With the Waratah Cup heading rapidly towards its climax, with just eight teams remaining in the competition, for some, the real goal is already just one win away.
Seven clubs from the quarter finals will be looking forward to being included in the first ever Westfield FFA Cup draw on June 26, and the lowest ranked club under Football NSW’s jurisdiction is Hakoah Sydney City East FC, of State League One.
The club based at Hensley Field in the eastern suburbs, takes on the IGA NSW Mens 1 side Blacktown City this Thursday night and there is more than a distinct possibility that the club, which carries one of the more famous and historical names in NSW football, could cause a major upset.
Currently leading State League One by two points, Hakoah have only suffered the one loss this season, with seven wins from their eight league games, and that loss came back in round one. The record is even more impressive when taking the cup run into account with their three wins to date meaning that Hakoah have won their past ten games straight. The three cup wins, against Eastern Suburbs association side Dunbar Rovers, SUPA IGA Mens 2 side Sydney University and State League One rivals Granville Rage gives a clear indication that Hakoah can succeed when faced with opponents from various leagues, including those ranked above. Now it is the turn of IGA Mens 1 outfit Blacktown City.
It is perhaps not surprising that Hakoah have been such a tough competitor, with a squad which includes former NSW Premier League players such as Neil Jablonski and Michael Katz (ex Sutherland) and Lloyd Owusu, formerly of Adelaide United in the A-League. Keeper Terry Dal Broi, previously with St George and APIA, is another who has also played in the upper echelons of the state leagues.
The match against Blacktown City on Thursday will certainly rank as one of the more important, and more difficult, this season. But as team manager, Peter Grunfeld explains, it is one eagerly anticipated.
“As a club, we have always wanted to challenge ourselves against the best and the Waratah Cup competition has had a reasonably high focus this season. We may not have looked at it too much at the beginning of the year, but as the rounds progressed, it has certainly increased in importance”.
“We have the squad to progress, and the coaching staff are a very focused group. Our main aim has been to win State League One and gain promotion to the SUPA IGA Mens 2 competition, and we are top of the league at the moment, but now, we are working hand in hand with both competitions”.
The current coach of Hakoah, now in his fourth year, is Mark Robertson, a Socceroo and an NSL Grand Final winner with Wollongong Wolves in that famous comeback win on penalties against Perth Glory back in the 1999/2000 season. Robertson also had a lengthy stint playing overseas and so there is plenty of experience on the sidelines and with Premiership and Grand Final wins to his credit with Hakoah, Robertson will be well prepared as the club gets ready for the visit of Blacktown City.
“We intend to play our own brand of football and will really just wait and see what they bring to the table. It is always nice to be the underdogs and on Thursday we will have nothing to prove and everything to gain”.
“While a few of the players have had a bit of a laugh about the prospect of drawing an A-League team in the FFA Cup [should we qualify], we have tried not to get too carried away or get ahead of ourselves”.
“Nepean on the weekend was a potential banana skin, and that was our focus till now, but from here on in, our preparation for the cup starts now. I can say that nerves won’t play a part, we have fitness up our sleeve and we are in form”.
It is arguably the most interesting of the Waratah Cup quarter finals and with a big crowd expected, the lure of a home FFA Cup game against a club of the calibre of Melbourne Victory or Brisbane Roar can only whet the appetite of Hakoah’s players, management and supporters, not to mention those neutrals who love a Cup giant killing. Thursday’s match promises to be one to savour.