Two new teams are set to join the Western Premier League (WPL) this season, as the competition's gears up for its biggest season yet.
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Orange CYMS and Bathurst '75 are set to join the ranks, with the WPL gearing up for a massive 11-team, 22-round competition in 2022.
There'll also be no defending premiers or minor premiers in 2022 after last year's season was curtailed one week before the play-offs because of the COVID-19 lockdown across NSW.
Orana Spurs was leading the competition ahead of Orange Waratahs heading into the final round, but because the Dubbo club hadn't mathematically secured top spot, WPL officials were unwilling to award the minor premiership.
Before the first ball is kicked-off, we take a look at the 11 teams who form part of this season's WPL and their title chances.
After starting last year on an up and down note, Barnies certainly came to the party in the back half of the season.
Had the finals gone ahead, they would have had a red-hot crack at using that fine form to grab a premiership.
Alas, that chance never came to fruition, but they're hungrier than ever for this.
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Duncan Logan, Brock Logan, Ben Giumelli, Michael Ayad, Alex Elliott, Dylan Halls, Tyler Mendham, Mitch Kunnen, Tim Dowler, Rowan Edwards, Jackson Fuda, Marcus Tieppo, Josh Ward, Charlie Ross, Jarvis Marat and Grant Koch
COACH: Josh Ward
CAPTAIN: Duncan Logan
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ben Giumelli and Duncan Logan
You won't find a player that works as hard for the team as Giumelli.
Duncan Logan is the heart and soul of the team. He had a great pre-season and is aging like a fine wine.
2021 FINISH: Fourth
PREDICTED FINISH: Seventh
Bathurst '75 might be the new kids on the blocks, but they won't be easy beats, that's for sure.
The boys in blue boast at least nine players that played for Western NSW FC during the 2021 season, with the likes of Tom Rooke, Luke Mutton, James Christie, Damien Booth and Rian Percy all featuring in the last matchday squad for the club last June.
With such an array of talent, they will no doubt be looking to push for the WPL title in 2022 but can '75's array of talent put it together against the best in the Central West?
WPL TITLES: 6 (1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005)
SQUAD: Jack Hunter, Caiden Barnes, Nikki Spice, Tom Rooke, Kyle Cummings, Riley Comerford, Luke Mutton, James Christie, Damien Booth, Agieg Aluk, Athaui Aluk, Rian Percy, Andrew Smith, Toma Curry, Ethan Comerford, Karl Moes
COACH: Mark Comerford
CAPTAIN: To be confirmed
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kyle Cummings and Luke Mutton
Comerford isn't a fan of picking just one standout player in his squad but he did mention the likes of Kyle Cummings and Luke Mutton as players that have stood out for him in pre-season.
"It's essentially guys that have heaps of experience and it's guys like Kyle Cummings and Luke Mutton," he said.
"They're probably the couple that have stood out to me. They're midfield players, they're integral to connecting defence to attack.
"There's a lot of good players and a lot of good experience from the Western NPL team, but I think those two guys will be pretty influential with things that happen in the team."
2021 FINISH: Did not compete
PREDICTED FINISH: Third
It's the same again for the Bulls, who look set to remain one of the most consistent teams across any sport in the western region.
Former mercurial midfielder Scott Fox has taken over as coach this year and while he isn't expected to feature on the pitch a great deal this year, the Bulls squad is largely identical to what it has been in recent years.
New defenders Brayden Smith and Toby Spora will add some youthful energy but it's the experience and winning culture within this hugely successful side that is the key.
WPL TITLES: 4 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2020)
SQUAD: Hayden Williams, Brayden Smith, James Leonard, Toby Spora, Tim McLachlan, Kobe Rapley, Kane Settree, Dominic Ambler, Gareth Williams, Brody Austin, Alex Richardson, Bryce Williams, Scott Fox, Jayden Leonard, Cory Roberts
COACH: Scott Fox
CAPTAIN: Kobe Rapley
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kane Settree and Kobe Rapley
It's pretty simple. Arguably the best central midfield partnership in the competition last season, the pair are fit and firing again for the 2022 campaign. Settree is a year wiser after a stellar debut campaign last year while few have worked harder in pre-season than Rapley.
"If we're going to be successful, Kane and Kobe in central midfield will have to drive it," Fox said.
"They have to motivate the boys around them, and I think they will."
Rival to watch: Fox stated it was harder to pick a weak side than name the leading contender. Like so many others, he expects the 2022 edition of the WPL to be the biggest and best yet.
He did tip Orange Waratahs to be up there again and Panorama to improve while there's plenty expected of newcomers Bathurst '75 given they are expected to feature a host of hugely experienced campaigners.
"It looks like the gap between top and bottom has closed significantly this year," he added.
2021 FINISH: Third
PREDICTED FINISH: Fourth
After playing finals in 2020, Lithgow Workmen's struggled throughout the 2021 season, ultimately occupying last spot when the season was cancelled with one round remaining due to COVID-19.
So understandably Workies coach Martin Hunter is hoping for a big improvement this year, targeting a top six finish.
"Our goals are the same as always, we wish to be a competitive club that fights for every opportunity to play the best football in the area," he said.
