Slice of Cheese

The Friday Forecast

The Friday Forecast: Covid Strikes Again

Welcome to the Friday Forecast for another week. I’ve opted to combine the NPL TAS and Super League previews into one piece this weekend due to the postponement of games meaning we just have the four fixtures between the two competitions as it stands.

It didn’t take long for the 2022 season to feel the impacts of the pandemic, with Round 2 seeing the first postponed game when South Hobart v Launceston City was called off and we now have a second consecutive week set to be impacted by postponements. Taroona v South Hobart in the WSL and Kingborough v Clarence in both the NPL and WSL have all been postponed.

It certainly won’t be the last time this happens. In fact, I’d say you’d have to be the world’s greatest optimist to not expect this to be a fairly frequent occurrence throughout this season.  

There is no doubt this will be a season like no other in that regard and how lucky or unlucky sides get with Covid is going to play a large role in determining the finishing order. But before people leap to saying the season will have an asterisk on it as I have seen suggested in some parts, it’s worth considering the significant role that luck already plays in the sport. 

Luck has always played a much larger role in results than most people would ever care to admit. That’s because acknowledging it requires accepting that the notions drilled into us when we are young, such as, the best team always wins, the side that wants it more will get it and bad refereeing decisions even themselves out over the course of the season, whilst nice sentiments are completely at odds with reality. 

Luck, both good and bad presents itself in a myriad of ways in Football. The random bounce of the ball on an uneven pitch, weather factors, the wind blowing hard for 45 minutes then dying out, refereeing decisions, injuries, and now this year, who gets Covid, when they get it and how many get it. Some teams might be impacted week after week with a couple of players missing consistently, some will cop it all at once and have postponements and some sides will certainly cop it worse than others will, nobody knows what the future will hold in this regard, but the one thing we can be sure of is that it will be entirely random and not evenly impacting everyone. 

Now all of this is not to say that the title winners this year will be simply the luckiest side, or even that luck is the biggest factor in determining match results, skill and ability still are quite comfortably the biggest determining factors. It’s simply to point out to those who might make the argument that this year will have an asterisk on it that luck has played a role in every single title race in the history of the sport. This year will be absolutely no different in that regard, it will just be a lot easier to notice with Covid smacking us in the face.

Now with that said, onto the games we do have, providing no more get called off between me submitting this piece and it being published!  

Friday Night Derby

Round 3 of the NPL Tasmania will kick off under the Friday Night lights of Buckby Motors Park as Launceston City plays host to Riverside Olympic in the first Launceston Derby of the season. 

The game is an important one for the Roos who will be desperate to kick start their season after a disappointing opening fortnight that saw them losing heavily to Glenorchy Knights and the Kingborough Lions. They will have some reinforcement in the form of Rwandan import Jean-Philippe Rutabayiro, who is set to make his first run out for the club and they hope to have another key recruit in Jack Carter back as well. Having been hit by injuries to start the season, they have begun things on the back foot but against a City side dealing with their own availability issues, this represents a good chance for the Roos to get things going. 

Having had last week postponed due to Covid availabilities it remains to be seen how many will miss this one for City, with Coach Lino Sciulli already confirmed as having to remain in isolation until Saturday, meaning assistant Darren Cook will be in charge.

This a fixture that the Roos have typically gotten up for. Of Riversides’s 7 total wins since being promoted into the NPL Tasmania, 3 of them have come at the expense of their neighbours in these Derby games. The other statistical quirk is that there has never been a draw in the Derby, with Launceston City winning the other 5 of the 8 clashes. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising as neither side would ever be happy settling for a point in this one with the local bragging rights up for grabs and a fierce rivalry underpinning it. 

Launceston City obviously could have a number of players underdone for this one, so it’s hard to gauge exactly what to expect from them. But based on their Round 1 showing they will be favourites to make it two wins from two after an impressive attacking display against Clarence Zebras in their season opener. Riverside will need to pay close attention to Jaden Fidra who was electric against Zebras and looms as a real match winner if he is given too much space. 

Riding High, Knights Now Face Stern South Hobart Test

The big clashes continue for the Glenorchy Knights who now take on South Hobart in another massive match to help shape the pointy end of the table. It’s still early days, but if Knights were to secure 6 points from fixtures against their two biggest title rivals in the opening weeks of the season, in addition to one hell of an early statement. It would also pile up the pressure on the other two sides and give them less scope to slip up as the season progresses. A win here and the defending Champions will have well and truly established themselves as the front runners.   

