By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Dandenong City and Dandenong Thunder are both ambitious for success ahead of a local blockbuster to kick off the 2020 National Premier Leagues Victoria season on 15 February.
Dubbed the Dandy Derby, the two teams square off for the Jim Memeti Cup – a trophy named after and donated by the Greater Dandenong mayor and soccer enthusiast.
After a disappointing 2019, the Thunder have made wholesale changes to storm back into the finals.
Star recruits include Afghan international Zelfy Nazary, Brisbane NPL player Alain Papi, ex-Central Coast A-Leaguer Harry Ascroft and three-time ‘golden boot’ Brandon Barnes.
Thunder president Miron Mustafai was confident that the historically-successful Thunder would bounce back this year.
He’s expecting a fervent 3000-plus fans at the Round 1 kick-off.
“With the new players, there’s new energy.
“We’ve had a strong pre-season and we’re expecting a good turnout (for Round 1).”
Fierce rival Dandenong City has never grabbed hold of the Jim Memeti Cup. Last season, it was up 3-0 at half-time before Thunder rattled home with four unanswered goals.
“There’s a big rivalry,” City assistant coach Semi Sivic says.
“This is a huge game for us.”
City are determined to reverse last season’s tardy start, which cost the club its inaugural NPL finals appearance.
With six quality NPL recruits, City has finals in its sights.
“We have to start off well. We want to aim high.”
Dandenong Thunder v Dandenong City is at George Andrews Reserve, Deepdale Street, Dandenong South on Saturday 15 February, 7pm.