It’s been an interesting and competitive winter of football across the state with some good football played. As things stand, there’s just five rounds remaining in the 2016 Regular Season, and FNQ Heat have a one point lead at the top of the table, while early pace-setting Redlands United falling to fifth. There are also at least six genuine contenders for finals places, with two others perhaps considered outsiders at this stage which should ensure that there’s plenty of excitement to come. Here’s the current table ahead of this weekends games.
1st- Far North Queensland Heat (35pts)
Recent form- DWLWW.
Run in- Roar Youth (a), Redlands United (h), Brisbane Strikers (a), Moreton Bay United (a), SWQ Thunder (h).
Leading the way going into the final weeks of the season, the Heat have been consistent and currently hold the leagues second best defensive record with five clean sheets so far. Striker Jamie Carroll also leads the race for the Golden Boot with 13 goals for the season. Form on the road this season has been a big part of the Heat’s success this campaign with five wins out of seven, and they’ll need to continue that form away from home to hold onto the top spot with big clashes against the Strikers and Moreton Bay to come between now and the end of the season.
This weekend sees FNQ travel down to the Cleveland Showgrounds tomorrow afternoon to take on the Young Roar in a game which is a must win for the visitors. In the first meeting this season the Heat won a tight contest at Barlow Park 2-1, and if they’re going to maintain the charge towards home field advantage in the finals they have to avoid any slip-ups against a young Roar side which has been depleted in recent weeks due to call-ups to the A-League squad.
2nd- Brisbane Strikers (34pts)
Recent form- LWDWW
Run in- Sunshine Coast (a), Western Pride (h), FNQ Heat (h), Northern Fury (a), Brisbane City (h).
Despite going on a strong run of form over recent months where the Strikers became a genuine chance to take out the Premiership, they lost last weekend to the rapidly improving Olympic at home. Their strong form has been built upon having the leagues best defence this season, while the 12 goals from off-season recruit Rhys Meredith have ensured plenty of wins from the Albion based club.
The Strikers chances of picking up their first piece of silverware in the four seasons of the NPL Queensland are boosted by a favourable draw which will see them play three of their final five games at home. The round 20 clash against FNQ could well end up being the Premiership decider, while this weekend they face a potentially tricky trip up to Kawana to take on the stubborn yet inconsistent Sunshine Coast.
3rd-Gold Coast City (30pts)
Recent form- DLWWW
Run in- SWQ Thunder (a), Brisbane City (h), Olympic FC (a), Young Roar (h), Sunshine Coast (h).
City are arguably the inform team currently with a string of impressive wins in the last month, headlined by a comprehensive 4-0 score line against league leading FNQ. Results like that are a big part of the reason why they have the best attack in the league with 42 goals so far this year. The form of ex Brisbane Roar midfielder Ben Litfin -11 goals in 16 games- this season ensures that Gold Coast have one of if not the best player in the league this season.
Despite being five points back of FNQ with as many games to play, the remaining games offer great opportunity for City push for at worst a top two finish with just the one game against a side currently in the top 4 between now and the finals. This weekend’s trip to the improved but slumping SWQ Thunder who haven’t won in their last five games should result in three points which will push them closer to the top two
4th- Brisbane City (28pts)
Recent form- DWLLW
Run in- Northern Fury (h), Gold Coast City (a), Young Roar (a), Redlands United (h), Brisbane Strikers (a).
It’s been a mixed season for fourth placed Brisbane City who were expected to be amongst the contenders at the start of the season followed by a strong off-season recruitment campaign which included manager John Kosmina. While they still may end up playing in the finals series, their participation is less than certain, with City having Redlands sharp decline in recent weeks for the current presence in the top four.
City’s presence in the finals is even less certain when you look at their run in, with clashes against Gold Coast and the Strikers –both on the road- to come between now and the end of the season. The crunch game however could be the penultimate clash for the season when City host 5th placed Redlands.
5th Redlands United (27pts)
Recent form- LLWLL
Run in – Western Pride (h), FNQ (a), Northern Fury (h), Brisbane City (a), Young Roar (h)
Redlands season started off in spectacular fashion with seven wins from the opening eleven games which saw the Bayside club top of the table and into the FFA Cup for the first time. Since they clinched qualification last month against BPL side Rochedale Rovers they have won just one of their last five games, a run which has seen them drop out of the top four.
Despite being on the outside looking in before the round got underway, the chances that Redlands move back into the top four are strong. Clashes against Pride, Northern Fury and the Young Roar offer chances to accumulate points, while the penultimate round clash against Brisbane City could seal their spot.