These are two of the best sides in the state and both have shown that with their play so far in 2022. South Hobart claimed the Summer Cup, beating Knights en route to the silverware before backing it up with a dominant Round 1 showing against the Olympia Warriors. Having had last week off, the squad should be freshened up for this one and will have had plenty of time to focus on Knights. Despite being a Knights home game, the wider expanses of KGV and speed of the plastic pitch generally suit South Hobart’s strengths and the style they like to play so I’m not so convinced that any sort of meaningful home ground advantage really exists when it comes to this fixture. 

Knights cast aside any lingering questions over their defence by keeping the Devonport Strikers at bay, but now face probably the most potent opposition they will come up against this season. It will be interesting to see how Morton and Sherman set their sides up for this one because we know that these clashes between contenders can so often be cagey, defensive affairs with neither side really wanting to risk opening up too much. Yet both of these outfits greatest strengths undoubtedly lie in their respective attacks, so there is certainly the potential there for a high scoring free-flowing game if the coaches allow for it. Either way it should be a cracking game of football and the stakes are high for a Round 3 match up! 

Strikers Looking to Bounce Back on the Road

The Devonport Strikers will be looking to shake off a rare home loss last weekend and get their title bid back on track as they head south to take on an Olympia side who have struggled out of the gates in season 2022.

The Warriors had their chances to take the lead in the first half against the Zebras last week and maybe things would have been different had they done so, but for the second week in a row, they then faded out badly in the second half and found themselves being overrun the longer the game wore on. They are without a goal so far and have shipped 8 which doesn’t exactly bode well for their chances against a Devonport side who despite last weekend’s hiccup very much remains one of the strongest outfits in the league. It will likely take a very strong performance at the back and some goalkeeping heroics from Mitch Stalker if they are cause a boil-over in this one.

So often results in football boil down to who takes their chances and that was the case at Valley Road last Saturday. Devonport created enough good goal scoring looks to take something out of the game against Knights but just couldn’t convert or indeed find a way past the impressive Reef Murfett. It was still a pretty good performance in general play though and if they bring that level to Empire Couriers Park then they should get the job done here and get their season right back on track.  

Strikers Look To Move Clear Atop Super League Table

Already sitting atop the MyState Bank Women’s Super League table, the Devonport Strikers now have an excellent opportunity to extend that lead as they head South to take on the Olympia Warriors at Empire Couriers Park.

In what will be the lone Super League game of the round, following the postponement of the other two fixtures, Devonport will be the red-hot favourites given the contrasting form lines of the two sides across the opening fortnight of the season, which really have been polar opposites.

The Warriors have limped out of the gates, losing 3-0 to South Hobart and 11-1 to Clarence Zebras and have spent the vast majority of both games pinned back deep in their own defensive end. Devonport meanwhile have won both their games, rallying back for a 3-2 win over Kingborough before routing Taroona 7-0 last week in two impressive performances.

The only real knock on the Strikers first two games is that they have looked a little loose at the back at times, so there is certainly some opportunity for the Warriors to take advantage and hit the scoreboard. Keeping out the Strikers at the other end could prove difficult, however, with the pacey Jazmin White looming as a particularly difficult threat for them to manage and she will be eyeing the chance to fill her boots here given the way the Warriors have leaked chances in the first 2 rounds. 

The Strikers next 3 fixtures after this pit them against Launceston United, South Hobart and Clarence Zebras, so we will get a much clearer picture of just where they sit after those games and if they truly do belong in the title conversation, but for now they simply have an excellent opportunity to bank some early points and force the rest of the pack to chase them. 

NPL Tasmania

Friday 1 April  

Launceston City vs Riverside Olympic, 7:45pm, Buckby Motors Park

Saturday 2 April

Olympia Warriors vs Devonport Strikers Saturday, 2:30pm, Empire Couriers Park, 

Glenorchy Knights vs South Hobart, 4:30pm, KGV Football Park

Women’s Super League

Olympia Warriors vs Devonport Strikers Saturday, 12:30pm, Empire Couriers Park, 

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