Here We Go, Here We Go - NPL Kicks Off in Style
Over 1200 members of the Queensland football family turned out at Spencer Park on Friday night as Brisbane City played host to Olympic FC on a hugely successful opening night for the National Premier Leagues in Brisbane.
Olympic took the honours 6-2 in the feature match, with former Brisbane Roar striker Tim Smits scoring a double for the Yeronga-based club as well as earning the penalty that sealed the result for the visitors.
Luke Howell and Jai Ingham opened the scoring before goals either side of half-time to Eric Frazier levelled terms for City. However, the more experienced Olympic side overran their hosts in the final twenty minutes to net four further goals.
Olympic skipper Danny Byrne (pictured) also netted a brace in his first match wearing the captain’s arm band, however, he also found time to exemplify the inclusiveness of the NPL concept by coaching the U12’s in the curtain raiser fixture – a game that City took out 3-0 before the bumper Spencer Park crowd.
“It’s one of the biggest crowds the boys will play in front of this season and they were all very excited,” Byrne said of his under-12's post-game.
“The tradition of City against Olympic, it’s a big game no matter what level is playing and both clubs have done themselves proud in the two matches tonight.”
“I saw most of my boys and the City boys stay to watch the seniors and anything that keeps the kids interested and involved is good for the future of the game.”
Byrne also conceded his two goal haul might give him a touch more authority amongst his young charges. “Hopefully they’ll listen to me just that bit more now,” he joked.
Speaking about the seniors, Byrne called it a “gritty performance.”
“It was a lovely pitch but not the best weather with the rain. We scored two early goals and City did well to come back, but it shows the determination of our lads and how strong our side is this year and the scores a credit to us.”
The evening also featured a launch featuring representatives from Football Federation Australia, Football Queenslan and the twelve National Premier Leagues clubs. A throng of football media personalities were also in attendance as well as Brisbane Roar players Thomas Broich and James Meyer.
Prior to kick-off players from all the NPL clubs were presented to the crowd in their full playing kits.
Football Queensland President Dennis O’Brien spoke glowingly of the future of the NPL, “The NPL is important for everyone in Queensland – no one person owns the game, but we are all responsible for it.”
“This is a FFA initiative and Queensland has in many ways lead the way,” O’Brien explained. “There’s a long way to go though, so we need all your support.”
“There are still some doubters out there and as much as (administrators) can do it also the responsibility of the NPL clubs to work with their communities to make sure the doubters understand that this competition is here to stay and here to improve football right across Australia.”
Brisbane City Director Kevin Booker was eager to point out his club’s support of the NPL competition and it’s aim of restoring the glory to the country’s iconic football clubs such as City and Olympic.
“We’ve had a 1.2 million dollar upgrade to our facility and there’s a lot of excitement about the NPL. It’s finally here and people are supporting it in droves.”
“A number of our older members have been in contact with us waxing lyrical about how it’s great to see the old girl back to its glory days.”
“There’s a lot of excitement about where we’re going and the first steps we are taking on this journey.”
“One of the great things about the NPL is that we are going to see that club v club mentality – we’re going to have under-12’s to seniors playing every weekend. That will bring more people to the sport and make the game more attainable to the community.”
One of those in attendance was former Fiji international Sam Dean, who took time off work to watch his son Shaquille take the field for Olympic in the under-12’s.
“For your kid you’ll do anything. If I missed the first game, I mean how would he feel if his dad wasn’t here to watch?” Dean explained.
“Also, I just love to see the kids play. One of the boys tonight performed a bicycle kick – that’s something I couldn’t do at that age.”
Dean was well aware of the elite player pathway the NPL provides and summed up the competition’s development mantra: “These kids are clearly going to be the future of the A-League clubs and the Socceroos.”
The opening round continues this weekend with Saturday evening featuring Far North Queensland against Northern Fury in Cairns and Central Queensland FC versus Sunshine Coast FC in Rockhampton.
Three fixtures will be played on Sunday: Moreton Bay Jets host Palm Beach Sharks, Western Pride welcome Queensland Academy of Sport and Brisbane Strikers do battle with Redlands United at the famous Perry Park.
National Premier Leagues action returns to Spencer Park next Saturday when Brisbane City host the first double header of the season. Redlands United and Far North Queensland play in the early kick-off at 5PM before City play host to Brisbane Strikers at 7:30PM.
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland) / Images: Ian Judd (Aqua PD)