"We hope to make finals this year. It's a top six finals so that means anything could happen in those games.
"Our captain will be Logan Inwood, it's his sixth year with the club and he will be leading the team as one of our senior players."
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: To be confirmed
COACH: Martin Hunter
CAPTAIN: Logan Inwood
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jordan Fordham
After receiving the players' player award in 2021, Hunter said Jordan Fordham is the club's player to watch throughout the 2022 season.
"Our players' player from 2021 was Jordan Fordham," he said.
"He's another player to watch and he plays a solid roll as our number eight."
2021 FINISH: Ninth
PREDICTED FINISH: 10th
After playing in the 2020 WPL grand final, Macquarie United took a step back last season after they lost some key players and were hit by a number of injuries.
The focus is again on youth this year, with 10 of the 22 players in the squad under 20 years of age and eight of those are only 16.
Despite that, there's some excitement within the camp and a victory over the Rouse Hill Rams in the Australia Cup recently proves they're more than a capable outfit under new coach Rhys Osborne.
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Anup Gurung, Bailey Auld, Blake Smith, Brad Matiuscenko, Brad Turner, Brooklyn Crain, Bryce Detaon, Daniel Young, Dylan Lane, Ethan Letfallah, Gavin May, Glen Schein, Greg Toza, Isaac Skinner, Matt Walker, Mitch Conte, Nicklus Streicher, Paul Huia, Raynick Roberts, Reef Martin, Tobey Coon, Will Hodges
COACH: Rhys Osborne
CAPTAIN: Brad Matiuscenko
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Blake Smith and Raynick Roberts
Smith and Roberts couldn't be much different but they'll both be key for Macquarie United in 2022. Smith is a major addition, having played for Western last season and his technique and energy will be vital in midfield.
For Roberts, he'd never played a game of 11-a-side until only a year or two ago. He arrived in Dubbo from the Solomon Islands having mainly played football socially or on the beach but his natural talent has made him a valuable member of the Macquarie squad.
"He's a wild card," Osborne said.
"He's got that ability to beat players. He can beat players one-on-one all the time and he's another, I think, will have a good year for us."
2021 FINISH: Seventh
PREDICTED FINISH: Ninth
After returning to the WPL last year for the first time since 1997, the revamped Mudgee Gulgong Wolves are looking to put their best boot forward.
According to club manager Christopher Clegg the "lack of depth" in the Wolves' 2021 squad is what led to their demise, but with a line-up full of new blood, they're poised to be serious contenders.
"This year we look strong after recruiting really, really well. We started a Next Steps program with an African community, and have five young, good, strong Australian men of African origin," Clegg said.
"We have a couple of new players who have come to town through the mining industry, Harry Wharton is one of those high-calibre, left-footed players."
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Leighton Allen (GK), Bakari I lssa, Dave Hagtharp, Angus Hack, Lindsay Henderson, Harry Wharton, Harrison Maynard, Keesh Pisto, Gergis Abdalla, Agar Mawan, Nathan Salamoni, Joshua Hurt, Anya's Muorwal, Christopher Clegg, Braeden Stewart, Cooper Rowe, Zeike Bromley, Dom Seblic, Harry Hall, Michael Glisic, Dylan Jarvis, Thomas Dudek, Jogo Mioseveski, Dillion Price, Greg Reid and Matthew Cremona.
COACH: Harry Hall
CAPTAIN: Harrison Maynard and Angus Hack
PLAYER TO WATCH: N/A
Clegg steered clear of pointing out a single player worthy of the 'one to watch' label, citing the club as a collective to be their key to success.
"There's no individual I'd pick to say that you need to watch. Collectively as a team, we're going to do really well across the board, and probably by the end of the year we'll know who the key players are for our team in 2022," he said.
"We wish good luck to all of the clubs involved. Come on you Wolves!"
2021 FINISH: Eighth
PREDICTED FINISH: Sixth
The end of last season hurt Spurs. They were top of the table with one round to go when the competition was cancelled due to the threat of COVID-19.
The league opted not to award premiers or even minor premiers and that devastated Spurs.
Coach Ben Manson admitted he was worried his players would become disillusioned after that, but it's been the opposite.
There's a huge amount of motivation within this side and they look primed to be towards the top of the table again in 2022.
WPL TITLES: 1 (2001)
SQUAD: Bailey Delaney, Connor McDonald, Justin Pickering, Josh Allen, Jordan Bailey, Jarrod Buckland, Jake Ferguson, Lockie Taylor, Jared Corby, Joel Tongue, Bailey McCabe, Jake Settree, Brad Boney-Chillie, Aidan Shields, Archie Kater, Les Usher, Luke McLure, Harrison Rochford, Duncan Cahill, Justin Gibson, Deakin Howard, Brad Beard.
COACH: Ben Mason
CAPTAIN: Jared Corby
PLAYER TO WATCH: Bradley Boney-Chillie
Will Spurs miss reigning WPL MVP Duncan Cahill when he departs Dubbo to play college football in the US in July? Yes, but it doesn't seem so bad when you've got an Australian junior representative waiting in the wings.
