Yoogali FC, Hanwood at odds over favourites tag

KEY MAN: YFC's new signing, experienced Fijian international Taniela Waqa.

KEY MAN: YFC's new signing, experienced Fijian international Taniela Waqa.

Football

MIND games are at play with both Yoogali FC and Hanwood FC jostling for the underdog tag ahead of Sunday's blockbuster at Noe Santolin Oval.

Two of Griffith's powerhouse clubs, YFC and HFC sit equal-second on the Billabong Cup ladder and both will take strong form into what shapes as a truly line-ball contest.

But clearly neither team wishes to be burdened with the pressure of expectation.

"Usually Yoogali likes to go in as the underdogs, but I think this time they've definitely got to be favourites, being at home," Hanwood FC coach Anthony Agresta told The Area News.

That's news to YFC's Rocky Marando, who also made his own attempt to ditch favouritism - despite his side becoming the first to inflict defeat upon Leeton United with a solid 1-0 victory on Wednesday night.

"The results and the ladder show that Hanwood is the benchmark again," he said. "We're just aspiring. We're under no illusions that we're the underdogs, so we'll go into the game with no pressure and take it to them."

In truth, it is almost impossible to split the two sides. Star-studded as they are following the off-season influx of several new Fijian international players, Yoogali FC have not yet been truly tested in the Billabong Cup.

Their toughest assignment thus far was the round 2 trip to Wagga, when they drew 1-1 with the Eastern Wanderers.

YFC largely dominated Wednesday night's clash with previously-unbeaten Leeton but should have won by more than just the one goal, which came through Malakai Tiwa from a corner kick early in the second half.

"I think we dominated for most of the game, possession-wise and we had the better chances, but we were pretty wasteful," Marando said.

"But it's all very positive at the moment - and we kept another clean sheet, so we're pretty happy down this way."

Marando said YFC's Fijian contingent is thirsting for a true challenge after they ruthlessly tore through West Griffith and Yenda in the previous two rounds.

"We've quietly been speaking to them saying the games are going to get harder and harder," he said.

"They tell me they love playing big-time football, but now they really have to step it up a notch."

Hanwood FC, on the other hand, might be battered and bruised after a disappointing 2-1 State Cup loss to Gymea United in Sydney on Sunday, but at local level they are in scintillating touch.

In a huge boost for their chances against YFC, Agresta's side will welcome back Joey Schirripa, Joey Gioia, Andrew Quarisa, Daniel Quarisa and Anthony "Giggles" Agresta, who all missed the State Cup road trip.

Michael Bresolin is a touch-and-go proposition due to injury, but coach Agresta said he was thrilled to have nearly a full compliment at his disposal.

"It was a totally different team to the one we've had playing in the local comp so hopefully we can get back into the swing of it again," he said.

HFC has already face YFC once this year in the annual Musitano Cup pre-season clash, losing 2-1.

"They've only strengthened themselves with another couple Fijian guys since the last time we played them," Agresta said.

"They're pretty physical but we've got boys that are up for it and they won't take a backward step.

"We're expecting a really tough battle."

Yoogali will be close to full-strength, although Marando injured his hamstring in the dying stages of the win over Leeton and will be out for several weeks.

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