Oakleigh Cannons fans will be hoping their team’s strong finish in the league last season continues into the start of the new league season and all the way into the finals later in the year.
The Cannons lost just one of their last ten matches, on a run which took them to within a penalty shoot-out of reaching the Grand Final, giving the eventual champion Heidelberg a real scare along the way.
Cannons coach Chris Taylor has been active recruiting players in the off season, turning over half the squad by signing ten new players, including three of his former charges at his previous club South Melbourne.
Serial Golden Boot winner Milos Lujic, and skillful winger Nick Epifano are the marquee signings whilst utility Matthew Foschini returns to the club he played for three seasons ago. Joining them are two British footballers, left footed nuggetty midfielder Joe Guest and striker Harry White. Promising young striker Marcus Dimanche joins from Springvale White Eagles, whilst defenders Blair Govan, Ramazan Tavsancioglu and Matt Green also come into the squad along with keeper Rory Brian.
Notable departures from Jack Edwards this season are stalwarts Dusan Bosnjak (to Altona Magic) and Dean Piemonte (to Dandenong City).
Taylor has also appointed a new senior captain this season, in defender Tom Matthews, explaining that his performances in the finals last year earned him the position.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos on the eve of the season, coach Taylor says “We’re aware it’s a new squad coming together and it will take a little time to gel.”
The Cannons snapped up the much sought after services of the former South Melbourne coach, a third way into last year’s competition. Taylor says, “Last season’s team was basically inherited and while we felt, as the season got on, we got stronger, you try to put your own stamp on it. And for me, it’s a little bit of a cultural change within the rooms. That’s what we’re trying to do. Not necessarily in the way we’re trying to play. You know, add a little bit more experience in certain area and enhance the leadership.”
A couple of the signings who have experience winning silverware under Taylor are Lujic and Epifano. Taylor commented of the significance of those signings, “The statement we’re trying to make is that we want winners. They’ve both been there and done it before. Milos has won two or three championships and Nick’s not far off. So we’re trying to bring in winners and that’s the culture we’re trying to develop down there.”
For a club which has appointed one of the most successful NPL coaches, and two of the league’s biggest stars, expectations will be high on the eve of a new season. Most pundits are tipping the Cannons to be amongst the front-runners of the competition.
When asked if the players are feeling the pressure of increased expectation, Taylor responds by saying: “There’s no pressure. I feel that if we get things right, we’ll be very formidable and probably hard to beat. But this season is probably the most even I’ve seen the league and there’s several teams out there, they’ve recruited really well and got strong squads. You just can’t afford to be too complacent. It (the league) has got a habit of bringing you back to earth. We’ve just got to focus on what we need to do. We’ve been a little hot and cold in the pre-season and that’s something that needs to change. But there’s pressure at any club. People expect to win. It’s a competitive environment. We’re no different. We want to go out and win things this year. But there’s no guarantee. If we perform to what we know we can do, I think we’re a good chance of winning things.”
The Cannons’ season kicked off last night at home against Melbourne Knights.