Road to the FFA Cup Round of 32: Northern NSW and Qld clubs

Two Northern NSW clubs and five Queensland clubs qualified for the FFA Cup Round of 32, with a Hyundai A-League opponent and a local derby in the offing.

One Queensland side has maintained its record of appearing in the Round of 32 every year since the competition’s inception, while there are debuts for one side from each region.

Of all the appearances in the FFA Cup Round of 32 by teams in Northern NSW and Queensland, there’s been just one side to get as far as the quarter-finals.

Is there one amongst the bunch which can match, or even better that result?

Broadmeadow Magic

Three appearances on the national stage and Broadmeadow hasn’t been able to find a way past the Round of 32 just yet. They’re flying high in the NPL Northern NSW and look good for the premiership, but will be hoping for a good cup run too.

The fourth and fifth rounds of the qualifying campaign were against lower league opposition but despite a 4-1 win over Wallsend in round four and a 2-0 win over Thornton in the fifth they were far from simple tasks.

Magic bossed it against Adamstown in the sixth round to go through with a 3-0 win under their belts, and set up a huge clash with perhaps their biggest rivals, Hamilton Olympic, in round seven.

Under lights at a neutral ground, Broadmeadow and Hamilton played out an enthralling match. A late goal clinched a 2-1 win for Magic, and put them into the Round of 32 for the fourth time.

On the road for the second year running, Broadmeadow will get on the bus and head south to the nation’s capital and face Canberra FC for a shot at the next round. It’s a side with former Hyundai A-League players like James Virgili and Mitch Oxborrow, and a handful for anyone they come up against.

Broadmeadow Magic
Magic has a number of ex Hyundai A-League players and currently leads the NPL NNSW.

Magic is coached by former Newcastle Jet and Socceroo Ruben Zadkovich, who told the Newcastle Herald he was wary of Canberra.

“It’s hard to know how to feel about it because you don’t know much about them,” said Zadkovich.

“It’s a bit like the Moreton Bay game last year. You’re expected to be a good chance to go through but then you’ve got to go away and play them.

“It will be an old school slog, going down on the bus, in the cold to play Canberra, but it’s still a winnable game.”

Charlestown City Blues

Some of the strongest players in Northern NSW joined Charlestown this season, so too cult hero Ljubo Milicevic. The squad helped the Blues qualify for their first ever appearance in the FFA Cup Round of 32 – but they’ve been presented with quite a challenge.

Charlestown entered the competition in the fourth round and duly dispatched of a side some three tiers below them, Hamilton Azzurri, 10-0 to progress to the next round.

Facing NPL opposition in the form of Lake Macquarie in the next round, a 3-1 win sent them into the sixth round. Here Charlestown faced Boambee Bombers from the Northern Conference of Northern NSW and bulldozed their way through 6-0.

Round seven was a slog for the Blues, matched up with one of the Northern NSW heavyweights in Lambton Jaffas. It was scoreless after 120 minutes, and some penalty shoot-out heroics from Danny Ireland saw Charlestown through.

After starting the year on top of the NPL NNSW ladder by some margin, Charlestown has slipped down and are outside the top four. They’ve struggled with injury and now have one of the Victorian heavyweights, Heidelberg United, to face in the Cup. It’s a huge challenge – can they lift?

Charlestown City Blues 1
Ljubo Milicevic (left) will bring the vibes to Heidelberg. But will he (and Charlestown) take away a win?

It’s a tough assignment, but Charlestown coach David Tanchevski told the Newcastle Herald it was one that his side was looking forward to.

“When you get to this stage, it’s the luck of the draw and when you draw one of these teams, you’re against all odds,” said Tanchevski.

“It will be a good experience though to play at that level and that ground.”

Cairns FC

Formerly known as FNQ Heat, Cairns FC is the only member federation club which has qualified for every iteration of the Round of 32 since the FFA Cup’s inception. Incredibly though, the Queensland club has never progressed beyond the first hurdle.

It wasn’t a straightforward path to qualifying though, and after entering at the fifth round Cairns almost stumbled at the first hurdle. They squeezed through with a 4-3 win over Southside Comets.

