Monday, 23 June 2008

Meet the Rockets

It should be a cracker of a confrontation.

Russ Gibbs gives the lowdown on the ACT players to take on the Mariners this Friday.


By Russ Gibbs

Gathering together a diverse group of players to mould into a team to represent a state is no easy proposition. Inevitably, given the various opinions of the selection committee, there will be some highly talented individuals that will miss out. For the 2008 version of the ACT Rockets, re-invented after a four year hiatus,

Capital Football have chosen two coaches whose respective teams like to play football by keeping possession and attacking at pace. Having a concept of how a side should play is fine, but who has been selected to carry out these ideals?

Coaches Dean Ugrinic and Scott Conlon have selected an eclectic mix of individuals, each with their own unique abilities. Over the last four weeks the group has trained together in an attempt to field a side that will be a proud representation of football in the Capital.

Here, we briefly profile what you can expect from the players picked to represent the ACT in the clash against the Central Coast Mariners at Deakin Football Stadium on Friday 27th June.

Coaches: Softly-spoken O’Connor Knights head coach Dean Ugrinic is the man tasked with masterminding the Rockets to a competitive performance against the Mariners.

Formerly a player with Belconnen United, Canberra Deakin and the University of Canberra at local Premier League level, his ideas hold the key to success. Assisting Ugrinic is Tuggeranong United coach Scott Conlon.

Conlon, who was voted ACT Coach of the Year in 2007, plied his on-field trade with Canberra Cosmos, Canberra Deakin and Gungahlin Juventus as a distinguished midfielder of some note, as well as enjoying a stint overseas at Harrogate Town in the UK.


Between the posts coaches Ugrinic and Conlon can rely on two knowledgeable, top quality shot-stoppers. The athletic Nathan Denham was the rock between the posts for Canberra FC in their treble-winning season last year and his commanding presence and vocal attributes should ensure that the Mariners are made to work hard for goals.

Brett Dickens of Tuggeranong United brings a wealth of experience to the squad having been a former Rockets goalkeeper and Brisbane Lions representative. ‘Dicko’s’ main qualities are his excellent sense of positioning and superb reflexes.


Agile and quick Canberra FC’s John Ison is built very much in the mould of the modern-day defender. Visually aware, and with the ability to read a game, his pace and physical prowess mean he is a hard man to beat.

Ison’s distribution from the back will be a key component of the Rockets game.

Belconnen United defender Matt Valeri brings a harder edge to the ACT back-line without compromising its ball-playing ability. Comfortable carrying the ball from the back and strong in the air the Blue Devils stopper looks to be an excellent foil for Ison in a solidly built Rockets back-four.

Stopper Steve Rezzo, who plays his club football at the O’Connor Knights, is a tough-tackling, no-nonsense centre-back/stopper who belies his physical size by showing excellent technique when in possession. Rezzo is one of four Knights in the squad. Rezzo’s team mate at club level, David Brouwer, is a solid and technical right-footed full back who is most at home collecting the ball and distributing it to his wingers.

Brouwer possess good pace and is often found overlapping his more attacking Knights colleagues. When in position to do so he delivers some devilishly accurate crosses from the flank. Unfortunately a medial ligament tear put paid to Brouwer’s chance to shine and his place in the squad was taken by Lucas Roth.

The versatile Roth, who is shortly to leave for the USA and a scholarship, can play anywhere along the back line but is most at home as a sweeper/stopper/centre-half. His composure on the ball and coolness under pressure will be a major benefit to the Rockets against their more experienced opponents.


Across the middle of the park Ugrinic and Conlon are gifted with a variety of talent that can create chances and put them away themselves. The silky skills and hard-working ethos of Adam Spaleta, Canberra FC, are the perfect complement to the attacking style this team threatens.

With the added bonus of being able to play further forward, if required, Spaleta brings a touch of class to the central midfield area. Canberra Olympic’s midfield triumvirate of Victor Yanes, Trent Flanigan and young tyro Oliver Wiederkehr bring a neat combination into the mix. Flanigan, an Australian Futsalroo international, has quick feet allied to a quick mind which enables him to see opportunities that his forwards readily take advantage of, making Flanigan one to watch

Wiederkehr is a winger of rare talent. With a low centre of gravity he is able to side-step his way at pace through the tightest of defences and his sheer speed will be a bonus out wide should he be given the chance to run at the Mariners defensive line. Yanes, who was joint ACT Player of the Year in 2007, is another with a stack of tricks and the vision to make use of the space he creates with his undoubted talent.

His creative skills could be the key to unlocking the Mariners back four with his perceptive passes a feature of Canberra Olympic’s matches this term. Woden Valley captain Marcin Zygmunt possess a lethal shot and a wide-range of passing, over both short and long distances.

The powerfully built central midfielder allies pace with power and is a difficult man to stop when in full stride with most of Woden’s attacking play starting at his feet. A surprise choice to some, Pat Ross-McGee has been impressive in training and certainly deserves his place amongst the elite. The ball-playing Canberra City midfielder has a dynamic running style and is invariably found in the right position to keep attacks flowing.

Not one to shy his defensive duties Ross-McGee’s tracking back and covering are also excellent. The engine-room of the O’Connor Knights midfield, Justin Selkirk, is a tall central midfielder who is the hub of the action at O’Connor Enclosed. A defensive midfielder with a huge tank of petrol, he will run all day, and is renowned for his perceptive delivery and for covering huge swathes of the pitch throughout the ninety minutes.


In the attacking department the Rockets are blessed with some terrific strikers, each with a devastating eye for goal. Elusive Canberra Olympic forward/midfielder Travis Dries is equally at home in the centre of midfield or out on the wing as sometimes utilised by his club.

The 2006 ‘Golden Boot’ has pace to burn, trickery and an uncanny knack of scoring spectacular goals as evidenced throughout his Premier League career with Woden Valley, Tuggeranong United and latterly Olympic.

Canberra FC centre-forward Paul Ivanic likes to drop deep from where he can use his blistering acceleration to dart into goal scoring positions, and once in, he rarely misses as his eleven goals so far this season testify.

Tall and powerful, yet equally as good on the floor as in the air, Ivanic should prove a real handful for the Mariners defence. Completing the trio of attackers is O’Connor Knights hit-man Goran Veljanovski. The talented and skilful forward has a wonderful touch and a sharp-turn and is a prolific finisher of chances. Veljanovski grabbed a mind-boggling eleven goals in the Knights successful Federation Cup campaign and hasn’t stopped scoring since – a dangerous and frighteningly consistent player.

Queanbeyan City front man Goran Josifovski was added to the squad as a standby player at the initial selection meeting. Josifovski is yet another player with a good touch, quick feet and an eye for the target. He has been in excellent form for his club in recent weeks finding the net on a regular basis and kick-starting Queanbeyan’s resurgence in the ACT Premier League.

On paper it looks like a formidable squad. Every player has been selected on merit for their ability to play precise football at pace. This requires a decent first touch, vision and awareness of the positioning of team-mates and opponents alike.

On the evidence of the sessions to date Ugrinic and Conlon have chosen well. It just remains to be seen whether this group has the underpinning qualities required to take on the 2007 A-League grand Finalists. It should be a cracker of a confrontation.

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