Teenager Boney-Chillie, who was part of the Socceroos under 17s just last year, is back in Dubbo and has joined Spurs in what is a massive coup given a number of others were also after his services.
"He carves up in training. He's the perfect fit to replace Duncan when he leaves and for someone so young, he plays like a senior," Manson said.
"He reads the game so well and I'm excited. I think he'll be one of the players to watch this year, for sure. He's got a lot of talent."
2021 FINISH: First
PREDICTED FINISH: Second
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Joey Kay, Parker Hewitt, Jarrod Kerr, Harry Bryant, Pav Melnichuk, Will Thornhill, Copper Bingham, Brad Miller, Will Bennett, Jimmy Hamilton, Will Cooney, Jaydh Gouden, Nic Brown, Duncan McLean, Cam Bennett, Max Powell, Brad Smith, David Cahill
COACH: Matt Roberts
CAPTAIN: Joe Kay
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Joe Kay, Jaydh Gouden, Cooper Bingham
You'll struggle to find a better shot stopper in the comp in Kay. His ability and commitment to the position are second to none, and his leadership for the group is highly valuable.
Gounden is a forward with speed to burn and silky ball skills, expecting plenty of goals from him.
If Bingham is on his game we're in for a good day out, and as a midfielder he holds the key to Waratahs' play.
2021 FINISH: Did not compete
PREDICTED FINISH: 11th
There won't be a team coming into the 2022 season with higher expectations than the sky blues.
After what would have felt like a disappointing end to last year's campaign, it will be boom or bust for the Waratahs as they eye off the premiership.
WPL TITLES: 4 (1995, 2000, 2006, 2007)
SQUAD: Adam Brakenridge, Adam Kelly, Bastien Fougerolle, Craig Sugden, Guy Burgess, Hugh Thornhill, Jack Sinclair, Niall Gibb, Ryan Sinclair, Tim Kelly, Noah Tracey, Tim Davison, Steve Cooper, Adam Scimone, Lachie Peet, Caleb Freklington
COACH: Adam Scimone
CAPTAIN: Niall Gibb
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Lachie Peet, Niall Gibb
Peet has speed to burn and is a live wire and ready to prove a point, while Gibb is a quality central defender, ready to lead the line and inspire the younger lads.
2021 FINISH: Second
PREDICTED FINISH: First
The Goats only missed out on last year's finals series based on goal difference and that will be a big motivator for a bolstered Panorama squad heading into the 2022 season.
Former Western NSW FC player Matt Hobby, Ryan Campbell and Steve Long give a great boost to the boys in red and black, and you will need to keep your eye out for some younger talents coming through.
There's two things Panorama must focus on for the new campaign: Developing squad and structure as well as picking up more points away from home.
If they put it all together you can bank on them being a presence towards the end of the season.
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Brent Osborne, Paul Long, Steve Long, Jaiden Culbert, Ryan Campbell, Brad Campbell, Matt Hobby, Will Fitzpatrick, Anthony Dunn, Connor Hayes, Ryan Peacock, Nathan Davis, Chris Davis, Thomas Dale, Campbell Smith, Jarred Portegies, Jarvis Callan-McKechnie, Dylan White, Beau Yates, Seth Kandegedara, Bryn White
COACH: Ricky Guihot and Tony Clancy
CAPTAIN: Brent Osborne
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jaiden Culbert, Matt Hobby
Coach Ricky Guihot said there's a number of players who will command attention in the coming season, but the returning Culbert and the addition of Hobby will create attacking threats.
"They'll each have big seasons and they've both had big off-seasons," he said.
"Tom Dale will play in the back line and has come a long way in the last couple of years. His football has really improved.
"We also picked up a keeper from Orange, Chris Davis, who has been a bright spot in the three trial games that we've had."
2021 FINISH: Sixth
PREDICTED FINISH: Fifth
WPL TITLES: 0
SQUAD: Alec Bateson, Daniel Clark, Haiden Clark, Ben Coultas, Charlie Denham-Jones, Ryan Dunn, Jacob Fredericks, Lachlan Hando, Quinn Hennock, Mitch Hutchings, Cameron Kopp, Jimmy Kuntze, Brent Morgan, Sean Noble, Shane Percy, Brent Tucker, Hayden Westcott, Jayden Wirth
COACH: Meaghan Kempson
CAPTAIN: Brent Tucker
PLAYER TO WATCH: Quinn Hennock
Quinn Hennock and Jacob Fredericks have come to the Cobras after the Western NSW FC side folded, and Kempson was particularly excited about the potential of Hennock - and made a huge call when talking about his skills.
"Quinn is an upcoming player of the tournament," she said.
"He's super talented and I honestly think Quinn is the next Duncan Cahill of the comp.
"He's an attacking midfielder and just lives and breathes football. He would play for Western NSW and then come down and watch all the local games and practicing free kicks and stuff in between matches.
"He's mature beyond his years. He asked me if he could join in when Western was canned cause of COVID last year for the last two or three weeks of the season and he came in and was already confident and communicating to the older players."
2021 FINISH: Fifth
PREDICTED FINISH: Eighth
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