What a campaign from Sydney University Soccer Football Club “SUSFC”.
Their dominance across women’s football in the state has come to the top over the last few weeks.
Last Sunday they where crowned Premiership winners in both Reserve and First Grade with a round to spare, after also celebrating the Club Championship two rounds prior.
The continuous growth of the club is evident as it’s the second straight year they’ve managed to add to their growing trophy cabinet with the same trophies.
The club shows that innovation, structure and a student based approach can bring success to the NPL top women’s flight.
Head Coach Alex Epakis, who also looks after the men’s program, has only lost one game in each reserve grade and first grade in this year’s women’s competition.
They head into the finals in a couple weeks as a real threat and major favourites to claim the championship in both grades.
They lost last year’s first grade grand final in cruel circumstances in an absolute thriller to the Macarthur Rams and are looking to go one better this year.
“It’s been a tough season, there are very strong teams, talented players and great opposition coaches within the competition which have made this year very tough and exciting.
“I applaud all the teams for competing to bringing the level and professionalism up another notch.
“We are happy with our success, the premiership and club championship are the pinnacle – but hopefully we have a bit more success over the next month leading into the finals series.”
After spending time at Sydney FC as a coach within the academy setup, Epakis made the switch in 2017 to join SUSFC as Heather Garriock’s assistant in her last season as head coach.
Epakis says he was given an amazing opportunity by Garriock who set the foundations for a successful Uni football program.
“Heather brought me to the club as her assistant in her last season. When I first started I had amazing support from both Heather and John Curran, and all I wanted to do was to assist in any way possible.
“Obviously since then I have had the opportunity to step up into the Head Coach role – but a lot of appreciation has to be given to Heather and the club for bringing me in and giving me a great opportunity, one that I will always be thankful for.”
Epakis, who currently is Australia’s youngest A Licence holder and a coach educator believes the success is down to the players. Often looking to put the light on his squad and off himself – he acknowledges he has top quality players to work with.
“The players are phenomenal players and people – every single one of them across the whole squad. They are technical with strong decision making skills, and they always look to further improve and develop.
“It challenges me to constantly improve myself to ensure that I am able to guide them in the right direction.”
Uni is one of the few NPL clubs who adopts a very strong video analysis set up which is run by support staff focused on coding matches and developing trends. Epakis says that this heavy video focus was introduced this year as a way to further stimulate the players and in order to try and gain a winning edge.
His assistant coach Simon Maher, conditioning coach Nicolai Morris, analyst Maggie O’ Toole and Director of Football John Curran make up his support team.
Epakis acknowledges that each one of them brings certain qualities to the table and have helped the club to the successful point it’s currently at.
“We all work together to ensure the players and the club have the best possible environment – as a team of staff we all bring value to the group.”
The club hopes that while they achieve success during the NPL NSW Women’s seasons – they also equally value the process of having players develop and be promoted and signed to W-League clubs.
“When players get opportunity to sign or train with W-League teams we view that as another win, another success story.
“We want to develop players to be strong Uni players, but also to be part of W-League and other international setups” Epakis says.
The process at Uni is clear. They look to use a very heavy focus on young student-athletes who are undertaking tertiary study at the university, allow a young coach to drive the process and always remember that the club comes first.
Their underpinning development youth teams also continually provide them with a pool of players to challenge the more senior ones.
Epakis believes the club can be dominant for years to come, he believes it is a project which is just starting and he is eager to continue to be at the forefront of that journey and ensure that Sydney University remains a dominant force within the women’s game.
By Nikola Pozder