IPL giants ready for top of the table clash

FIERCE RIVALRY: Bulli and Wollongong Olympic in action at Balls Paddock last season. Picture: Robert Peet
FIERCE RIVALRY: Bulli and Wollongong Olympic in action at Balls Paddock last season. Picture: Robert Peet

Olympic coach George Antoniou believes memories of last season’s heartbreaking final day loss to Bulli have long been forgotten as the IPL heavyweights prepare to meet in another top of the table clash on Saturday. 

Olympic needed to beat Bulli in the final round of 2017 to claim the League Championship, but fell narrowly short in a 1-0 defeat on an epic afternoon at Balls Paddock.

The two clubs had gone toe-to-toe in an enthralling title race all season long.

They’ve started the 2018 campaign in similar fashion, with both clubs chalking up three wins from their first three games.

It sees them sit first and second on the ladder again heading into the rematch.

Antoniou was looking to take a fresh approach into the clash.

The Olympic boss wasn’t at the helm when the two clubs met at the end of last season and quashed any talk that it would have an impact this weekend.

“To be honest, we haven’t spoke about it. Everyone has moved on,” Antoniou said. 

“That was a different side to the one we have now and as a coaching staff, we weren't here for that either.

"We are just taking things game by game and Saturday will be no different. It will be a big challenge."

Bulli coach Matt Bailey preferred to focus on 2018 over his team’s past achievements. 

"It's a different proposition this year. It might serve as some motivation for them but it won't be on our mind on Saturday afternoon,” he said.

"We are focused on our own goals and objectives.”

Bulli hold a slender advantage over Olympic at the top of the competition on goal difference. They are yet to concede through the opening three rounds while both clubs have rammed home 11 goals a piece so far.

"We've done a number of things well to start the year,” Bailey said.

"We've really been strong across the park for the first couple of rounds. We have executed well and our defence has been solid as well.

"That's something we will have to be aware of this weekend against Olympic, who have scored lots of goals to start the season.

"With that said, we are very confident in our own ability and the way we set up."

Bulli are backing up from a competitive mid-week FFA Cup win against Coniston.

The defending premiers played a weakened starting line-up, but were made to work hard by the District League contenders in a 3-1 triumph at JJ Kelly Park. 

Tarrawanna Blueys also picked up a Cup victory during the week with a 2-0 win over NSW NPL 2 club Macarthur Rams while South Coast Flame fell in the last minute to FC Gazy Auburn. 

In other IPL matches this weekend, Woonona Sharks host Wollongong United, who fell to 1-0 to Corrimal Rangers in a mid-week catch-up game.

Tarrawanna meet in-form Cringila Lions and Port Kembla travel to face Picton Rangers.

On Sunday, Corrimal Rangers host Albion Park White Eagles and Fernhill play South Coast United.