NPL Preview: Juniors on the road, Calder hosts Bulleen

Western United Academy

Western United’s Senior Academy teams will enjoy a week off this weekend, but there are still big games for the Junior Academy outfits and for Calder United.

Western United Junior Academy Match Details

JBNPL 1 Round 16

Sunday, 6 August

Under 14’s: Moreland City FC vs Western United, 10:00am kick-off, Campbell Reserve

Under 15’s: Brimbank Stallions vs Western United, 11:30am kick-off, Club Italia Sporting Club

Under 16’s: Caroline Springs George Cross vs Western United, 1:15pm kick-off, City Vista Pavilion and Sports Field

Under 18’s: Port Melbourne vs Western United, 1:30pm kick-off, JL Murphy Reserve

Last time out

All four Western United teams scored big wins last week as each side took on Melbourne City in a mini Melbourne derby day.

The Under 14’s started the day with a 3-1 win before the Under 15’s triumphed 3-0 and the Under 16’s and Under 18’s both won 2-1.

Goals from Winston Ashburner and Jordan Vonja leave them level atop the golden boot standings in the Under 14’s competition while Oscar Tanic and Christian Dermentzoglou enjoyed an outstanding weekend, scoring for the Under 18’s after finding the net the day before for the Under 21’s.

Charles Hoskins kept a clean sheet for the Under 15’s while the Under 16’s side moved to within three points of Melbourne City in the top three places on the table.

The season so far for our Junior Academy sides

In this inaugural year of the Junior Academy teams at Western United, the Club has been extremely pleased with the growth and development of the newest members of the Green and Black family.

Each team has picked up fantastic results, with all four squads qualifying for JBNPL 1 through the pre-qualification phase and now sitting in the top five places in their respective age divisions.

Aside from results, Under 15’s head coach Kogulan Sabaratnam has been delighted with the opportunities presented to players to extend themselves in higher age groups.

“The highlight so far this year has been the ability to promote five players in the Undder-16 group and providing opportunities for the Under 14’s players to step up and compete at a higher level,” he said.

“This demonstrates one of our core values of ‘Growth’. Growth and development are at the forefront of the Junior Academy, and it has been pleasing to see players rise to the occasion.

“All the Junior Academy staff should be proud of the quality environment created and the opportunities provided to our young footballers.”

Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, Sabaratnam said that the team’s commitment to winning will continue to start with the work put in on the training pitch.

“The group are determined to win. Winning, however, is a byproduct of the hard work we put in at training,” he said.

“In our recent team culture meeting, we focused on processes to grind out results. So, our focus until the end of the season is to train as hard as possible, knowing that results will come.

“Given that we can perform as desired, putting as much pressure on the teams above us and building on the momentum we have created will be our focus over the next seven weeks.”

Keeping pressure on the teams above is particularly pertinent to Max Clarke and the Under 18’s, with just a four-point gap separating them in second place from Melbourne Victory in first.

With seven matches remaining, every point that United can pick up could prove pivotal in the outcome of the league title, and Clarke said he is challenging the team to double down on its commitment until the end of the campaign.

“The players’ main focus is picking up points, hoping to close to the gap and finish the season on top of the table,” he said.

“For the coaching staff, we want to see players not lose focus and motivation towards the end of the season, but rather find a new wind and improve on areas of their game.

“As well as this, the ultimate goal as a coach is to see the team continue to build their playing style, continually showing what it is to be a Western United team.”

Clarke said he has witnessed his team “come a long way” since the beginning of the 2023 season, improving significantly in both their motivation and their principles of play.

“This desire to improve has stemmed from an inviolable team bond, as well as the players having high levels of intrinsic motivation to become the best versions of themselves,” he said.

Both coaches will be eager for another three points this weekend to continue challenging at the top of the league into the final third of the season.

Calder United meets Bulleen Lions to start big week

With the NIKE F.C. Cup Final coming next week, Calder United will continue in league action over the catch-up round this weekend.

With FC Bulleen Lions looming in the Final next Sunday, both sides will fight for bragging rights when they meet in NPLW Victoria at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve this Saturday.

Calder are continuing to look upwards from fourth place on the table, with South Melbourne one point ahead in third and Bulleen only a further four points clear in first place.

The two sides played out a tight 1-1 draw back in May and will be eager to get one over the other a week out from the cup final.

Calder’s Under 19’s will look to shore up a place in the top four, with a win over Bulleen set to open up an unassailable seven point gap between the two sides heading into the final round.

Match Details

NPLW Victoria Round 21

Calder United vs FC Bulleen Lions

Saturday, 5 August

Kick-off: 1:00pm (Under 19’s), 3:00pm (Senior’s)

Keilor Park Recreation Reserve, Keilor Park

Broadcast: The Senior’s match will be streamed live and free on NPL.tv