Sport

BASL#UNITED

By Alex Mitchell

Six months on from celebrating grand final success on its home deck, Shepparton United starts its quest for back-to-back Bendigo Amateur Soccer League titles this weekend in a grand final rematch.
The Blues, who completely nullified regular season champion Eaglehawk 2-0 in the McEwen-hosted grand final, will trek to Truscott Reserve tomorrow aiming to remind their rival who is boss.
Player-coach Roven Shaholli will again lead the side and, while club legend and centre-back presence Nick Kalafatis is no longer with the Blues, they again shape as a formidable line-up.
Melrose FC’s Evan Rawluk joins the side, along with Italian duo Ardit Gavri and Armando Kini, who have relocated to the country for two seasons.
With Josiah Shala and Adem Barolli more additions, Shaholli was keen to start the season. 
‘‘The boys are rapt, they’re buzzing really. Training has been really good, last week I could see them start to get excited,’’ he said.
‘‘(Rawluk) has moved here for work, he’s a typical number nine and that’s good because we haven’t really had one for a while.
‘‘(Gavri) is a centre midfielder, he’s a typical midfielder or a centre back, and (Kini) is an attacking midfielder who can push out to the wings.’’
Star goalkeeper Joey Perkovic has moved to Ocean Grove but is still expected to play some games.
It means an unbreakable defence could again be harder to break through than a brick wall with a biro, having copped just 13 goals in 20 regular season games last year.
‘‘Of course (defence) is number one, but our main focus is playing our whole game, not just concentrating on one or two areas,’’ Shaholli said.
‘‘The way we move the ball around will be slightly different, we’ve changed a few things and I’m excited to see the first round.
‘‘There’s been some good signs from our younger kids, but it does take them a while to settle in.’’
And while the Blues took out the grand final last season, there is no doubt the side will be keen to flip the script on Eaglehawk and take out this year’s championship.
‘‘That’s always the goal, every challenge is in front of us,’’ Shaholli said.
‘‘We’ll obviously concentrate on finals once we’re there, but definitely the championship is one of the goals we’re looking at now. We’ll take it week by week, it’s all about playing our brand.’’
United’s team remains packed with talent, with Ermal Marku, Fabrice Ebe, Hussein Sumaili and Mohammed Al-Gazaly just some of last season’s stars.