A 2019 season opener saw the Wollongong Wolves take on Manly United at Albert Butler Memorial Park, Warrawong.  With only one player on the field from the last match in the 2018 campaign, coach Luke Wilshire has ostensibly fashioned together a young and vital team with a smattering of experience and his foray into the coaching ranks has been successful on match day one with a 2-1 defeat of the experienced opposition from the northern beaches. Debuts at this level from Guy Knight, Harry Callahan, Takeru Okada, Nicola Djordevic, James Stojcevski and Thomas James were impressive and allied with the experience of Justin Pasfield, Nick Littler, Taylor McDonald, Ben Tosi and Lachlan Scott the home team took the spoils with an impressive display of affirmative football.  

It took thirty-four minutes before a goal was registered despite opportunities being presented with the home team having the majority share. Speedy Japanese midfielder Okada from the left side had worked himself into a position to cross. His subsequent effort flew across the face of goal, eluding everyone, except former English and Canberra FC striker James, who decisively converted this opportunity to open his Premier League account. James has quick acceleration, a good touch and held his own against the opposition defenders throughout the fixture.   

Manly United were probing throughout the match but were not having much joy until Sam Gallagher produced a pearl of a shot to level the score on seventy-four minutes. Manly had players in the box and were exerting some pressure on the Wolves’ defence but they coped to what Manly had to offer. The ball ultimately found its way to Gallagher, standing in the middle of the field about thirty-five metres out. He lashed the ball with his left foot and it went like a torpedo homing in on its target. The Wolves’ custodian Pasfield had no chance as the strike looked home and hosed as soon as it left Gallagher’s foot.


The Manly team was ecstatic as they now again had everything to play for. 

However, Manly had level pegging for barely two minutes until the Wolves achieved their second. Second half substitute striker Jordan Nikolovski, following a good Wolves’ build-up with many passes being worked, produced a great shot that brought much joy, spiriting the ball into the bottom corner of the goal. Callahan had provided the final assist after with great control to   maintain possession. This was Nikolovski’s second goal in this competition after displaying great control first scoring against Sutherland Sharks in 2018 in Round 15. Nikolvski showed enterprise and attacked with verve and commitment. He also produced a shot on eighty-nine minutes that was not too far away.


The Wolves kicked off proceedings running towards the northern end with supporters eager to see how this game would transpire with a new look team.  Pasfield came out early to clear off the edge of the penalty area to break up an early Manly foray. The away team kept at it and was awarded a couple of free kicks following. A Brendan Cholakian initial one went for a corner kick that ultimately went unrewarded. Lewis Miccio took the second one a few minutes later. It was swung in but Pasfield took the high ball with relative ease. A back and forth series of headers produced a momentary stalemate before the Wolves were awarded their first free kick. Okada whipped his effort in but a defender got in the way to conceded a corner kick. Okada took a short kick and the pass was returned. His ensuing cross traversed across the goal with nary a touch. The former Corrimal Rangers player was effervescent in the midfield, winning the ball in tackles, providing decisive passes for his supports and attacked with fervor.  


Long throws by McDonald and Knight added to the Wolves’ armory and caused some consternation to the Manly defence. Around the twelve minute mark, former A-League player Lachlan Scott had a number of opportunities that did not quite come off today but on another he could have a hat trick. He was getting himself into scoring positions with aplomb. Round the twelve-minute mark, he went up for an Okada header but alas could not connect and in the eighteenth minute hit his effort wide after Okada had provided the assist. Scott steamed onto the ball in the sixteenth minute only for Gallagher to dispossess to see off the danger.


Manly’s Adam Parkhouse’s return from Wellington Phoenix did not go according to plan for the visitors. He provided inroads for Manly with his determined running, however could not breach Pasfield’s domain. Scott Balderson on right side put a long pass over for Parkhouse but his ensuing shot was blocked. Scott headed over and the Wolves central defender Nicola Djordevic headed out as Jamie Glover put the pressure on. Stojcevski, after winning the ball, provided a deft touch and then put the ball down the left sideline with the outside of his boot in an attempt to provide an attacking thrust. On the half hour Miccio put the ball towards the Wolves threshold but way too high, which summed up Manly’s attacking momentum to this point.


