Fit­ness hur­dle for Gold­fields XI

SOC­CER

Kalgoorlie Miner - - SPORT - Josh Chiat

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.

Pic­tures: Rob Lana­gan

Jonathan Cor­ness in last year's chal­lenge.

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