Geelong’s pre-season competition has a new sponsor, the Victorian government, and the tournament will be called the Go-for-Life Cup. The format will be similar to that of the long-running Geelong Advertiser Cup which became established as the best non-metropolitan competition of its kind. This year eight teams will take part in two groups of four. After a round robin in each group the winner in each plays the runner-up in the other for a place in the grand final. The clubs which finish third and fourth in the groups play each other to determine the other finishing positions.
Geelong is the defending champion, having defeated Hoppers Crossing in the final last year by three goals to one. In the semi-final it had its closest game only beating Geelong Rangers on penalties after a scoreless draw. This year Geelong has a new coach, Scott Millar, who has coached the reserves and young players at the club for the last three years. He replaces Bobby Stojcevski whose team imploded in the latter rounds of the State League after a brilliant start. Millar will give his young charges every chance of emulating last season’s achievements.
North Geelong retains former Melbourne Knights’ star Vinko Buljubasic as coach and he can call on former national league colleagues Adrian Cervinski and Ante Deak to lend experience to another young squad. North has been the most successful club over the years and will be aiming to restore its pride with at least a finals appearance in 2009.
Geelong Rangers hosts the competition at Myers Reserve this year. Rangers won promotion to Division Two North West of the State League last season under Robbie Noggler. The former Australian Futsal representative has welcomed back David Ellis to strengthen the defence and Ronnie Clayson, Troy Hardy and Scott Davison will spearhead the dark blues challenge to win the title which has eluded them since 1987.
Bell Park, once a powerhouse in Geelong football, is seeking to return to the glory days and has appointed former Young Socceroo Robert Spasevski as senior coach in succession to Eddie Dorris. Peter Bradley will be his assistant and Park also has a number of good young players challenging for senior call-ups this season. There is a similar story at Hoppers Crossing where club stalwarts Joe Vella and Gus dos Santos have taken over as coach and assistant respectively. Peter Wilkinson says Hoppers will use the competition to test the quality of their playing staff, but does not rule out another finals appearance.
Corio has Ismail Ali at the helm in 2009 and the popular former keeper will get the best out of his squad. Another stalwart of the game Lindsay Falzon, who played in Ballarat, Bell Park and at Geelong Rangers, has taken the reins at Surfcoast. The Torquay based club surprised many by a very successful first season in the Provisional League last year, establishing itself in the top half of the league. Again it will be a young team which will represent the club and it will be looking for its first win in the competition after making its debut last year.
Finally the Geelong Regional Football Association combined side will be coached by one of Geelong’s most talented players of recent times, Charles Fitzpatrick. The former striker reports that he has been pleased to see a wide range of Sunday league clubs represented at training. Though last year was disappointing, the GRFA’s predecessor the Western Victoria Soccer Association nearly always caused upsets in the Geelong Advertiser Cup and Fitzpatrick will be out to do so again.
Corio, Bell Park, Geelong and the GRFA form Group A, with Geelong Rangers, North Geelong Hoppers Crossing and Surfcoast in Group B. the Cup kicks off on Friday night at 6 pm, with Corio versus the GRFA, followed by North Geelong against Surfcoast at 7.20 pm. On Sunday it is the turn of Geelong Rangers to take on Hoppers Crossing and then Geelong plays Bell Park. A feast of football in front of large and knowledgeable crowds is guaranteed.