The Wollongong Wolves have justifiably become the NPL Champion team in Australia after coming from behind in a thrilling match to win 4-3 in extra time in a demanding test that was provided by the Lions FC. The match had it all, seven goals, a send off and extra time to keep everyone in attendance engaged and with close attention. For the Wolves, Thomas James scored two goals with Takeru Okada adding a third before Bul Juach came to score his first goal in the NPL. Shaun Carlos, Marek Madle and Joe Duckworth goaled for the Lions.  In the medal ceremony, Harry Callahan won the John Kosmina Medal for best on the park that was presented by Alvin Ceccoli, a former Wolves double Championship winner from 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 and Championship winner with Sydney FC.   


Lions FC from Brisbane, qualified for the final for the second successive year after defeating Maitland 2-0 in the Semi-Final following their Premiership victory in the league winning by four points with Marek Madle being the top scorer with twenty goals. However, the team did not make their 2019 Qld NPL Grand Final.  In the previous year, FFA NPL Grand Final, Lions had lost to South Australia’s Campelltown City 3-0. Lightning had struck twice.  


The match began with the Wolves running towards the northern end and the Lions kicked off the match. Nick Littler and Nikola Djordjevic headed out early as the Lions mounted their initial attacks. A Guy Knight pass into the box at the other end was intercepted by Tommy Jarrard to keep the Wolves at bay and the Wolves first real opportunity occurred four minutes in when Littler headed a Takeru Okada free kick wide.  At the opposite end, an Andy Thompson free kick was taken high by custodian Justin Pasfield, before Mitch Hore made a good run eluding two or three players. However, in the final wash up of this move, the Wolves coped. 


In the eighth minute, James was obstructed before the ensuing free kick was palmed out strongly by custodian, Luke Borean. The Lion’s keeper possessed an extremely long clearance kick, which gave his team the ability to conjure up quick breaks and attacks and to keep opposition players on their toes. 


It was the visitors that took the early lead through Shaun Carlos. Prior, a left footed shot from Henry Hore on eleven minutes flew past the Wolves right   goal post and a couple of minute later, Thompson whipped in a corner kick from the left side. The ball reached Carlos. He crouched, as the ball reached him on the edge of the six-yard and he proceeded to direct his header in between Callahan on the post and Pasfield. 


Seventeen minutes in, Pasfield kept out Thompson’s free kick and the ball was immediately cleared with no harm being done. An Okada pass to James bulged the netting in the twenty-first minutes, but alas it was on the wrong side. 


Taylor McDonald was on hand to intercept in the twenty-third minute and he made a number of creative runs down the wing throughout the encounter. He was an instrumental player with his timely interceptions, enterprising forays down the wing and with passes and crosses to set up offensive manoeuvres.   


Djordjevic dispossessed Joe Duckworth as he looked to make inroads and just before the break the Wolves had their first corner kick. 


The Lions with much first half possession, lead the first half for thirty-two minutes plus four additional minutes and went in to the half time break with supremacy on the scoreboard. The Wolves needed to maintain their possession for longer periods to match their opposition but as the 2019 season showed, the majority of the team’s goals were indeed scored in the second half of matches and this second half was the time to be right on the money in this regard.        


Wollongong began the second half with a new spring in their step and in seven minutes following the restart, parity was restored. However, the Lion’s Nathan Shepherd nearly put the cat among the pigeon when he had a chance but could not convert.  At the opposite end, Lachlan Scott was put through but his ensuing left footed shot did not have at this time the potency.


 The Wolves had minutes of possession as they upped the ante. James Stojcevski was probing, and Darcy Madden and McDonald were bounding down the sidelines to propel attacks. It culminated following a Madden throw in that went to Callahan and he returned the ball.  Madden, playing at left defender in place of Chris Price, then lifted the ball up to Scott, who had his back to the goal and a defender in tow.  He managed the slot the ball into the path of a rampaging Callahan who had lit the fuse and had moved forward post haste. With the ball at his feet he burst in the penalty area only to be impeded by a tackle from Matija Simic, the Lions captain. A penalty kick ensued and James subsequently propelled his spot kick past the Lion’s custodian Luke Borean high into the goal in an emphatic statement. The Wolves were back in the hunt.   


A top Callahan shot brought out a top save from Borean, who had dived to his right, otherwise the ball would have hit pay dirt.  Not long later a Scott overhead kick in crowded area nearly brought the Lions undone had it not been for a clearance off the line. Kim swung a shot wide before a Wolves corner kick elicited appeals for a handball, which was unheeded. A Wolves corner kick saw McDonald making contact but could not direct where he desired it to go. 


Two corners in a row for the Lions caused some consternation for the home team. Henry Hore’s corner from the left went to the far post and Nick Littler and Lions’ substitute Marek Madle vied for the ball with Littler winning out the heading duel. The Wolves defence coped with the second, getting the ball away cleanly.  


A cross from Nathan Reardon was headed out by Littler after Brindell-South and Danny Kim were involved in the lead-up for the Lions.  With James running back, to head on Littler’s clearance, the ball ultimately went to Stojcevski and then on to Okada. He motored forward quickly before he fed Lachlan Scott. The industrious striker got the better of Tommy Jarrard before shooting from the left side of goal. Borean got a touch to deny the opportunity but could not keep it under control. It fell into fortuitously into Okada’s path and the Japanese dynamo tucked the loose ball home and the Wolves had hit the front.   


