New faces ready to make a splash as NPLM season set for kick-off

Round One of the NPLWA - Men’s competition begins this weekend with two fresh faces joining the league.

Western Knights and Fremantle City take their place in the top flight for the first time since the NPL was formed a decade ago.

State League
Western Knights clinched the State League title and promotion to the NPL on the final day 

Knights confirmed their promotion when a last-gasp win over Joondalup United saw them pip Mandurah City to the State League Division One title on a dramatic final day of the 2023 season.

The club are no strangers to the top tier of WA football, having had a 16-year stay in the Premier League between 1996 and 2012. The highlight was a double-winning season under Ronnie Campbell in 2004 as part of a successful period in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


At the helm for his third season, Adam Kostrencic has added proven quality to his squad with the headline signing of two-time Gary Marocchi medal winner Kristian Santich after a stint in NSW. Former Cockburn players Daniel Santich, Jesse Lazzaro and Justin Tang also arrive at Nash Field along with former Perth Glory academy products Alex Da Rocha and keeper Sam Reilly.

Knights open with a home game against four-time NPLWA champions Perth Soccer Club, who are aiming to take another stride forward in season 2024.

Having arrived midway through last season with the Azzurri in ninth place, former New Zealand international Danny Hay guided the club to a top-four finish.

Perth have brought in more talent to their young side in the off-season with Joe Pollard, Judd McDougall, and Daniel Faichney among the arrivals, while New Zealand defenders Jack Cawley and Ben Stroud will also look to provide strength.

Elsewhere, Fremantle City make their debut in the top division when they take on Balcatta Etna at Grindleford Reserve.

It is the first time City have featured in the NPL following a merger between Fremantle United and East Fremantle Tricolore in 2015, with the latter a foundation member and a regular in the Premier League from 1960 until 1987.

Matty Sparrow’s side won a thrilling inter-divisional play-off final against Joondalup United at the Sam Kerr Football Centre to go up.

They have bolstered their squad with plenty of NPL experience in Luke Radonich, Alex Silla, Robert Petkov, Jesse Fuller, Riley Woodcock and Dylan White all arriving at Hilton Park.

Fremantle City Matty Sparrow
Fremantle City head coach Matty Sparrow at the week's NPL Season launch. Photo by Football West

Balcatta stayed up on the final day last season, their win over Cockburn City propelling them to seventh while sending their opponents down.

Glen Grostate’s side have lost Japanese forward Kotaro Yamamoto, who struck a double-figure goal tally last season, but a raft of intriguing signings has seen them add more depth to their ranks.

Undoubtedly, the star signing off their off-season was midfielder Rostyn Griffiths, a three-time A-League Premiership winner with Melbourne City and Central Coast Mariners.

Perhaps the most eye-catching fixture of round one is the 5pm kick-off between Stirling Macedonia and Olympic Kingsway at Macedonia Park.

It is a meeting of second and third from season 2023. Stirling ended last year on a high as they defeated champions Perth RedStar 2-0 to claim the Top Four Cup, but Ian Ferguson’s squad will aim to reach the league’s summit after finishes of third and second since returning to the top flight in 2022.

Striker Ciaran Byrne will be key in the final third after arriving from Olympic, while Shade Stewart, Danny Douglas and David Stokoe provide defensive depth following the departures of Luke Palmateer (Bayswater City) and Hristijan Jankuloski (overseas).

Joe Knowles Olympic Kingsway
New Olympic Kingsway signing Joe Knowles comes with plenty of A-League experience. Photo by Football West

Kingsway also hope to be in the thick of it come season’s end after a strong debut in the NPL last season, and they have made their intentions clear with a slew of impressive signings.

Liam Boland and Joe Knowles will provide firepower following their returns to WA, while Ryan Lowry, Aryn Williams and Luke Hewings are among the other names supplementing the squad.

Both Stirling and Kingsway will be pursuing reigning champions Perth RedStar, who begin their title defence at home to Floreat Athena.

