We’ve reached the halfway point of the 2016 NPL Queensland season and there’s been some good football played and something of a surprise leader as we reach the halfway mark of the 2016 NPL Queensland with Cairns based Far North Queensland Heat leading the way. Here’s a look at how each side has gone so far in 2016 and what may lie ahead as we enter the second half of the season.
1st) Far North Queensland Heat (25pts)
Perhaps a surprise leader at the halfway mark, but the Cairns based club have returned to their best this season to lead the competition after 11 rounds. Road wins against Olympic, Western Pride and Brisbane City, in addition to 16 points out of 18 from games at home have seen the boys from the north rise to the top of the league.
In addition to their strong league form, FNQ find themselves just 90 minutes away from a third straight FFA Cup Round of 32 appearance, with only Rockhampton based Frenchville FC standing between the Heat and another appearance on the national stage. It’s been a good season so far for the Heat, who find themselves in prime position for a second finals appearance.
2nd) Brisbane Strikers (21pts)
The early season favourites have lived up to expectations so far in 2016 with a strong first half of the season which has secured a top two place at the time of writing. Despite picking up just two points from their opening three games, a run consisting of just one loss in eight saw the Albion based club rocket up the ladder. The form of off-season recruit Rhys Meredith has been a big part of their success this season with a league leading nine goals to his name.
Things are also going strongly in the FFA Cup although they face a tough task to secure a third successive spot in the Round of 32 with an away tie against Lions FC, who beat South Australian side MetroStars before going down in extra time against Perth Glory last time. All up though things are going well for the Strikers who find themselves positioned well heading into the second half of the season.
3rd) Redlands United (21pts)
A year ago, Redlands found themselves languishing in mid-table and struggling, however a 10 game winning streak catapulted them into the finals, and now they find themselves equal second on the table with seven wins from 10 games. The squad is a solid one with contributors all over the park making this arguably the most balanced team in the competition.
Redlands are also still alive in the FFA Cup and are favourites for their tie with Rochedale which would see them progress to the Round of 32 for the first time. In the league they stand an excellent chance of making finals once again, and with their game in hand against the Young Roar they could yet pick up some silverware in 2016.
4th) Gold Coast City (20pts)
It’s been another solid year from the re-branded Gold Coast City, who find themselves in the finals places once again at the halfway stage- albeit on goal difference ahead of Brisbane City. Their ability to pick up points on the road – two wins and three draws from 5 games- has been pivotal to being in the playoff race once again. The goal scoring form of midfielder Ben Litfin has been a big part of the success this season, with the former Brisbane Roar midfielder contributing nine goals so far this season.
A shock FFA Cup loss to local Gold Coast side Surfers Paradise Apollo ended their ambitions of a third run in the national club competition last month but a return to the finals this season is firmly on the agenda, and don’t rule out further silverware for the boys from the Coast.
5th) Brisbane City (20pts)
A lot was expected of the Newmarket based side due to their big off-season which saw the arrival of a new look playing staff and John Kosmina as manager, and after a first up loss to Moreton Bay things have gone reasonably well. The one bug bare for Kosmina will likely be the team’s home form, with just three wins from six games in the first half of the season.
Their FFA Cup hopes were dashed in round six with a loss at home to Redlands, however that will allow the focus to be on the league as they look to push on towards a first ever appearance in the finals series.
6th) Moreton Bay United (18pts)
Last season’s champions have dropped off slightly this season but they still remain in contention for a finals spot. The big difference from last season to this is the amount of goals scored, with Charles Mendy’s departure heavily felt and his former strike partner Royce Brownlie’s declining form with just three goals so far this season. The departure of Mendy and the lack of goals from Brownlie has however resulted in other players stepping up in front of goal, with the likes of Jordan Farina, Alex Janovsky and Scott Stewart combining for 11 goals so far in 2016.
A sixth round loss away to BPL side Rochedale ended their FFA Cup ambitions so the focus over the second half of the season will be to bridge the gap and secure a finals berth to give them a chance to defend their Championship. The seven point gap to current leaders FNQ Heat could prove a bridge too far in relation to defending their minor Premiership.
