The Wollongong Wolves suffered the semi-final defeat by 1-0 when APIA Leichhardt brought off a deserved victory in the third match between the two sides in 2019. The Wolves had won the previous two encounters and were favourites to win the match in many quarters, however the APIA players were hungry and up for the contest. As a consequence, the Tigers have achieved a Grand Final appearance for the second time in two years with a strong defensive effort and quick movements to harass the ball possessor culminating with the benefit of a Chris Payne goal nine minutes before full time. It was a tough physical contest with no quarter given. However, despite the defeat, the home team lives to see another day in the final series when they meet Sydney United 58 next weekend after they defeated Blacktown City in extra time 7-3.

Payne’s goal came in the eighty-first minute. Corey Biczo shrugged off Brendan Griffin in a tackle, turned ninety degrees before slotting the ball out to the left for Michael Kouta. He in turn moved the ball on to Sean Symons as he ran in between Taylor McDonald and Brandon Stojcevski. On receipt of the ball, Simons pushed the ball forward from near the byline and just outside the goal area. It flew across the face of goal between Nick Littler and the post with the ball being met by Payne, with this being his seventh goal in six consecutive matches.   

This match was a struggle in the first half as APIA, despite playing one hundred and twenty-minutes last week, appeared quick off the blocks when Payne showed his intention early when he produced a shot. It had power and traversed on target. However, Wolves’ custodian Justin Pasfield was there to prevent guarding the southern goal.  An early corner kick kept up APIA’s pressure but McDonald headed away. Stojcevski won a tackle on Adrian Ucchino to set the Wolves on their first foray.  Scant time later, Stojcevski curled in a free kick with the Tiger’s custodian Ivan Necevski taking it high.    

Biczo endeavoured to thread the ball through but it went out before any of his team could react. Pasfield came quickly to take a Franco Parisi lifted ball. Parisi was instrumental in his side’s attacks playing passes to Payne, Ucchino and Biczo to set them forth. The Wolves were being outdone by the body checks that emanated and their passing movements were not up the usual high standard, with a high proportion of turnovers in evidence. APIA had dominated much of the match especially in the first half. 

Takeru Okada was putting balls to his supports and trying to set up goal attempts for Lachlan Scott and the league’s top scorer, Thomas James. However, despite opportunities it was a barren day for the scorers who scored combined season total of thirty-four goals.   

A Tynan Diaz free kick from the right side was headed out by Darcy Madden before James peeled in from the left to produced a shot that unfortunately took a deflection. Symons crossed and Diaz was about to pull the trigger only for Okada to deny a clear go of the target. James was attempting to broaden his impact of the proceedings when he sent a low ball across the face of the goal from the right side. The ball was headed back to him. He had another go but no joy was to be had. 

APIUA went close to attaining the lead four minutes after the half hour when Parisi through himself at the ball near the post but his effort was all in vain. As APIA attacked Littler won the ball in a tackle on Biczo and Djordjevic did likewise on Sam McIllhatton. Biczo blazed two shots high in attempts to gain the advantage on the scoreboard and Diaz did as well. The Tigers had many shots but lacked the desired direction and outcome. The Wolves had fewer opportunities and the ones they had conjured up lacked being clinical.    

At half time it was a stalemate.

The Wolves began the second half with a little more haste and urgency than the first half. Madden flicked the ball on after Littler sent a long ball forward. James had a shot but it did not bring up pay dirt. Guy Knight looked to get a shot on target only for it to be blocked. It just wasn’t the Wolves’ day.  

In the sixty-fourth minute, Scott met a Chris Price cross from the left. His ensuing back header went agonizingly close.   

The Wolves were making more inroads in the second half and were willing to try anything. Griffin spied Necevski off his line and audaciously tried to chip him. Alas, it was a little too high but the intention was there. James got around Themba Muata - Marlow, who was doing a mountain of work in defence, and put a cross in. Scott valiantly rose in attempt to head the ball but it was out of reach. 

Once Payne had scored with only minutes left on the clock, the Wolves were staring into the abyss. Littler played cross in and Diaz interceded to head the ball away and Griffin effort went straight to Necevski and McDonald could not direct his header on target.   

An extra four minutes were played and in this period Scott once again could reach the ball with a header.  

The Wolves had not played to their usual form and APIA had taken their chance. It was a disappointing result for the home side but they have one more bite of the cherry. They have to settle and regain their mojo and belief and be keen for the next assignment and hopefully win to set up a rematch with APIA. The Tigers will be interesting watchers of the developments to see who their opposition will be in the Grand Final. Hopefully it will be the Wolves. 

Maybe history will repeat itself. In 2008, the Wolves lost the first semifinal and went on to win the next two games winning the Grand Final versus the team that beat them in the semi-final. Maybe the 2019 team will do the same.

Coach Luke Wilkshire -  ‘credit to them and well done…  In the first half we did not have enough intensity and we gave the ball away in bad areas and we did not do what we wanted.  The second half was better but we lacked the cutting edge. We have to dust ourselves up and get another crack at it and we will ready to go at the weekend.  

Wing back Taylor McDonald –‘ yes, it is shattering.  We did not play our best but unfortunately they turned it on and we got punished. We were not clinical enough and we did not create enough chances…they worked hard and closed us down. . We will look forward to the next game.  We get the opportunity and we have to make sure we get the job done.’ 

APIA wingback Tynan Diaz  - ‘we knew they would have a lot of possession and a lot of movement and we struggled with that during the season so we changed the game plan a little bit and it worked.  In truth we haven’t won anything yet. We have one more game to go before we start celebrating… You have to do what ever you can to put the opposition off their game. They have some very talented players and we did our best to make it hard for them and we did.   We are all carrying some niggles after played one hundred and twenty minutes a couple of days ago.   It was a real battle and a gutsy win and to do it at in Wollongong in my hometown was sweeter.’ 






Chris Payne 81’




7.30 p.m. Kick Off 



Coach: Luke Wilkshire

1.Justin Pasfield (GK) (Capt.) 2.Taylor McDonald 3.Darcy Madden (20.Brandon Stojcevski 78’) 4.Nikola Djordjevic 7.Chris Price (Brendan Low) 16.Guy Knight 9.Thomas James 11 Takeru Okada 15.Nick Littler 17.James Stojcevski (10.Brendan Griffin 67’) 

Substitutes not used: 12.Luke Kairies 6.Ben Tosi 8.Bul Juach  

Yellow Cards: Nil 

Red Cards: Nil




Coach:John Calleja 


1.Ivan Necevski, 3.Paul Galimi 21. Michael Kouta 6.Chris Payne (19. Dom Nasrabadi 90+’) 7.Tynan Diaz 8.Corey Biczo 10.Franco Parisi (23. Nicholas Stavroulakis 88’) 12.Sam McIllhatton 15.Themba Muata-Marlow 18.Adrian Ucchino


Substitutes: 22. Luke Turnbull 14. Lachlan Hughes 4.Nicholas Azzone

Yellow Cards: Adrian Ucchino 55’ Michael Couta 88’


Red Cards: Nil


Referee: Adrian Arndt

Assistant Referees: Matthew McOrist, Nathan Wotton. 

Fourth Official : Craig Fisher 


By Malcolm Rowney