6th- Olympic FC (25pts)
Recent form- WWLWW
Run in- Moreton Bay (a), SWQ Thunder (a), Gold Coast City (h), Sunshine Coast (h), Western Pride (h)
Olympics’ season is best categorised in two parts- pre Kirkham and with Kirkham. After Olympic spluttered out of the game with just two wins from the opening eight games, manager Jim Bellos moved into an front office role which allowed the club from Brisbane’s South Side to appoint BPL winning manager Terry Kirkham as manager.
With Kirkham at the helm, Olympic have gone from the basement of the table to sixth and a genuine chance of fourth straight finals berth, with the side winning six games out of nine since his appointment. The run in is also favourable for Olympic, with just one clash against a top four side between now and the finals and three straight home games to end the campaign. Tomorrow nights trip to Moreton Bay could be pivotal in outlining their finals hopes.
7th- Moreton Bay United (24pts)
Recent form- LWLLD
Run in- Olympic FC (h), Sunshine Coast (h), Western Pride (a), FNQ Heat (h), Northern Fury (h).
Last seasons defending Champions have played some good football at times this campaign, consistency however is what sees United on the outside looking in at the finals race. Just two wins from seven home games and five from 16 all told this season outlines the lack of consistency, while star striker Royce Brownlies’ lack of goals this season –just five this season compared to 14 in 2015- is also a factor in Moreton Bay’s malaise.
Despite their inconsistency they still remain a chance of defending their title due to their favourable schedule with four of their final five games at their Wolter Park base. There is however little room for error, and anything less than a win over 6th placed Olympic tomorrow night will likely end their finals hopes.
8th- Sunshine Coast FC (24pts)
Recent form- LDWWW
Run in- Brisbane Strikers (h), Moreton Bay United (a), SWQ Thunder (h), Olympic FC (a), Gold Coast City (h).
After undergoing a coaching change right on the eve of the season, Sunshine Coast have performed admirably this season, with results improving along the way. Despite their three straight wins and being just four games behind 4th placed Brisbane City they remain an outsider in terms of a top 4 finish with a tough run in to close out the season including a home game against second placed Brisbane Strikers on Sunday.
9th- Brisbane Roar Youth (22pts)
Recent form- DLWWW
Run in- FNQ Heat (h), Northern Fury (a), Brisbane City (h), Gold Coast City (a), Redlands (a).
Development and results are of course the primary goal of the Young Roar who are ineligible for the finals series, and in terms of player development it’s another strong campaign for the Roar with seven members of the Roar NPL side are currently training with the A-League side.
Striker Nicholas D’Agostino, whose 10 goals this season ranks him amongst the leaders in the Golden Boot chase sees him as the most likely to earn a professional contract with the Roar, while the likes of Mark Rodic, Joseph Champness and Jayden Prasad are also in contention. Result wise it’s been a solid year for the Roar, whose form at their nominal home Cleveland Showgrounds has been particularly strong.
10th- South West Queensland Thunder (20pts)
Recent form- LLLLD
Run in- Gold Coast City (h), Olympic FC (h), Sunshine Coast (a), Western Pride (a), FNQ Heat (a)
Despite being 10th on the table, this is already the best season to date for the Toowoomba side with six wins a vast improvement on previous seasons. Most of those victories however occurred in the early phase of the season, with a form slump which has seen the Thunder go on a five game winless streak to end any hopes of a push for the finals.
11th- Western Pride FC (15pts)
Recent form- DLDLD
Run in- Redlands United (a), Strikers (a), Moreton Bay (h), SWQ Thunder (h), Olympic FC (a).
It’s been another below average season to date for Western Pride, who are destined to miss finals for a fourth successive season. While the Pride’s away form has solid, it’s at home where they’ve let themselves down with just one win from nine home games this season which has left them in the bottom two this campaign. Pride however could play a big part in the finals race with clashes against Redlands, Strikers, Moreton Bay and Olympic to come before the end of the season.
12th- Northern Fury (2pts)
Recent form- LDDLL
Run in- Brisbane City (a), Young Roar (h), Redlands United (a), Brisbane Strikers (h), Moreton Bay (a)
Rounding out the table is Townsville based Northern Fury who’ve had by far their worst record in their four season existence in the competition. While Fury have never previously contended for a finals berth, they had however been improving in previous seasons, with a respectable 8th placed finish last campaign. This season however they are the only winless side in the competition, and with a tough run in, it’s unlikely to change between now and the end of the season despite being on a two game unbeaten run.
It’s shaping up as an interesting conclusion to the 2016 season and the race to see who will represent the state in the national NPL Finals Series at the conclusion of the season is hotting up. Over the course of the remainder of the season, we’ll keep you up to date as the business end of the season approaches.