: Benjamin Manson and Jared Corby
CLUB SAYS: It is a self-admitted rebuild season for Spurs. They are looking to increase the club's numbers to help stabilise the group which also has teams competing in their local first and second grade competitions, as well as under 17s. Reaching the top four would be a job well done.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Striker Justin Gibson has joined the club for the 2021 season after previously plying his trade at Dubbo's Newtown Soccer Club. With no WPL side of their own, Gibson wanted to test himself against the best and has been a goal-scoring machine so far this pre-season.
2020 FINISH: 6th out of 7
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: Second from the bottom in 8th place.
SQUAD: Nathan Davis, Jack Sargeant, Ryan Peacock, Thomas Dale, William Fitzpatrick, Jarred Theodore Portegies, Jaiden Culbert, Jarvis Callan-Mckechnie, Jade Hadfield, Brad Campbell, Beau Yates, Ricky Guihot
COACH: Brent Osborne
CLUB SAYS: They will be a new-look outfit this year, after losing more than half-a-dozen players from the 2020 campaign. A club with great expectations, they have one goal and that is to win the WPL
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ricky Guihot will make his long-awaited return to the club, after a lengthy spell on the side-lines due to injury and has been hailed as a "massive pick-up."
2020 FINISH: 3rd out of 7
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: 5th place, sneaking into the finals, a good result.
SQUAD: Brad Luka, Martin Hunter, Sam Jenings, Aizen Takahira, Jordan Fordham, Daniel Stern, Daniel Bosman, Logan Inwood, Kade Inwood, Chris Goodman, Peter Bourk, Jack Jones, Brett Matthews Rye Gibbs-Minner, Jimmy Gibbs-Minner, Matt Nunan
COACH: Brad Luka
CLUB SAYS: Although they have seen a few of their more experienced players leave the club, they are bringing through the youth to try and replace them. But they have had a dreadful pre-season so far, losing a trial game to fellow WPL side Waratahs 5-0, before losing their recent FFA Cup clash to the same score line. Coach Luka is hopeful of a grand final appearance, but we will see just how realistic that is.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jordan Fordham has been a staple of the Workies club for years now, and has also consistently proved himself to be one of the best on the park. Keep an eye on him to have a standout year for the underdogs.
2020 FINISH: 5th out of 7
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: A wooden spoon finish for Workies
MUDGEE GULGONG WOLVES
SQUAD: Andy Fotheringham, Zachary Dowler, David Hagtharp, Chase Taylor-Lucas, Isaac Gallagher, Aidan Carr, Lindsay Henderson, Stephen Ross, Angus Haack, Christopher Clegg, Ezekiel Bromley, Harrison Maynard, Zyron Davies, Dillon Price, Cooper Rowe, Nathan Salomoni, Braeden Stewart, Joshua Hurt, Michael Glisic, Joel Albrecht, Connor Whale, Mark Fergus, Matt Johanson, Kyle Jackson, Archie Roberts, Reece Little, Gurpreet Singh, Dom Sebelic, Jord Richards, Will Hawkins, Sam Evans, Finn Woodsmith, Zane Bowmaker, Harrison Cole, Dylan Cole, Dylan Dubbelde, Ewan Skinner, Nathaniel Lowe, Will Glass, Ahmed Odeh
COACH: Harry Hall, Jason Payne, Chad Bowmaker.
CLUB SAYS: The key to their year will be coaching, coaching and more coaching. Harry Hall will be part of a three-headed decision making monster for the Wolves and he comes from the UK as a registered UEFA B licensed coach. With a new group of players on the park, it will be imperative that those on the side-lines are able to provide clear instruction, otherwise they could be in for a long year.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Having a stabilising pair of hands between the sticks can be the difference between an average campaign and a great one. For Wolves, it will be Andy Fotheringham who will start the year as first-choice keeper and may well have his work cut out for him as the rest of the squad looks to gel on the field.
2020 FINISH: Not in the league
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: 4th place for the WPL newcomers
SQUAD: Hayden Williams, Tom McKeon, James Leonard, Tim McLachlan, Alex Richardson, Tom Busch, Kobe Rapley, Kane Settree, Gareth Williams, Brody Austin, Matthew Lovedee, Anthony Martin, Nelson Flick, MItchell Bestwick, Dylan Jarvis
COACH: James Leonard/Kobe Rapley
CLUB SAYS: The defending champions say their roster is looking good with a few new additions set to ensure there's little-to-no complacency from the Bulls squad in 2021. Tom McEwen and Anthony Martin are returning Bulls back to the WPL fold after a year off while Mitch Bestwick heads four new additions to the club. Skipper Scott Fox says the goal is the same as it is every time the club takes to the pitch: win.
"Top two is a good place to be, making the semi-finals; that's the path for us. We finish fifth of lower and it would be considered a failure, this season."
He added a home semi-final is the initial carrot being dangled in front of this year's squad, one that'll change up its formation a little this winter in order to keep players fresh. He said those in orange this year will keep striving to ensure it's the Bulls on top again this season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Thomas Busch is only a young player, but he's caught the eye of those that matter in Dubbo. Season 2021 will be his third year in the top grade, but it's also shaping as a break-out year. Fox says Busch has "been the man" in pre-season and they'll be looking to give the 20-year-old rising star a chance to shine in the mid-field.
2020 FINISH: Second place in regular season and finals champion
2021 PREDICTED FINISH: Minor premiers and a grand final win
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