7th) South West Queensland Thunder (13pts)
The traditional strugglers of the competition have found their feet this season and find themselves pushing for a first ever finals berth. After picking up their first ever win in round 1 against the Fury, further victories against Redlands, Moreton Bay and league leading FNQ Heat sees them sitting comfortably in mid-table.
The form of off-season recruits Mustafa Jafari and Majok Piok is a big reason for their marked improvement. A loss to giant killing Gold Coast Premier League side Surfers Paradise Apollo ended their 2016 FFA Cup ambitions, but that allows the boys from Toowoomba to focus on the league, sitting just a handful of points outside the finals positions.
8th) Brisbane Roar Youth (12pts)
This season has seen the Roar remain a competitive side, with some impressive performances against the leagues better teams and they could arguably have been higher up the ladder with a bit of luck. Young Roar has a game in hand on the competition, with their match against Redlands postponed due to the Cleveland based sides friendly with New Zealand this past weekend.
The goal for the Young Roar however is of course more about the development of their young players as they seek to push for the A-League squad, and to that end they’ve achieved some positive results with the likes of defenders Cameron Crestani and Connor O’Toole, midfield Jesse Daley and attackers Joseph Champness and Nick D’Agostino providing bright sparks. Young left back O’Toole is the first of the group to earn a promotion to the A-League squad, however it’s likely a couple of the others will feature for the Roar in their A-League pre-season campaign.
9th) Western Pride (12pts)
Home form has once again proved to be the Achilles heel for Western Pride so far in 2016, with just the one win in seven home games to date. The form of striker Joseph Duckworth has been the bright spot for the Pride so far in 2016, with his 7 goals for the season putting him in the race for the competition golden boot.
It was another disappointment for the Pride in the FFA Cup, with another first round exit at the hands of BPL side Lions FC. That leaves the Ipswich based team in the predicament they’ve found themselves in regularly in recent seasons, with only an outside shot of making the finals entering the second half of 2016 and the Cup already beyond reach.
10th) Sunshine Coast FC (11pts)
A coaching change just days out from the start of the season threw their season into some degree of turmoil, and despite the pedigree of new boss Sam Saif in Queensland football it’s been a season of inconsistency for the Fire. The big problem so far in 2016 for Sunshine Coast has been goals, with just 11 goals in 11 games this season which is the lowest in the competition aside from bottom placed Northern Fury.
Despite their inconsistent league form, Sunshine Coast sit just 90 minutes away from a first ever appearance in the FFA Cup Round of 32, with only giant killing Surfers Paradise Apollo standing between them and a berth in the next round. That game looms as the Fire’s biggest game of the season, with the potential of a cup run being the highlight of the season as another league campaign is likely to end without a finals appearance.
11) Olympic FC (10pts)
The inaugural champions have seen a massive drop off this season and they look like missing the NPL Queensland finals for the first time in the competition’s history, which saw coach Jim Bellas move into a new role at the club based on Brisbane’s south side with former Peninsula Power boss Terry Kirkham taking over. Since the appointment of Kirkham ahead of the round 9 trip to the Gold Coast, Olympics fortunes have improved slightly with four points out of nine as the new boss begins to stamp his mark on the squad.
With their FFA Cup hopes dashed in round 5 by Brisbane Capital League side Moggill in the days preceding Kirkham’s appointment, the focus for the second half of the season will be on returning the club back to the top of the league, albeit any finals hopes look highly unlikely.
12th) Northern Fury (0pts)
It’s been a tough season so far for Ian Ferguson’ men, who find themselves at the foot of the table at the halfway mark. So far its 11 losses in as many games from the Townsville based side, who’ve conceded 37 goals but with some home games coming up against SWQ, Olympic and Sunshine Coast they’ll be looking to pick up their first points of the campaign.
With their finals hopes all but gone and their FFA Cup campaign recently ended at the hands of FNQ for the third straight year, it’s all about development now for Fergie’s side.
It’s shaping up as a big second half to the season, with six sides in the hunt for the finals series and at least five of those still in with a genuine chance of winning the Premiership and securing a berth in the NPL National Finals Series at the conclusion of the season. The Premiership race could also be influenced by clubs participating in the FFA Cup, with two of the clubs at the top a possibility of qualifying for the competition proper, and four teams overall remain in the hunt ahead of the final round of qualifying. Whatever happens it’s looming as an exciting winter of football as the season moves towards the business end.