RedStar added Night Series success to their trophy cabinet last Friday with a 3-1 win over Bayswater.

Despite losing Gold Medal winner Chok Dau to Preston Lions in Victoria, Callum Salmon has added some A-League class with former Perth Glory and Sydney FC forward Joel Chianese joining in a coup for the club.

With fan favourites Andy Higgins and Ellis Healing both retiring, Matty George heads north from Glory’s academy to provide spark in midfield, while Andrew Palmer and Dennis Galan are additions who have experience of winning silverware during their time with Floreat.

Athena, meanwhile, will want to bounce back after dropping down the standings in 2023 and surviving relegation on the final day of the season.

The club have made plenty of changes on and off the pitch in the off-season, but 2022 title winner Vas Vujacic remains as head coach of a young squad keen to impress following a turnover of experienced players at the end of last year.

Alun Vernals Armadale
Alun Vernals steered Armadale away from trouble when he arrived late last season. Photo by Football West

Two Top Four hopefuls also meet at Alfred Skeet Reserve with Armadale meeting Bayswater on Saturday afternoon.

Having parted ways with long-term coach John O’Reilly late last season, Armadale appointed Alun Vernals for the final three matches, which proved to be a successful move with the club winning all three matches to stay clear of relegation danger.

They ultimately missed out on a first-ever post-season appearance by one point with familiar local names Luke Collins, Jayden Leader, Lucas Cook and Egide Ngendakumana joining this year’s squad.

Forwards Chan Yelchan and Ryley Wishart-Stephen also add interest, having arrived from the UAE and NPL Tasmania respectively, as Armadale aim to replace the 17 goals of striker Chris Jackson, who will line up for opponents Bayswater this weekend.

Englishman Jackson is one of several big off-season additions for the three-time NPL champions alongside Lewis Italiano, Luke Palmateer, Cameron Teece, Alex Ishida-Livings, Anthony Bafobusha and Belgian-Senegalese midfielder Omar Diarra.

Gary Williams and Stewy Moses remain in the dugout having stabilised the club after arriving mid-season in 2023, and fresh off a full pre-season they will be hoping to return Bayswater to the top four for the first time since 2018.

Taki Nicolaidis Inglewood
Taki Nicolaidis, second left, is back as head coach of Inglewood United. Photo by Football West

Finally, Inglewood United and Perth Glory do battle at Inglewood Stadium, as they look to push into the top half following finishes of ninth and eighth respectively last season.

United’s four-game unbeaten run at the business end of the campaign saw them survive by goal difference on the final day. There has been change on and off the pitch with a new board announced and Taki Nicolaidis returning to the club for a second stint as head coach.

Ex-Balcatta striker Yamamoto will be entrusted with finding the back of the net, while Aiden Formston, William Formston, Jordan Brown and goalkeeper Nic Speca arrive to bolster the defensive stocks.

Glory, meanwhile, will be led by brothers John and Stephen Walmsley for a second season as they try to take the academy back to the top four for the first time since 2021.

Matty George, Shade Stewart, Judd McDougall and Christian Belladonna are among the departees, but midfield trio Laat Mathiang, Jaylan Pearman and Aiki Tsukamoto remain with this group, which has added a crop of exciting young players from their successful U18s and U20s program in 2023.

Royie Rahimim, Sam Barry, Gert Prinsloo and Daniel Jankuloski will be among the fresh faces, while a couple of familiar names will hope to prove their credentials in the form of Liam Coyne and Sebastian Despotovski.

All NPL games will be live-streamed on Streamer.

NPLWA – Men’s Round One

Saturday 16 March (3pm unless stated)

Armadale v Bayswater City - Streamer link:
Balcatta Etna v Fremantle City - Streamer link:
Inglewood United v Perth Glory - Streamer link:
Perth RedStar v Floreat Athena - Streamer link:
Western Knights v Perth SC - Streamer link:
Stirling Macedonia v Olympic Kingsway (5pm) - Streamer link: