Floreat Athena: Into 2016
Report by Jonathan Cook
Infographics: Adrian Petrilli
Floreat Athena were a revelation in 2015 season, surprising almost everyone and looking the most likely to challenge Bayswater City before slipping to third on the final day of the season.
But now the secret is out coach Glen Grostate faces a different challenge. It’s one he won’t be shying away from, even though, publicly at least, he’s setting a conservative target.
“I’ve extended the squad more than last year,” Grostate said. “Last year, we had 12, 13 or 14 players and this year we’ll have 18, who I can rotate at any stage.
“For me, I’ve got to be looking at the top half of the table. I’m not going to say we’re going to win it. But relegation won’t come into the equation.”
There is a great deal to admire in last season’s McInerney Ford Gold Medal winner Ludo Boi, who blends creativity and goal-scoring with a dogged and determined attitude that speaks volumes for his work ethic. Again, Boi will be a key to Floreat’s hopes, although there remains depth of experience throughout the squad.
The likes of Bobby Wilson, Kris Gate, Lewis McMahon, Phil Arnold, Jon Stynes, Dennis Galan, Blair Govan and Clayton Arnez are knowledgeable and experienced campaigners.
Grostate has also added Chris and Jason Saldaris, as well as Bayswater midfielder Declan Hargreaves, off-setting, in some way, the departure of Aryn Williams, Grostate’s nephew who left Floreat to climb a higher rung and join Hyundai A-League side Perth Glory.
“Robbie Gaspar coming back into the fold, looking fit and sharp, will make a difference as well with his professionalism,” Grostate said.
The sum total of Floreat’s parts is an experienced and exceptional side that many pundits believe will again give them the edge to be the most likely team to threaten Bayswater’s dominance.
Certainly, Grostate was disappointed his side were not afforded an opportunity to challenge Bayswater in the QBE Night Series final after Floreat’s controversial exit at the semi-final stage.
Floreat had been leading Stirling Lions 2-0 in the semi-final before the dismissal of two players left them undermanned and under pressure. They eventually lost 3-2 and Stirling progressed to a final they lost 1-0 to Bayswater.
Grostate believes Floreat’s refusal to wilt in that semi-final highlighted the nature of the squad.
“We’ve got a group that has to be the best team off the pitch,” he said. “They live together, they play together, they drink together, they work together and they’re great guys.”