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Opinion

Clubs doing it tough as Queensland NPL restart hangs in the balance

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20th May, 2020
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Sunshine Coast Wanderers head coach Paul Arnison is itching to get back to business once it is safe to do so as the resumption of the Queensland National Premier League hangs in the balance.

The competition came grinding to a halt in early March after the outbreak of COVID-19. As Queensland begins to take tentative steps back towards some sort of normality, the resuming of play in July – with 15 weekend and seven midweek rounds – has been mooted.

Such an arrangement may prove problematic for some clubs, most notably Magpies Crusaders, who are located in Mackay, more than 900 kilometres north of Brisbane.

Arnison claims he knows of one fellow NPL side who are looking at a $50,000 shortfall in lost sponsorship, and another club who are reluctant to restart due to forecast losses of food and drink revenue and gate receipts, as gatherings are due to be limited to a maximum of just 100 people.

The Wanderers got off to a bumpy start in 2020 in their maiden NPL season following promotion last year. They have shipped in 21 goals and lost their first five games to leave them rock bottom on the ladder prior to play being stalled.

Football generic

(Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

“It’s been hard for everyone,” Arnison said.

“Lots of clubs are doing it tough. Given our league position it would have been easy for us to say let’s null and void it and start up again in 2021, but I firmly believe we can turn it around.”

That might seem like an unlikely claim, but a sliver of hope is offered by the fact that the Buderim-based club were leading late in games against Peninsula Power and Capalaba before caving in.

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Arnison admits a lack of game management and experience had cost his young side at times.

“It’s frustrating,” said the Englishman, who amassed over 300 appearances in the English lower leagues for the likes of Darlington, Hartlepool and Carlisle United, where current Brisbane Roar skipper Tom Aldred cleaned his boots.

“There are still positives to take. We’re a fairly young group and with all due respect, some of the mistakes we are making now wouldn’t have been punished last season in the Queensland Premier League. Everyone is still learning, myself included.”

When the NPL finally does return, the Wanderers will be bolstered by the return of ex-Brisbane Strikers fullback Sammy Knight after a long-term injury, and the arrival of former Young Socceroos captain Brodie Boyce.

A switch to substance over style may also be on the cards for the Wanderers.

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“I do like to set us up to be entertaining and play on the front foot,” said Arnison.

“But there are times when we need to dig in and grind out games.”

The coronavirus has also seen Arnison unable to complete his coaching duties at nearby Matthew Flinders Anglican College, and in a bid to keep busy he has been carrying out labouring work through a building company owned by Glen Duncan – father of Wanderers midfielder Ollie.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in football in some shape or form since leaving school,” he said.

“It’s been quite humbling to be on the building site doing some proper graft!

“I’m very grateful to Glen for the opportunity.”

Football Queensland are expected to make a further announcement on the resumption of the NPL later this month.