Stingrays target Luka Prelevic

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Captain’s call: Former Frankston Pines skipper Graham Hill has joined NPL2 club Springvale White Eagles. Picture: John Punshon

NEW ZEALAND international Luka Prelevic trained with Aspendale Stingrays last Thursday and the State 5 South outfit is making an audacious bid to sign him.

If it succeeds it will have completed the signing coup of the season as Prelevic is only 23 years old and it is unprecedented for a top-flight player of that age to drop down six league levels.

Prelevic has been on the books of Port Melbourne and Melbourne City and last season made 19 appearances for Pascoe Vale, which finished fourth on the NPL ladder.

He was in New Zealand’s under-23 squad that competed in the 2015 Pacific Games and was a late call-up to the All Whites 2016 OFC Nations Cup squad replacing the injured Shane Smeltz.

Aspendale head coach Lee Barber will talk to Prelevic this week about the prospects of signing him.

“I want to sit down with Luka on Tuesday and see where his head’s at and what he wants,” Barber said.

“If I can get him I’ll be rapt.

“He seemed happy after the session last week and I think he’s just sick of all the bullshit that goes on and just wants to have a kick.

“He lives with two of the other guys in our side so fingers crossed.”

Prelevic didn’t play when the Stingrays went down 4-3 at Reema Reserve against State 4 South outfit Endeavour United on Saturday.

It was the senior team’s first hit-out under Barber and only three players from last season’s squad were involved.

Barber also used three players from the club’s title winning under-18s, two from last season’s reserves and six triallists – five from Berwick City and one from Baxter.

Two of the Berwick triallists scored – Guilherme Ribeiro and Connor Guyett – and the other Aspendale scorer was James Macnab.

Baxter’s Adrian Pace was among Aspendale’s best along with Ribeiro and Kieran Hughes.

Aspendale’s reserves won 2-1.

In NPL2 news Langwarrin turned in a disappointing display when it went down 4-0 to Brunswick City at Lawton Park on Saturday.

Langy went into the match without six senior players.

Alex Van Heerwarden and Jayden Madafferi are recovering from injury as is Wayne Wallace who was recently involved in a motorcycle accident, Thomas Ahmadzai and Johnny Kuol were rested while Jamie Cumming was on his honeymoon.

The match was broken into three 30-minute periods and Boris Ovcin’s lunge at an opponent inside the area in the second period allowed the visitors to open the scoring from the penalty spot.

Brunswick made a mass substitution early in that second period putting on many of its first-choice players and after the opening goal Langy was always staring down the barrel.

The home side looked particularly shaky defensively.

So far Langy has played three practice matches (against Beaumaris, Oakleigh and Brunswick) and has conceded 11 goals.

Brendan Richardson was released by Langy last week but the club is yet to make a call on whether or not it will retain defender or midfielder Jon Guthrie who has been playing cricket.

In NPLW news Southern United returned on Sunday from a training camp at Clifford Park Activity Centre in the Yarra Valley.

The camp was used to promote personal initiative and team building as players tackled Federation Challenge Valley and its 24 challenge elements set out along a kilometre of track winding through the bush.

Southern technical director Harry Chalkitis was at the camp on Saturday and was delighted with the results.

“We had a mix of under-12s right through to senior players and there was a fantastic interaction between them as they supported each other through all the obstacles,” Chalkitis said.

“It was absolutely wonderful to see and it put a smile on everyone’s face especially the support staff.”

There were 42 players at the camp and six support staff.

Meanwhile the Phil McGuinness era at Skye United got off to a flyer with a 5-0 win against Langwarrin under-20s at John Paul College last Thursday evening.

Mitch Blake (2), Daniel Attard, Jason Nowakowski and Mikey Turner scored for Skye.

The positive signs continued on Sunday at Centenary Park as Skye recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Peninsula Strikers.

A Steve Campbell own goal in the 14th minute gave Strikers the lead and Matt Harrington’s low strike in the 30th minute made it 2-0.

Campbell is a former Essendon Royals player and is a great capture for Skye, who can also look forward to seeing the best of Harrison Michaelis this year now that his availability to train no longer is an issue.

Strikers head coach Danny Verdun made a raft of changes at half-time and during the second period as he managed his players’ game time with an eye to Tuesday night’s friendly with Oakleigh Cannons at Centenary Park at 7pm.

Strikers struggled to contain Skye central striker Daniel Attard in this half but the big man’s finishing was woeful as he mistimed two headers and blasted a shot well over when he should have had a hat-trick.

Former Mornington and Berwick City keeper Christian Morales is on trial with Strikers and took over from Colin McCormack at half-time.
In the 68th minute Attard’s glancing header sent Turner clear and his superb finish over an advancing Morales made it 2-1.

Skye pressed hard for an equaliser and it came from a Morales mistake as he never got there quick enough to a curling Turner corner to the near post and punched the ball into his own net.

It was no more than Skye deserved but Strikers’ star John Prescott had caused havoc in the first period and only some fine saves from Jonathan Crook had kept the home side at bay.

For Strikers there were some really good signs in midfield where Grant Lane, Danny Brooks and attacking midfielder Jordan Avraham look set to form a formidable combination.

Lane and Avraham are among a number of players who have followed Verdun from Frankston Pines to Knox and now to Strikers but one player who won’t be joining them is Kyle Crawford who recently informed Verdun and assistant Neil Standish that he will be joining the McEvoy twins and Phil Hawkins at Berwick City.

The big news in State 3 South-East is that Pines have agreed terms with Stefan Soler and Jason Bradbury from Mornington and Daniel Mota from Seaford United.

However Graham Hill, who captained Pines last season, signed with NPL2 club Springvale White Eagles last week.

Bradbury and Mota featured as Pines beat Dingley Stars 3-0 at Monterey Reserve on Saturday in a spiteful encounter.

In the opening minutes of the second half Pines recruit Callum Khaiyath was felled by a deliberate kick from behind that should have warranted a send-off.

That was a cue for players to openly flaunt the rules and one of the victims was Pines’ second half substitute David Ofuho, who was only on the pitch for a few minutes before a brutal clash left him with facial injuries.

His assailant was forcibly substituted with the consent of both benches.

Most observers were amazed that Nick Giannopoulos was the only player red carded after a retaliatory lunge from behind on Pines’ midfielder Luke Murray.

Soon after the Giannopoulos dismissal Pines struck with a firm shot from Travis Ernsdoerfer.

Further goals to former Beaumaris and Lyndale player Josh Maclaren and Bradbury settled the issue.

Pines gaffer Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor was upbeat about the outcome and the display of his younger players.

“Watching the young guys step up and stand up to that type of opponent was pleasing,” Taylor said.

“We probably should have scored more goals but it’s a work in progress.”

Ernsdoerfer gave a mature display given the physical challenge put to him and the amount of times he was fouled with no response from the referee.

Pines reserves went down 4-1 to Mornington reserves.

Both sides gave some young players an opportunity to play reserves football and the Taylor brothers, Hayden and 15-year-old Daniel, played for Pines with the latter providing the assist for Laku Ramigo’s goal.

In other news the rumour mill was in overdrive last week about a major rift between Somerville Eagles player-coach Dave Greening and recruit Mark Pagliarulo.

Greening was holidaying in the US while “Pags” decided that a stint at the Oz Open to support countryman Andy Murray was a better option than training.

Never one to shun publicity “Pags” dressed up for the occasion with a wig, a football shirt and a Scottish flag and was interviewed by Skysports UK as well as being captured by the Channel 9 cameras.

The split between him and Somerville turned out to be fake news much to the disappointment of some local clubs who were waiting to pounce.

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