Heidelberg United and Bentleigh Greens fans won’t have long to wait for a grand final replay as the two NPL1 powerhouses again lock horns, this time in the traditional season curtain-raiser, the Community Shield.

It says something about the success of 2017 NPL champion Bentleigh in the NPL 1 era under coach John Anastasiadis, that this will be the third consecutive Community Shield the club will be contesting. Having won the previous two shields, the Greens will be aiming to complete a hat-trick of Shield victories when they host the 2017 Dockerty Cup winners Heidelberg next Friday evening at Kingston Heath.

It’s just five months since these two clubs contested an epic 2017 NPL grand final decided in extra time 2-1 in the Greens favour, by a Ross Honos goal. Honos and a number of key Greens players including Luke Pilkington, Troy Ruthven, and Ross Archibald are no longer at the Greens.

Visitors Heidelberg have had a lower squad turnover in the off-season and would appear to be the favourites going into this match. However, according to Bergers coach George Katsakis, his squad still has a number of key personnel returning to full fitness. He says of the upcoming match, “We’re using it as a pre-season game. I’m not trying to play it down at all because at the end of the day, it’s another piece of silverware so we’ll try and win the game. I think it’s pointless this time of the year to try and push yourself for something when you’re not ready. So with what we’ve got available, we’ll give it a go as much as we can. But for me there’s two weeks till the real stuff and that’s day one against Port Melbourne. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

When asked whether he’ll have his strongest starting 11 available for the Community Shield match against the Greens, Katsakis commented, “Well that’s our goal. We’re hoping to have Harry Noon back, Sean Ellis back, possible Lewis Hall. I don’t think Paul O’Brien will be right, or Luke Byles, so there are a considerable number of players missing at the moment. If we can have all them ready to go, we’ll be strong. But they’re the ones we’re pushing for. Those four in particular, other than Paul O’Brien, should be ready.”

Friday’s men Community Shield final will be preceded by the Women’s Community Shield final featuring South Melbourne FC and Calder United which kicks off at 6.30 pm.

Prior to next Friday night’s Community Shield final against the Greens, the Bergers have one more friendly game against interstate visitors Sydney Olympic, at Olympic Village on Saturday 10 February at 3.00 pm.

Second Annual Women’s Community Shield
South Melbourne v Calder United
6.30 pm, Friday 16 February at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, Cheltenham, VIC.

Fourth Annual Men’s Community Shield
Bentleigh Greens v Heidelberg United
8.30 pm, Friday 16 February at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex, Cheltenham, VIC.

Tickets for both matches are available at the gate – adult $10, concession $5, children 14-and-under free. Ticket proceeds to the Reagan Milstein Foundation.