 Two minutes following the Wolves’ goal, Manly had a free kick. It was taken, unluckily pole-axing a teammate. Play was held up as he received attention. With two minutes before the half time break James looked to score his brace. He motored forward, looking up for supports. He however decided to go alone. His shot unfortunately went narrowly wide. Close to half time, Balderson stretched out at the far post as cross came in, but try as he might he could connect.   

At half time it was 1-0 on the scoreboard. In the early games, the U18s and the U20s had posted good victories. Could the firsts make it a hat trick?  


From Manly’s second half kick off, the ball was pumped up with Parkhouse and McDonald ending up vying for the ball. The Wolves right sided defender won out and Nick Littler back at the Wolves for the first time in the Premier League since playing for the club in 2012, won an aerial duel with Glover. Littler was safe and sure in the heart of defence. Scott put a left footed shot wide. Cholakian hit a shot but the ball deflected off a defender and Pasfield took. Okada went down the left and crossed to James. He slotted the opportunity wide but it was difficult chance. Cholakian hit another shot but Pasfield was in the way once more. McDonald travelled down the left side, leaving a defender in his wake. He immediately crossed with Stojcevski meeting it but his direction with the shot was astray.  Scott hit one on the turn and looked for all money that it was going in. However, Manly custodian Dylan Mitchell pulled off a top save to deny.


Former Bulli players Knight and Callahan displayed confidence with deft flicks and skills to show that they were adapting to this level of play. Knight made a number of marauding runs down the sidelines and his defence was tight and Callahan shone out in midfield together with Tosi, back after a year away.


In summation, the Wolves provided more attacking opportunities than Manly and played with verve to convert two of these, and the way the team performed fully deserved the win, the plaudits and the three points. Manly was kept at bay mostly, only for a great long distance goal achieved. With their experience, it should not be too long for their first victory. Next round the Wolves are away to APIA and Manly take on Sydney FC.


Wolves’ coach Luke Wilkshire stated in a post match interview - ‘yeah it could have been better if we had taken more of our chances… I am very happy with the performance of the boys… We created more than enough to win two games. If you don’t take your chances and stay a 1-0 it gives them opportunity and they punish you for it. And that what happens in football. But credit to the boys they came back from that knock back at 1-1 to go on to get the win. I have a group of twenty players but not just those who were on the field but also those who were unable to play, which is hard.  They are hungry, determined and have quality. I can’t fault anyone as everyone did what I had asked them to do. It was fantastic.


First goal scorer Thomas James stated - ‘ It was a good first game and it was bit hot out here and we got the three points and that all that matters to be honest…. First (goal) of many hopefully but I should have had a few more, but it was a first game to get the cobwebs out.,, I wasn’t going to miss from six yards.‘

Wolves’ second goal scorer Jordan Nikolovski -  ‘it was my second goal….  The build up play beforehand was very good and we have been working on this.  Luke will be happy with that… It is hard coming off the bench but I was pumped.  I tried my best and got one.’





Thomas James 34’   Jordan Nikolovski 74’


MANLY UNITED.………………..…..1

Sam Gallagher 72’




SUNDAY 10th MARCH 2019


3.00 p.m. Kick Off



Coach: Luke Wilkshire

1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 4.Nicola Djordevic 6.Ben Tosi  (10.Brendan Griffin 71’) 16.Guy Knight 9.Thomas James 14.Harry Callahan (13.Stephan Dimoski 78’) 11.Okada Takeru 15.Nick Littler 17.James Stojcevski 23.Jordan Nikolovski, 24.Lachlan Scott (23.Jordan Nikolvski 63’)

Substitutes not used:12.Luke Kairies 7.Chris Price

Yellow Cards: Thomas James 84’  Taylor McDonald (90+1’)

Red Cards: Nil



Coach: Paul Dee


1.Dylan Mitchell, 2.Keiran Paull 4.Travis Oughtred 5.Sam Gallagher 6.Joe Fox 8.Dominic Ferguson (3.Jamie Lobb 41’) 10. Brendan Cholakian 11.Adam Parkhouse 13.Scott Balderson (14.Dejan Pandurevic 72’) 17.Lewis Miccio 

22. Jamie Glover (9.Nicola Taneski 60’)



Substitutes not used: 20. Sam Benton 18.


Yellow Cards: Scott Balderson 50’ Sam Gallagher 61’


Red Cards: Nil


Referee: Craig Fisher

Assistant Referees: Matthew McOrist, Nathan Wotton

Fourth Official - B. Merchant


By Malcolm Rowney