They had a slightly easier time in their round six fixture against fellow NPL Queensland side North Queensland United, a 3-0 win setting up their round seven clash with Magpies Crusaders.

And what a clash it was. Down 3-0 at the half-time break, incredibly Cairns scored five unanswered goals in the second stanza to roar back to a 5-3 win and their fifth consecutive Round of 32 berth.

They’re sat a long way from the top four in the NPL Queensland, but they’ve got perhaps one of their best chances in the FFA Cup with second-tier Western Australia side Armadale their opponents in the first round of the competition proper.

Cairns FC
The green of FNQ Heat has been replaced by the orange of Cairns FC. Can they progress?

Gold Coast Knights

It’s one of the underdog stories which the FFA Cup just loves to throw up. A side which plays in the (third tier) Gold Coast Premier League and entered qualifying two rounds earlier than their fellow Queensland entrants, a magnificent run saw the Knights qualify for the Round of 32 for the very first time.

Their first two matches in qualifying were tight victories but victory all the same, 1-0 over Surfers Paradise Apollo in round three and 1-0 over Broadbeach United in round four.

It’s thereafter things got tough. Drawn against a Gold Coast United side which sits two divisions above them, the Knights triumphed with a 3-2 win to go the furthest they’d ever been in the FFA Cup.

And the football gods didn’t smile upon them in the draw – NPL Queensland side SWQ Thunder stepped up and the Knights shocked the state AGAIN with a 2-1 win. Their round seven match was also against NPL opposition, but it didn’t worry the Knights who ran out 3-2 victors over Sunshine Coast Fire and booked a maiden Round of 32 spot.

Gold Coast Knights sit on top of the FGC Premier League but face probably their toughest opponent ever in Newcastle Jets in the Round of 32. It’s a match they’re not expected to go near winning – but after a marvellous qualifying run, anything’s possible.

Lions FC

One of the strongest sides in the NPL Queensland which is looking like making a run on the premiership this season, it was a cup run which had hearts in mouths at times but one which earned them a second ever Round of 32 berth.

Things got off to a fairly straightforward start for Lions, who beat Caboolture FC 5-1 in the fourth round of qualifying. This set up a round five clash with second-tier side Eastern Suburbs, which Lions snuck through with a 3-2 win.

Rochedale Rovers was next on the list for Lions, but it was far from straightforward for the NPL Queensland side. Rochedale, who sit a division below Lions pushed them all the way in a match which was scoreless after 120 minutes. Lions progressed after penalties.

Everyone was pointing to their round seven clash as the banana peel which could slip Lions up. Up against undefeated and free-scoring second-tier outfit Peninsula Power, Lions blasted their opponents away with a 6-0 win to waltz through to the Round of 32.

And what a match the Round of 32 has got in store for us. An all-Queensland clash with Olympic FC, who currently sit in first place but just one point above the third-place Lions in the NPL Queensland. Lions have only conceded nine goals in 17 league games this season – expect them to be solid.

Lions FC
Lions FC waltzed through in the final round of qualifying. How will they fare in the Round of 32?

Olympic FC

There hasn’t been an FFA Cup Round of 32 showing for Olympic since the competition’s first iteration back in 2014, but now the NPL Queensland leaders have the chance to make 2018 a year to remember.

It was a fairly easy task for Olympic in the fourth round as they cruised to a 7-1 win over St George Willawong, and then backed it up with a 2-1 win over Centenary Stormers in round five.

Moreton Bay United made it to the Round of 16 last season, but they weren’t able to repeat those heroics this year after Olympic managed to triumph in a tight 3-2 win in the sixth round.

The seventh and final round pitted Olympic against fellow NPL Queensland side Brisbane City, who pushed Olympic all the way. 2-2 after extra-time, Olympic won the penalty shoot-out and progressed to the Round of 32.

They’re top of the league, but the three sides behind trail by just a solitary point. That competitiveness will aid them in the FFA Cup, but it won’t be easy given they’ve been drawn against their Queensland opponents Lions FC.

Olympic FC
Olympic FC lead the NPL QLD, but can they come out on top in the Cup?
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This article was originally published on the FFA Cup website.