17/04/2024

Blacktown City celebrate after beating Sydney Olympic on penalties to qualify for the NPL NSW Men's Grand Final. (Photo: NPL NSW)

The NPL NSW Men’s Grand Final takes place on August 27 at 6pm, as Blacktown City takes on Manly United, and it will be a massive occasion.

Not only because it is the Grand Final, but because it will be the last before Football NSW transitions the NPL Men’s competition to a full home and away, expanded competition, with 16 teams and no finals series.

For Blacktown City, the side is well aware of what the occasion means.

“It’s a special occasion,” Blacktown City player Jordan Smylie said, discussing the game with The Inner Sanctum ahead of the match on Saturday.

“Obviously it means a lot to be in a final for any footballer and to be in the last final especially. It has a historic ring to it.

“To have Blacktown City’s name there on the last ever trophy is something myself and the club won’t ever forget and which we all expect due to the high expectations we set from day one of pre-season.”

Jordan Smylie makes a tackle against a Sydney Olympic player. (Photo: NPL NSW)

Given those high expectations, the regular season did not end the way Blacktown would have liked, losing the premiership on the final day of the season after a defeat against Sydney Olympic.

It was a loss that had a huge impact on the squad.

“Yeah to be honest we were gutted,” Smylie continued.

“Obviously it was a chance to get silverware and we felt we had one hand on the trophy prior to the game commencing, but the game obviously didn’t go our way so it was extremely disappointing.”

It did not get easier the week after in the first week of the finals against Manly United, as Blacktown suffered a heartbreaking loss at the end of extra time.

“To then back up again the next week for a major semi final to concede two goals in three minutes at the end of extra time really hurt us and a lot of the boys didn’t end up sleeping that night.

“We knew something had to change. Critto [Mark Crittenden] sat us all down the following Tuesday and had an honest conversation with us about our performances and how he believes we can still go all the way. From that point we have felt stronger than ever before.”

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But all is not lost, as Blacktown will have a chance to enact revenge for that first week finals loss against Manly, and the squad knows what it needs to do.

Seiya Kambayashi has been a strong playmaker for Manly out of the back third, and Smylie has identified him as a key player to shut up.

“I think shutting down Kambayashi limits a lot of their options, and obviously Bruno [Mendes] up top for them,” he said.

“We have watched a lot of their videos and analysed the way they play, so we have a game plan to shut those two down especially.

“With us, it’s about showing the quality we have. We know that if we all put in a decent shift we will be walking out of Commbank with the trophy as we believe we are the best team in the competition.”

But what does putting in a decent shift look like for Smylie?

“[A] consistent work rate, and to bag a goal in the last grand final would be massive for myself personally and the team.”

Blacktown’s squad was able to get a boost mid-season with the return of Travis Major and Danny Choi from injury.

“Travis and Danny are both top quality players which have added so much experience and talent to the squad,” Smylie said speaking about the two.

“Everyone knows Danny Choi from his long range goal in the FFA Cup, great guy and a top top player.

“Travis is an outstanding forward with a great eye for goal. He’s on 99 goals for Blacktown City so hopefully he will hit the 100 on Saturday evening.”

With the game taking place at a neutral venue, turning CommBank Stadium into a home ground advantage will be one of the ways either side can help find success.

That involves getting the fans to come to the game.

“I believe the support from the fans is essential,” Smylie said when asked about what he would tell the fans to convince them to come on Saturday.

“The more City supporters there the more enthusiastic the boys will be to put on a show.”

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