Part one covered the bottom seven sides from last season, now time for the top seven!
Port Melbourne head into the 2022 season off the back of strong form to close out the last league campaign, unbeaten in their final seven league matches before the season’s curtailment. The signings of Josh Wilkins and Troy Ruthven from Heidelberg United and Altona Magic respectively should bolster the Sharks defence, whilst the deals to bring Fletcher McFarlane and Luca Tevere to the club looks like shrewd pieces of business.
After bowing out of the FFA Cup to Hume City in their final competitive clash of 2021, the onus will be on JL Murphy Reserve outfit to return to the menacing form that saw them become an almost impenetrable force throughout much of last year.
After flirting with the NPL Victoria summit for large parts of last season, a disappointing second half of the season saw Heidelberg United slip to sixth place. The departures of first-team regulars Chris Theodoridis and Josh Wilkins from Olympic Village have forced the club’s hand on the transfer front, with 2015 Asian Cup-winner and 20-time Socceroo Ivan Franjic arriving in October.
Retaining the services of perennial centrepieces Luka Ninkovic and Eoin Ashton should hold the club in good stead, as Heidelberg looks to ascend up the league table in 2022. The clash with South Melbourne to open the league season promises to be a mouthwatering matchup, where a positive result may well dictate the opening months of their season.
A new era looks set to commence at the Dandenong Thunder, after Sam Elmazi’s departure from the hotseat paved the way for former Norwich youngster David Chick to assume the role as head coach. Cameron Teece has been brought in from NPL WA to fill the gaping hole left by Nahuel Bonada, while former Swindon and Melbourne Victory midfielder Cameron McGilp has been brought in to strengthen the George Andrews Reserve club. Trips to fellow top half sides Heidelberg, Oakleigh and Port Melbourne in their first five matches sets up a tough start for the Thunder, as they look to challenge the NPL Victoria juggernauts once more.
After their runs deep into the latter stages of the FFA Cup and the Dockerty Cup, Hume City may well stake their claim to be the most match-fit side in the league. Despite coming away from 2021 without a piece of silverware to show for their efforts, Hume will have a myriad of positives to take from the year as they look forward to 2022. The loss of now-Newcastle goalkeeper Michael Weier since their final league outing could force a run in the side for Lucas Trenkovski, as the Broadmeadows club will surely be aiming to add to their trophy-laden cabinet heading into the new season.
The Bentleigh Greens remain the reigning champions of NPL Victoria after their 3-1 success over Avondale all the way back in 2019, a status that they will look to preserve for a little while longer. The Kingston Heath outfit have been quieter on the incoming front than many of their NPL Victoria contemporaries, but Yagoub Mustafa and Ajak Riak look set to add to the Greens’ attacking stocks nonetheless.
One of Victoria’s most successful clubs historically, expect Bentleigh to be there or thereabouts once the league season concludes.
In their 50th year as a football club, the Oakleigh Cannons will aim to celebrate the milestone with another strong season. Club captain Tom Matthews has departed the club after three years with the armband, with the former Hull City youth player moving on to pastures new. Snaring attacking star Daniel Clark from rivals South Melbourne is a scalp, as the NPL Victoria stalwart will help supplement Chris Lucas, Joe Guest and Joe Knowles in what may well be a devastating quartet at the top end of the pitch. After a good season in the year just gone, it remains to be seen whether the Cannons will fire on all cylinders this year.
By far and away the current benchmark in Victorian football, Avondale continued their dominance over Victorian football in 2021. Seven points clear at the time of postponement before later winning the Dockerty Cup after triumphing over Hume in the final, it took a dominant Wellington Phoenix performance to deliver the club their first defeat in just under nine months, after losing just once in the league after falling to Green Gully in March. While much had been made of their off-field antics in recent times, Avondale will be keen to let their football do the talking as we move into a new season.