Westside Strikers know they are very unlikely to have the success that came their way last year – but they’re ready for the challenge of FFV state league 4 west.

Having claimed the state league 5 west championship and promotion in their first season, the Strikers are bracing themselves for a much tougher time as they step up a grade.

Strikers president Sam Raniolo said they were realistic about what they could achieve this year.

“The season we had first-up we couldn’t have imagined,” he said.

“This year is going to be a lot harder – if we could get into the top four we would be very happy.”

Raniolo said they had kept last year’s squad together, but the playing group understood there was a need for added depth.

He said there was still plenty of confidence among the group after the success of last
season.

“We’ve kept all the players from last year – they’re happy to stay on board and continue the journey. We have recruited a few guys from higher levels – about half a dozen players.

“We’re trying to work them into our system and getting them raring to go.”

On Saturday, the Strikers got their first official action of the season, facing Thornbury Athletic in the FFA Cup.

The Caroline Springs-based side lost 2-1 after being up at half-time.

Raniolo admitted before the game that the Strikers didn’t have their strongest side in for the match.

He said that despite the benefits of the FFA Cup, it wasn’t the focus for the year.

“We’ve got a few injuries and a few of the new signings aren’t playing,” he said about the cup.

“We’ve only had one practice match. For us the focus is on the season and championship.”

Raniolo said that overall, the club was continuing to thrive. It has been holding trials for the juniors sides and is set to have more teams than last year.

Among the new teams is expected to be another girls team and an under-18 boys team.

“We’ve increased by 50 players,” Raniolo said. “We have more juniors coming through.”

The Strikers will start their FFV season away against Bell Park on March 23.

Meanwhile, fellow state league 4 west side Spring Hills is through to the next round of the FFA Cup after its opponent, Keysborough, forfeited.

The Stallions will face Westgate in the next round.

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