Fans of two of Australian Football’s historical clubs will be able to get a sneak preview of how their squads are shaping up for the new season when national NPL Champion Heidelberg United hosts Sydney Olympic at Olympic Village in a pre-season friendly early next month.
The match-up revisits the interstate rivalry which harks back to their days as founding members of the old NSL competition when it began in 1977. Last year Olympic celebrated its 60th anniversary and this year the Bergers will follow suit.
Ahead of the coming season, Heidelberg United coach George Katsakis has managed to keep together the bulk of his record setting treble winning side of 2017, with some notable exceptions including the departure of Golden Boot winner Kenny Athiu ( Melbourne Victory), defender Jordan Wilkes (to Greek League 1 Club Kalithea FC) and forward Michael Trigger.
On the recruitment side, Heidelberg has added Tom Cahill (ex Melbourne Knights), midfielder Andreas Govas (ex Port Melbourne Sharks), and South Sudanese central defender Mathiang Mathiang (ex Perth club Stirling Lions).
Speaking at the announcement of the February 10 match between Heidelberg and Olympic, Heidelberg’s 2017 treble winning coach, George Katsakis said, “Two great clubs and two great teams, so we couldn’t ask for a better way to start the new campaign. It will be a great opportunity to gauge where we are at going into 2018. But it will also be marvellous to host Olympic once again after all these years and no doubt it will bring back some wonderful memories for some of older supporters”.
For Sydney Olympic coach Gorka Etxeberria, the trip down south is part of an intensive pre-season schedule of weekly practice matches against testing opposition including NSW NPL rivals, current champion Manly United, Sydney United and Bonnyrigg White Eagles. It will be coach Etxeberria’s first pre-season with Olympic after he was appointed during Olympic’s last campaign following the sudden departure of previous coach Jamie Monroy. The club will be hoping the coach can end a lean spell of recent years in terms of trophy success.
Sydney Olympic FC CEO, John Boulous, hopes the match up against Heidelberg United can develop into an annual fixture. “We will work with Heidelberg to make this match an annual event and the following season welcome them to Sydney” Boulous explained. “The squad is looking forward to getting away together to play against the NPL champions, it will be tremendous preseason tour to allow the squad to continue to bond as well as test themselves against Heidelberg United who experienced a very successful season in 2017 and like us share a wonderful tradition”. “We would anticipate many fans of both clubs to turn out and watch the two former NSL club’s play and enjoy a great match”.