Nowakowski Skye to the core

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United they stand: Skye’s Jason Nowakowski holds off an opponent just outside the opposition penalty area. Picture: Gemma Sliz

SOCCER

WHEN Jason Nowakowski isn’t enforcing public health directives he’s policing the right side of Skye United’s senior team.

He’s in his 10th year with Victoria Police and 2021 will be his fifth year at Skye Recreation Reserve.

Nowakowski, 32, is married with a three-year-old son and is one of the few senior players in the local area never to have played as a junior.

His playing career kicked off as a 14-year-old at Hailebury College and he was 18 when he joined his first club Endeavour United in Provisional League ranks in 2006.

He spent a season in the reserves before breaking into the first team and his switch to Dandenong Sparrows in 2009 turned out to be his most successful season in the sport.

Nowakowski was part of the all-conquering side that strolled away with the Provisional 2 South-East championship that year 12 points clear of its nearest challenger losing just one game and scoring 92 goals while conceding just 25.

Domenic Savrimoutoo was the man who guided Sparrows to the title.

“Dom was a good coach, very experienced, good drills … a very knowledgeable man and we had a really good team which included a Mauritian international,” Nowakowski said.

A merger during the summer of 2010-11 saw the club become Hampton Park United Sparrows and Nowakowski was among a group of senior players who decided to stay.

“It was a big change and it was a tough year 2011. I think we went undefeated in the first half of the year but then we lost players and had a couple of coaching changes.”

Nowakowski had two seasons with the new club which struggled in 2012 eventually finishing second last in Provisional 1 South-East.

“I went back to Endeavour in 2013 after a new president, George Theodorou, reached out to me. I knew George outside soccer anyway and what he told me about where the club was heading really appealed to me at the time.”

Nowakowski’s second stint at Endeavour United spanned four seasons and he played under three coaches during that time – Brian Smith, Hansell Campos and present-day Chelsea gaffer Carlo Melino.

“They were a mixed four years but we were always challenging for the top four.

“Carlo had the biggest influence on me there.

“His coaching was different to what I had experienced. He was probably the best player manager I’d experienced up till then.

“His biggest influence was with the younger boys and the way he spoke to them but it also had an impact on the older players.

“We’d leave the dressing room feeling invincible.

“He would research teams based on their last five results and what formation he expected them to line-up with and we’d go over that before every game. He was very well prepared.”

Nowakowski scored against Skye United in the 2016 John Ramsden memorial match and was voted man of the match.

That added impetus to the efforts of then Skye coach Billy Armour to get him to make the switch.

“Billy was pretty much on my case every week texting, calling and I told him that halfway through that year I’d be away for six weeks on my honeymoon.

“But he sold the club to me and from what he was telling me they were pushing for promotion and wanted to go higher.

“He kept contacting me and I went down there for the 2017 pre-season and decided to join.”

Nowakowski had two seasons under Armour before the big Scot left in September 2018 and was replaced by Phil McGuinness the following month.

“I genuinely really like Billy as a coach.

“He really knows his stuff and if we were lacking in a certain area we’d work on it week-in week-out.”

Under McGuinness the intensity of training was ramped up and had an immediate effect.

Skye finished second in State 3 last year winning promotion to State 2 for the first time in its history.

“We knew what to expect when ‘Slippy’ (McGuinness) was appointed because he was our fitness coach under Billy.

“We were already a strong defensive team but when ‘Slippy’ took over we became a really intense high-pressure team and our workrate was incredible.

“Last year we went out thinking ‘we’ll win this even if we go a goal down’.

“We knew that by the 60th or 70th minute we’d be outrunning teams and that’s exactly what we did.

“Pretty much the whole year we were outworking teams and a lot of our goals came in the last 20 minutes of games.

“Stephen Duffy (assistant coach) is pretty much the same as ‘Slippy’.

“They are both very driven coaches who know what they want.”

Another of Skye’s great strengths is a core group of senior players that Nowakowski holds in high regard.

“Before my arrival a few of these guys were already there and when I arrived you probably had eight or nine players in that group.

“When we started back training last week those players were still there and that group is unbelievable.

“It’s probably the most dedicated core group I’ve ever played with and trained with.”

The commitment among this group is best exemplified by Marcus Collier who remains club captain despite suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the first half of 2018 with Nowakowski taking on the role in his absence.

“When Marcus came back the following season I expected him to just take over the captaincy but he refused because we were doing well and he didn’t want to interfere with that.

“That’s the type of person he is and that’s how selfless these blokes are. They are an amazing group of players.”

And that is the group that Skye United will pin its hopes on as it finally embarks on its maiden State 2 journey in 2021.

“Our goal in State 2 is to do what we did in State 3 and I personally think we’ll be even stronger.

“We want to push ourselves to the limit and to get promoted again and I think we can do that.”

Meanwhile in State 3 news Frankston Pines has confirmed the re-signing of its four Fijian internationals brought here earlier this year: goalkeeper Aeseli Batikasa, defender Penni Tuigulagula, midfielder Savenaca Baledrokadroka and striker Tito Vodawaqa.

There have been some high-profile sightings at Pines’ training and the club has confirmed two friendlies against NPL3 outfit Doveton’s under-21s and under-19s at Monterey Reserve on Thursday 10 December.

Doveton’s under-21s are coached by former Langwarrin technical director Stephen Fisher and will feature two former Langy juniors in Brodie Jones and Noah Green while Daniel Taylor will debut against his former club where his father Kevin “Squizzy” Taylor is head coach.

Both matches will kick-off at 7pm on the main pitch and rear pitch.

Next Saturday (5 December) Pines will host another All Abilities come and try session starting at 10am.

The club has appointed Peter Zapantis as its All Abilities co-ordinator and Saturday’s session at Monterey Reserve will feature some of the senior coaching staff.

In State 4 news Seaford United has confirmed that Peter Schwellinger will be joint senior coach along with playing-coach Matt Morris-Thomas.

Schwellinger fills the role vacated by Andy Lancaster in September and is a former Melbourne Knights, Richmond and Langwarrin goalkeeper whose sons Matthias and Jeremy are part of Seaford’s senior squad.

Schwellinger has coached at Frankston Pines, Old Carey, Melton Phoenix and Whittlesea United.

In other news Football Victoria has released its 2021 competitions calendar.

NPL2 and men’s State League round 1 is on the weekend of 21 March with round 22 on the weekend of 5 September.

Catch-up rounds have been scheduled for the weekends of 4 April, 13 June and 15 August.

The first qualifying round of the FFA Cup is on the weekend of 14 February.

Women’s State League kicks off on the weekend of 18 April with the final round on the weekend of 29 August.

Women’s catch-ups are scheduled for the weekends of 4 July and 15 August.

First published in the Frankston Times – 1 December 2020

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