By Nick Creely
One of the National Premier League’s (NPL) most destructive and entertaining strikers, Brandon Barnes will make a return to George Andrews Reserve for the Dandenong Thunder with the season just weeks away.
The Englishman – who is a three-time Golden Boot, Players Player and Player of the Year with 119 goals for the club in 116 games – and arguably one of the most potent strikers outside of the A-League – informed the club after last September’s promotion-relegation win at AAMI Park that he would be moving back home with his young family, ending a stellar four years for the Thunder in which his impacted has been felt right across the community.
But in a major coup for south-east soccer, and not only for the NPL and the Thunder, Barnes is back, and ready to light up George Andrews Reserve once more after agreeing to a new-deal and putting pen to paper, quashing any speculation he could join another NPL club.
Barnes – one of the crowd favourites – enjoyed another strong 2019 season, scoring 19 goals from 26 games, but is best remembered for a 41-goal season in 2016 in NPL2 East where he scored eight goals in a game against Nunawading City. He has previously been heavily linked to A-League clubs, such has been his dominance in Victorian football.
The Thunder have also recently added Chris Hatfield, an attacking midfielder from Lions FC in Queensland to boost their stocks, while the addition of keeper Francis Soale – the former captain of Perth SC – will add significant experience to the squad who are looking to bounce back in the NPL’s top flight.
The squad – in the midst of its pre-season friendlies – will kick off the NPL season against local rivals Dandenong City under lights at George Andrews Reserve on Saturday 15 February, in a clash that is sure to draw a monster crowd.