Thursday, 27 January 2005 7:57 PM
By Michael Tsoukalis
Back in the old National competition there was no other fixture that could capture the imagination as much as the South Melbourne-Heidelberg derby.
After years of hiatus this legendary fixture is on the verge of resurrection. Sunday sees the battle of the two Australian football giants recommence with both sides super-eager to not only get their season off to a positive start, but more importantly score a psychological victory against their bitter rivals.
Heidelberg is back in the VPL after gaining promotion last season with a credible 2nd place finish behind the eventual State 1 winners the Sunshine Georgies. Recruiting for the Bergers has been particularly impressive with many experienced NSL players joining the roster at Olympic Village.
Ex-South Melbourne stars Con Boutsianis and Billy Damianos are two players integral to the Heideilberg outfit. Attacking spark, flair and that little bit of extra class are the responsibility of these two seasoned professionals. With Ex-Melbourne Knight and Adelaide City keeper Lou Acevski in goal, ex-South defender Robert Liparoti in the heart of defence, and exciting young Socceroo Steve Pantelidis in a wingback/midfield role this season’s Heidelberg is definitely not lacking in the quality stakes. Up front Joe Tricarico is a player to watch with stints at Carlton and the Melbourne Knights highlighting his ability to play at the top.
Form wise Heidelberg has had a mixed pre-season. Outstanding results against the likes of Bentleigh, Altona and Oakleigh have been overwhelmed by a tight loss to Fawkner-Whittlesea as well as two thrashings at the hands of Green Gully and the Preston Lions.
Conversely as all know, South is in the process of re-building its dynasty. The squad is largely made up of promising youngsters with a trickling of NSL-hardened players who make up the backbone of the team. Key to South’s core will be veteran goalkeeper Dean Anastasiadis who has had vast NSL experience with South, Collingwood Warriors, Carlton and Wollongong. Con Blatsis has returned from a long stint overseas and will form the heart of the South defence, injury however will keep him out of the derby.
Up front Kiwi Vaughn Coveny is entrusted to once again lead the line. The Kiwi international has had a distinguished career at NSL level with his best football played at the Albert Park-based club. Late signing Kostas Salapasidis will also play a crucial role, his silky touches should provide a large chunk of the team’s goals. Salapasidis has played in Europe with stints in Spain and Greece but is perhaps most famous for his virtuoso performance in the World Youth Championships were his 4 goals single-handedly defeated tournament favourites Argentina.
Scottish winger Ryan Dinse has had a very solid pre-season campaign and will be crucial to South’s width and attacking raids. High quality youngsters can be found in Peter Koutsoupias, Vasilios Natsioulas, ex-VIS captain Evan Karavitis and son of Australian football legend Eddie Krncevic, Jesse Krncevic.
South’s pre-season hasn’t been supplemented with positive results; however, their play has shown many promising signs. Narrow losses to Essendon, Oakleigh and Altona where the team produced good attractive football where unfortunate. Two 3-0 losses to Bulleen and the Melbourne Knights were a disappointment as the team conceded soft goals and in general lacked spark; however, John Anastasiadis’s men finally gelled and comfortably disposed of the Sunshine Georgies 3-0.
With both sides desperate for a result Sunday promises to be a cracking fixture. A big crowd is expected to witness the renewal of one of Australian Football’s most legendary rivalries; the “good old days” of Victorian football are truly back.