As time ticked by with ten minutes left on the clock, the Lions needed to score to keep in the contest but things were different as Mitchell Hore had received his second yellow and his team were now a man down. However, despite this they did not give up the ghost. Henry Hore pushed his low pass forward to Brindell-South. He centred and Madle got on the end to project his diving header past Pasfield and score his twenty-first goal in 2019. The Wolves had kept their lead for four minutes and now the Lions had something else to show for their enterprise. 2-2 was the score and this is how it stayed after four minutes were added on to the ninety.   Extra time was now to be played.  


Keegan Jelacic played the ball to Leum Walpole and Madle but a goal kick emanated from the attacking foray. However, scant time later in the nineteenth of extra time the Wolves regained the lead.  A throw in from McDonald went back to Littler. From Littler, it went through Djordjevic and Madden back to Brendan Griffin. He angled it Stojecevski, who sent it through Littler to McDonald. McDonald crossed into the box. Juach stole to the side of Jarrard to head into the goal. The crowd erupted.   


Ten minutes into extra time, a McDonald effort flashed narrowly past the far post and Griffin won the ball off Henry Hore to defuse a situation. 


Substitute Bul Juach found himself in space but with only Borean to beat, however, he unfortunately shot wide. 


On one hundred and seventeen minutes, the Wolves’ Jordan Nikolvski, returning from injury, received a pass from James. His good effort was on target but Borean was able to thwart. A minute earlier, James got in as Kim attempted a clearance as Borean and Jarrard were involved at the beginning of this move. James the top sharpshooter, moved forward to get the better of a defender by riding a tackle to bury his shot as he gave Borean little chance of preventing it. The Wolves had increased their buffer to two goals. 


Two minutes on though, Madle made his presence felt going down under the pressure from Djordjevic with the referee signalled for a penalty kick. Joe Duckworth took the penalty dispatching it the right of Pasfield with his left foot. 


Two minutes were added on in the extra time period but the Wolves with their resolve, will to win had conquered the hurdle and had won the NPL Final, a historic first for the club. The team had fought back from a goal down and all players played to their utmost.  The vanquished were no easy beats and it shows a lot about the strength in their club to make the finals two years in succession and only lose this contest by one solitary goal. However, it was the Wolves’ day on this occasion.  


Jubilant coach Luke Wilkshire - Now the best NPL team in Australia. -‘I believe that was the case before coming in to this match and it is now confirmed… They were not here for any reason. They are a good team (Lions).  For the first half we did not do ourselves justice…. We spoke at half time and we adjusted a few little things. The reaction was fantastic and they did themselves justice.  I’m proud of the boys. They have been fantastic all year…. I’m delight that we got the victory. 


Brace scorer Thomas James  - ‘ it was nice to score two today for the team.’  


Debut scorer Bul Juach - His goal - ‘I have been waiting for it for a long time and finally it came. I don’t score many with headers ... We finally got the win.


Impressive wingback Taylor McDonald – ‘they put in the effort, we put in the hard yards and never gave up.’ 


Lions' goal scorer Marek Madle - ‘it was very similar to last year.  We started off really well today and had a number of early chances. We dominated the first half and it was disappointing to give away a penalty.   We went behind and evened it up and then the send off came and a couple of goals and late drama. It is football, but it was always going to be difficult playing with ten men...The boys did well. …We tried to be positive, and it shows our spirit, we have great culture at the club and we never give up…… It has been a great final and the support it got was fantastic. It would be great to have crowds like this at all our matches. You guys have had a great year. …  It has been a pleasure and thanks for hosting the final.’  






Thomas James 52’ pen., 116’, Takeru Okada 80’ Bul Juach 109’



LIONS F.C.………………………………..…..3


Shaun Carlos 13’, Marek Madle 84’, Joe Duckworth 119’ pen. 






2.30 p.m. Kick Off 




Coach: Luke Wilkshire


1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 3.Darcy Madden 4.Nikola Djordjevic 9.Thomas James 11.Takeru Okada (23.Jordan Nikolvski 107’) 14.Harry Callahan (13.Stefan Dimoski 119’) 16.Guy Knight (10.Brendan Griffin 92’) 83’) b 24.Lachlan Scott (8.Bul Juach 94’) 15.Nick Littler 17.James Stojcevski 


Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Kairies 


Yellow Cards: James Stojcevski 39’ Justin Pasfield 55’ Guy Knight 92’ Harry Callahan 96’ Nikola Djordjevic 119’


Red Cards: Nil




Coach:Warren Moon 


GK 90.Luke Borean 2. Andy Thompson (6.Nathan Reardon73’)  4.Matija Simic (Capt.) 5.Tommy Jarrard 8.Mitch Hore 10.Joe Duckworth 11.Nathan Shepherd (9.Keegan Jelacic 61’) 12.Shaun Carlos (17.Marek Madle 73’) 13.Henry Hore 15.Danny Kim 16.Joshua Brindell-South (3.Leum Walpole 106’)


Substitutes not used: 20.GK Jacson Riley 


Yellow Cards: Danny Kim 33’ Mitchell Hore 55’ Joshua Brindell-Smith 102’


Red Cards: Mitchell Hore 90+2’


Referee: Stephen Laurie

Assistant Referees: Brad Wright,  Emma Kochek

Fourth Official: Tim Danaskos


By Malcolm Rowney