Balmain out to continue dream FFA Cup run

NSW State League Division 1 side Balmain Tigers FC have booked a place among the FFA Cup’s final 32 teams and say they aren’t there to make up the numbers.

The amateur outfit, which plays two levels below the state’s NPL 1, came through the preliminary rounds after defeating fellow State League Division 1 club Western NSW Mariners 3-0. Balmain also saw off the likes of Bankstown City, which sits in the competition above them, 3-0 on their amazing run through the Cup qualifiers.

“We’re very pleased,” Tigers chairman Terry Wilkinson told FourFourTwo.

“We’ve done really well. We’ve got a good bunch of guys in there and they’re all motivated to see how far they can do. I’m not sure what our prospects are for the next round but at least we’re up there.”

Balmain, which was formed in 1987 by Englishman Roy Lawrence, boasts players from around the world.

“We’ve got a variety of players from different areas, we’ve got Irish, we’ve got French, Germans, so we get quite a mixture,” Wilkinson said.

“We’ve got a good culture in our club and the boys really like to play with each other as well. The players don’t get paid so that’s a great thing – everyone is there because they really love football.

“We want to see how far we can go in the long run to get up to those higher tiers. That’s still a way off.”

The Tigers have scored 16 goals and not conceded any on their Cup journey past the likes of the Western NSW Mariners, Bankstown City, North Epping Rangers and Glenmore Park.

Wilkinson said Balmain is a team that likes to move to ball around and attack straight from kick-off.

“We want to play good football and move the ball around, not just play long balls and chase,” he said.

“The boys have got good skills. We try to go really hard to start with [at the start of games]. I think that surprised a couple of teams. When we played Bankstown we got two quick goals because we were switched on and motivated.”

Joe Di Giulio became first-grade coach of the Tigers in 2013 and led the club to a third-place finish and a grand final win. Last season Balmain, which now plays its home games at Wentworth Park in Glebe, finished fifth on the Division 1 ladder.

“Joe’s done quite well, he’s a committed coach,” Wilkinson said.

“The way he works with the team is like an extended family, the players have bonded so well. Joe’s a guy who’s not limited in what his goals are, he wants to see the team do the best it can and he’s very positive.”

Balmain currently sits in seventh place in its 12-team league with four wins, one draw and five losses from 10 matches.

“We’ve had a bit of a wobbly start but we’re one of those teams that gets stronger and stronger as the season goes on,” Wilkinson admitted.

“We get some momentum and start believing in ourselves, we’ve done that the last three seasons.”

Wilkinson described Balmain as an ambitious club and is hoping to get a favourable draw in the round of 32. But the president admits facing off against an A-League club would be “pretty amazing”.

“I think the boys are just so switched on that their view is, no matter who the opponent is, they just want t go our and show what they can do,” he said.

“We’ll give it the best shot we can. Plus it gets our club out there too, people say ‘Balmain Tigers, I haven’t heard of them’. Hopefully we can promote our brand. We’re a small club. We don’t pay anyone at our club, it’s done with a lot of love.

“If we got some exposure like that [playing an A-League club] and maybe a financial boost... Anything can happen on the night. We’re very focused.”

*Photo thanks to Balmain Tigers FC