It’s time to find out which team has what it takes to be crowned the NPL Men 2023 champs.

The last six teams have been playing some truly breathtaking and effective football all season long.

The four clubs that kick off this ‘dance-off’ are sure to bring the heat, with a passion that’s almost palpable and an intense desire to make it to the next round!

Melbourne Knights – Port Melbourne Sharks

The stage is set for an exciting night of football as the official curtain-raiser for this year’s finals kicks off at Knights Stadium on Friday night.

Both teams, the home side and the visitors, are ready for a battle, with footballers prepared to give their all for the chance to reach the next stage of the finals.

The home side have had a great year, finishing five places higher than the ninth spot they occupied at the end of the 2022 season, while the visitors finished in fifth place, three places lower than their 2022 standing.

Led by Ben Cahn, the “Croatian” team is known for their intense pressure, speed and quick ball turnover, scoring 51 goals and conceding 35 in 26 games. On the other hand, the “Greek” team from Port of Melbourne have pocketed 45 points, scoring 53 goals and conceding 34.

Sharks coach, Adam Piddick has demanded more from his team’s defensive performance, but their competitiveness and passion have not gone unnoticed. With all the ingredients present, the “Sharks” are determined to leave Sunshine with the three points that will take them to the next stage of the finals.

Many in and around the club have high expectations of the team and are dreaming of a championship.

We shall have to wait and see if their dreams become a reality.

Oakleigh Cannons – Altona Magic

The “blue and white” team at Oakleigh are not even entertaining the thought of not progressing to the next phase.

Last year’s champions, they have been rebuilt this year with the same goal in mind. Despite the many changes to the roster, Chris Taylor managed to assemble a formidable, effective, and highly spectacular set. With footballers such as Guest, Salmon, and Valentini, the hosts have provided us with some moments of pure football sorcery throughout the season.

Whoever wants to take down Oakleigh will have to bring their A-game; they’re a team full of confidence and experience, with the numbers to back it up. The Cannons justified their name by scoring 64 times, second only to Avondale who scored 78 times! Defensively, they did not do too badly either, conceding only 25 goals.

The guests are a peculiar bunch, capable of the best and the worst. They finished in sixth place with 13 wins, 11 losses, and only two draws.

These stats point to a team that is chaotic yet resilient, with a fierce will to win at all costs. The “Croatians” step onto the grass, roll up their sleeves, and give it their all.

They may not leave the fans in awe with their offensive pluralism or “fool” their opponents with “magical” dribbles, but they will never appear apathetic or without appetite for an all-out fight for every inch of the pitch.

The Sharks are ready to take a bite out of the competition in this series of finals. Photo: Con Deves

This is a simple yet sure fire tactic employed by teams with swift dynamic footballers and limited tactical performance.

On a good day, they can give the Cannons a run for their money, but on their regular day, they don’t stand much of a chance, especially in the “blue and white” Oakleigh.

Let’s hope to witness two thrilling matches, worthy of the ranking positions of the four rivals.

The State Leagues

The State Leagues are coming to a close this week, and the stakes are pretty high for Yarraville. With only three points separating the seventh and last teams in the standings, Doxa needs to go out and win the game against Banyule City if they want to avoid any complications.

Meanwhile, the last matches of the two “blue and white” teams of the southeast group are a mere formality, as Malvern and Aris will be hosting Cobras and Eltham Redbacks respectively on Saturday afternoon.

NPL – Schedule

Friday 25/08

Melbourne Knights – Port Melbourne Sharks 19:30

Oakleigh Cannons – Altona Magic 20:00