Season preview: Can anyone challenge Olympic for the Central League title?

posted in: Centre Circle, News

By Luke Austin

On paper, national champions Wellington Olympic look odds-on picks to successfully defend their Central League title.

Who, if anyone, can mount a challenge to Olympic’s claims for another trophy? And which clubs might force their way into the top four, and qualify for the Men’s National League?

READ MORE: Central League — our round-up of new signings and summer departures >>>>

Here are the clubs that line up for the Central League season …

Wellington Olympic

Defending champions Wellington Olympic head into the 2024 season as firm title favourites again.

Following the loss of several key players from last season, notably Gianni Bouzoukis, Joel Stevens and Jack Cawley, the Greeks, led by new head coach Paul Ifill have recruited heavily to ensure no gaps are left in their squad.

Most notable signings include New Zealand youth internationals Adam Supyk and Oliver Colloty from Eastern Suburbs and Auckland City, respectively,

Auckland City’s Cam Howieson (left) and Olympic’s Jesse Randall battle for midfield possession in their OFC Champions League play-off. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

They’ve also signed national U-23 player Jesse Randall who returns from a stint playing professionally in the United States, Fijian international Gabriele Matasigna who joins from Rewa FC, Kaelin Nguyen and Josh Rudland from the Phoenix Reserves and Eddie Wilkinson and Luke Tongue who makes the move from Christchurch.

With this new talent added to Wellington Olympic’s existing core of players, it is difficult to see any other team being able to stop the Greeks winning their fourth Central League title in a row.

Last season:1st
Predicted finish: 1st

Phoenix Reserves

The Wellington Phoenix Reserves have become regulars in the Central League’s top three in recent seasons.

This year, many of the side’s more established players have moved or been promoted to the first team, giving younger players the opportunity to make the step up to the Reserves.

The youth academy and player development at the Phoenix only seems to be getting better, so it would be no surprise if the Reserves have another strong Central League season.

Last season:2nd
Predicted finish: 3rd

Napier City Rovers

Despite losing their standout performer from last season, Deri Corfe, to Australia, the Napier City Rovers squad looks in great nick thanks to several impressive new signings by head coach Bill Robertson.

Danish goalkeeper William Tonning … has arrived at Napier City Rovers.

Among the new faces are two overseas imports; goalkeeper William Tonning and striker Oscar Faulds who arrive from Denmark and Sweden, goalscoring wingers Ben Stanley and Adam Hewson, who have signed from Dunedin City Royals and Green Island, and forward Max Chretien who returns to New Zealand after several years playing in the United States.

Experienced forward Stephen Hoyle (captain Jim Hoyle’s brother) has also left Auckland’s Eastern Suburbs to rejoin the club as a player/coach to help guide the squad.

If the Blues are able to perform well in away games this season, they could be a real threat and improve on their 3rd place finish in 2023.

Last season: 3rd
Predicted finish: 2nd


Petone performed extremely well last season to qualify for the National League for the first time in their history.

However, the loss of Central League MVP/Golden Boot Matt Brazier and head coach Ryan Edward, who have both moved to Christchurch United, could make it difficult to replicate last season’s heroics.

Petone have a strong youth development programme so expect to see a strong contingent of homegrown players in their matchday squads.

Last season: 4th
Predicted finish: 6th

Harry Fautley … has moved from Waterside Karori to Western Suburbs.

Western Suburbs

Western Suburbs started 2023 impressively before a slump later in the season saw them miss out on National League qualification.

They have picked up a few quality players, including former Waterside Karori captain Harry Fautley, as they look to secure a top-four finish this season.

With the constant flux of talented youngsters from the Ole Academy, Western Suburbs are always likely to perform well in the Central League.

Last season: 5th
Predicted finish: 5th

Waterside Karori

A tough season may be on the cards for Waterside Karori who have lost several key players from last season.

Jorge Akers (Preston Lions) and Stefan Cordwell (Glenorchy Knights) have crossed the ditch to play in Australia, Harry Fautley and Finn Diamond have joined Wests and Ben Lack has returned to Napier City Rovers.

Without any significant signings, it is difficult to see the Wharfies improving on their 6th place in 2023 and it would not be surprising to see them closer to the bottom of the ladder this year.

Last season: 6th
Predicted finish: 8th

Martin Bueno … moves south from Eastern Suburbs to join Miramar Rangers. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.

Miramar Rangers

Miramar have followed up a disappointing 2023 with head coach Kale Herbert making several big-name signings from the Northern League.

Augustin Contratti and Nicolas Bobadilla join from Manurewa, Xavier Green makes the move from Auckland United and experienced pro Martin Bueno joins from Eastern Suburbs.

They have also picked up Ollie Van Rijssel from Wests and former North Wellington captain Tim Fenton.

With a strong team on paper, Miramar have the potential to succeed in 2024 but the players’ ability to gel will determine their success this season.

Last season: 7th
Predicted finish: 4th

Stop Out

Stop Out had a solid season in 2023 following their promotion to the Central League and have retained most of the players who helped them do so.

Youngster Isa Prins’ move to Olympic will be a big loss but they have picked up experienced midfielder Joe Hopper from the Greeks who should add stability to the side.

Things could be tight in the bottom half of the table this year though Stop Out should have enough quality to avoid the drop.

Last season: 8th
Predicted finish: 7th

North Wellington

North Wellington were lucky to not be relegated last year, and it looks like they will again be fighting for survival this season.

Tsar Mitchener … scored 31 goals for Island Bay last year.

They have signed exciting young winger Ashnarvy Mustapha who returns to the club after two years at Petone. He could make a real difference going forward but their leaky defence is likely to be a problem again and it is difficult to see them staying up.

Last season: 9th
Predicted finish: 10th

Island Bay United

Newcomers Island Bay United have not announced any major new signings but have an experienced returning core of players from the team which won promotion to the Central League from Capital Premier.

In Tsar Mitchener they have an attacker capable of causing trouble to any side and he will be eager to show what he can do at Central League level.

Led by former New Zealand U-23 coach Stuart Jacobs, Island Bay will likely battle with North Wellington at the bottom of the table throughout the season but they should have enough quality to stay up.

Last season: Promoted
Predicted finish: 9th

READ MORE: Central League — our round-up of new signings and summer departures >>>>

How they finished last season


Round 1

Game to be played on Friday March 29, 2024

North Wellington v Waterside Karori
Alex Moore Park, Johnsonville, 3pm

Games to be played on Saturday March 30, 2024

Miramar Rangers v Wellington Phoenix
David Farrington Park, Miramar, 2.30pm

Petone v Stop Out
Petone Memorial Park, Petone, 3pm

Island Bay United v Western Suburbs
Wakefield Park, Island Bay, 3.30pm

Napier City Rovers v Wellington Olympic
Bluewater Stadium, Napier, 2pm

Luke Austin

Luke Austin is a Wellington-based football fan and volunteer, who plays for Island Bay, and follows the Central League.

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