Fitness hurdle for Goldfields XI
Ibrahim Omari has signalled fitness as the biggest hurdle to overcome as his Goldfields XI soccer side looks to turn the tables on semi-professional Balcatta in the second Goldfields Challenge at Ray Finlayson Sporting Complex next week.
A men’s squad drawn from standout players from Goldfields Soccer Association clubs Kalgoorlie College, Boulder City and Twin City will look to avenge last year’s 4-1 loss to the National Premier Leagues WA side, which play one rung below the A-League in Perth’s top tier.
While Balcatta have been in preseason training since the start of November, the three-time GSA premiership coach has had just a handful of weeks to organise his squad. “Our team is a bit of an unknown quantity as to where some of players’ fitness is, whereas I’m expecting Balcatta to be fit and well-disciplined,” Omari said.
“For us fitness is going to be a bit of a concern and I’d say just because of the nature of the team being very short-notice it will be a bit of a challenge. To address that we’re going to try keep things simple, play a good brand of football and communicate with each other.”
The contest also looms as an opportunity for a host of young Goldfields players — among them 16-year-old Kalgoorlie College mid- fielder and GSA best and fairest Jace Reilly — to show their wares in front of the NPL side’s coaching staff.
Balcatta head Goran Stajic, whose first coaching assignment was with Kambalda’s short-lived soccer team in 1993, is hoping to unearth some diamonds in the Goldfields rough.
He said Balcatta were close to securing the signature of Nick Doutch last year, a Twin City junior and US college soccer player who started for the Goldfields XI last year on a break from his studies at the University of Northwestern Ohio.
“If there’s more like him we’re happy to look to see if we can fly them over to Balcatta that’s for sure,” he said.
Balcatta claimed a solitary point in their first five NPL games in Stajic’s first year as a senior coach but won nine of their next 21 outings to finish in 11th place, three points clear of relegated Subiaco.
Stajic believes last year’s Kalgoorlie clash was a key step for his young squad, which recovered from finishing second last in 13th place in 2017.
“I think it’s vital for the players to have the opportunity to work towards something rather than saying train for six weeks and go have Christmas then come back,” he said.
“Last year’s encounter really set us up to have a great season especially with such a young squad and it certainly gave myself a lot of answers.”
The contest kicks off at 6pm on Saturday, December 15, while Balcatta will also host training clinics for junior players aged 11-17 throughout the day at the Goldfields Oasis.
Sergej Gluhovic will line up for the Goldfields XI once again.
Jonathan Corness in last year's challenge.