Topor: Tall timber chats continental football


The AFC Champions League returns to Newcastle for the first time in almost ten years on Tuesday night, with the boys set to welcome Persija Jakarta.

There’ll be plenty of players mixing it on the continental stage for the first time, but just as much Asian experience amongst the ranks.

Ernie Merrick is entering his fourth AFC Champions League as a manager, while the likes of Jason Hoffman, Nigel Boogaard, and Ben Kantarovski have each played in the competition.

One man whose experience stands above the rest is centre-back, Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

PREVIEW: Taking on the Indonesian champions

The rugged and well-travelled defender has appeared in three AFC Champions League campaigns and holds a winners medal after his exploits with the Western Sydney Wanderers back in 2014.

Despite his experience, and the rare claim as an Aussie to boast a part in a continental title win, Topor doesn’t believe he has any special insight into the competition.

“I wouldn’t say that I am extra-prepared because of that experience, I’m prepared to be that guy if people choose to ask me questions or anything like that,” he said.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley

“The Champions League is a new challenge, it’s a new team for me to play with in the competition and a new opposition.

“Personally, I think that my experience in Asia counts for little, it’s a home game and a game we have to win.”

That experience in Asia has seen the rock-solid centre-back line up against opposition from all over the continent.

From the big three in East Asia – China, South Korea, and Japan – to the Saudi Arabian opponents, Al-Hilal, the Wanderers knocked over in the 2014 AFC Champions League final.

It’s not only the Western Sydney Wanderers that the tall timber has played for on the continent. He also appeared for the Jets, back in their maiden 2009 appearance in the competition. 

With experience against sides from Indonesia – a long time ago, by his own admission – the number 44 believes they’re a nation on the improve.

“Technically, they’re far better than what they used to be and tactically, they’re improving fast,” Topor-Stanley said.

Nikolai Topor-Stanley

“It won’t be an easy game, we’ll have to be on our game, and try to pinch an early goal.

“We saw a little bit of their match against Home United on Sunday, the coaches were pointing out their strengths and weaknesses, but it reaffirms the fact that there is plenty of ability within their ranks and it’s not going to be an easy game.”

Newcastle come into this match off the back of a mixed run of results – three wins, a draw, and a loss in their last five but they still haven’t managed to string two victories together thus far in the 2018/19 campaign.

Last Thursday was an exercise in profligacy: a number of chances went begging for Newcastle, and the gap to the Hyundai A-League Finals Series remains at eight points as a result.

Players and coaching staff alike have circled the continental campaign an opportunity to spark the season into life.

Take a look back at some of the best images of Nikolai Topor-Stanley in Jets colours. NT-S will return to the Club next season.

It’s an opinion which Topor-Stanley also holds.

“I’m excited for Tuesday night,” he said.

“It’s a different competition, a new challenge, and something that this group can look forward to.

As always, with us, it’s a matter of whether we turn up for the 90 minutes… it’s a cliché, but it rings true, especially with this team.

“When we’ve done it, we’ve won convincingly, when we haven’t, the game has slipped away, and maybe it’s lapses in concentration which have hurt us.

“We need to step it up.”

Jets v Persija ACL