Expect cannon fire and trench warfare this Sunday evening when arch-rivals Heidelberg United and South Melbourne go to war at Oakleigh’s Jack Edwards Reserve in the final game of NPL Victoria’s long-awaited opening round of the 2021 season.
The usually anticipated full house for the 6pm kick-off time is off the menu for the time-being, with around half of the picturesque boutique stadium’s capacity of 5,000 allowed through the turnstiles under state government virus rules.
But half a crowd in for the 100th-plus Alexander v Hellas derby is a damn sight more exciting than the season that wasn’t, as Victorians locked down after five rounds of the 2020 campaign.
They say mighty Hellas is back on the rise after some barren years, and there are many questions about where the Warriors are at after a massive player turnover since clinching the 2019 Premiers Plate – the club’s remarkable third plate in succession – in the very last round of the season.
Since that 3-0 win – against South Melbourne at Lakeside, no less – the Warriors have lost ten senior starters and according to HUFC TV veteran, John Fotinos, this is Heidelberg’s biggest and most significant rebuild in a decade.
Club champion Steven Pace returns to join senior boss, George Katsakis, on the coaching panel and a host of new or newish faces have shown glimpses in the pre-season. The likes of Strickland, Roberts, Okada, Falla, Castiello, Ashton, Milovanovic & Micallef now get tested in the heat of battle for the first time in Warrior colours.
The game is back. The derby is on. You little ripper. Warrior Nation.