PHOTO: VALENTINE SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Cooks Hill United FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Magic Park, August 27, 4:15 pm
Previous meetings: Round 2, 2017: Cooks Hill 6 Belswans 2 at Newcastle Athletics Field
Round 13, 2017: Belswans 1 Cooks Hill 0 at Blacksmiths Oval
Ladder: Cooks Hill 1st (43 points), Belswans 3rd (41 points)
Last three starts (most recent first):
Cooks Hill – Won Thornton 7-1 (h), Won Thornton 3-0 (a), Won New Lambton 5-3 (h)
Belswans – Won Kahibah 3-0 (a), Lost Kahibah 2-0 (h), Won Thornton 1-0 (a)
It’s the Premiers versus third place in the main event on Sunday, with the free scoring Cooks Hill looking to do the double while Belswans are hoping to avoid Grand Final heartbreak for the second year in a row.
There was drama at each of the second leg semi-finals these two played in, but for different reasons. Cooks Hill took a 3-0 lead into their second leg against Thornton and absolutely decimated them at the Newcastle Athletics Field last Sunday. The 7-1 result is their equal highest winning margin of the season, and it bodes well for them.
It’s been a year to remember for Cooks Hill. They won their first ever NEWFM Northern League One Premiership, but they did it the hard way as they dropped points against sides at the opposite end of the ladder at various junctures throughout the year.
Goals, goals, and more goals have been the essence of Cooks Hill’s thriller year. Under the guidance of coach Graham Law, they’ve banged in 76 goals in their 20 league and two finals matches so far this season at a rate of nearly four a match.
It’s an embarrassment of riches up front for Cooks Hill. Lee Ashton leads their tally with 17 this season, followed close behind by Cal Lewis with 15 – including four last weekend. Nick Russell and Cal Gallagher aren’t too far behind themselves, with 11 and ten goals respectively.
Goals at the other end have been the issue for Cooks Hill this season. In fact, they’ve only managed to keep three clean sheets all year but this is a one off match. It doesn’t matter if they concede four, as long as they can score five.
Pace up front has been the key for Cookers this season, as they’ve managed to get in behind and work the ball nicely through their opponents with ease this year. Expect a fast Cooks Hill outfit on Sunday, fired up and eager to score.
Down by two goals heading into their away match at Kahibah, many saw it as a formality that Belswans would be knocked out and the Green and Black would make it through to the Grand Final. After all, they did finish second and were one of the teams to beat all year.
However, Belswans did what they do best – grafted in horrendous conditions, and emerged 3-2 aggregate winners after injury time in what sparked wild celebrations on the sideline at Kahibah Oval.
Despite a patchy start to the season, Belswans stormed back up the ladder in the back half of the year to finish third – only two points behind premiers and this weekend’s opponents Cooks Hill.
It was a killer run of form which Belswans had built up in the second round of matches – they won nine and drew one of their last ten games in the league. The first leg semi final loss against Kahibah a fortnight ago was their first defeat since the middle of May. Tactical versatility has been the hallmark of Belswans’ season. They’ve shown they have the ability to play long or on the ground and that they can be as physical as any side in the league.
The ability to squeeze out results has also been a highlight for Josh Rufo’s side. They’ve won by a single goal on seven occasions this season but did score the least of any side that finished in the top four.
One man, they will be looking to for goals is golden boot winner Tega Marcus. He has 20 so far this season but hasn’t scored in his last five outings. If he can turn it on come Sunday, it might make all the difference.
Key: Cooks Hill score goals for fun with one of the paciest attacks in the league. Can Belswans withstand the onslaught, and nab a couple of their own?
Wallsend FC V West Wallsend SFC
Magic Park, August 27, 2:15 pm
A local derby in the Grand Final, with passion sure to run high as second placed Wallsend take on fourth-placed Westy.
They have each taken three points from the two times they’ve faced off this season – the Red Devils prevailing 2-1 in round 9 at Johnston Park before West Wallsend turned it around with a 3-2 win in round 20 at The Gardens.
This Wallsend 23s side is the only among the four senior grades to have made the semi-finals, and drew big support to each of their semi final matches.
Five points behind Premiers Cooks Hill, Wallsend were pushed all the way in the regular season and had to rely on a tight 2-1 win over Kahibah in the final week of competition to secure the second spot.
The 4-2 aggregate win over Thornton in the semifinals will have proved good preparation for Sunday’s match. Trent Richards is the Red Devils’ top scorer with eight goals from 12 appearances – a strike rate which may prove the difference.
Expect a big turnout from the Red Devil faithful as they get behind the youngsters on Sunday.
A fired up Westy side celebrated long and loud as they beat Cooks Hill 6-4 on aggregate in the semi-finals – no mean feat, as they finished a total 14 points behind the premiers.
West Wallsend has fielded a massive 44 players in their 22 fixtures this season, but Mitch Maxton and Aiden Hampton lead the way in goals scored with 6 apiece.
West Wallsend are on a hot streak of form right now. They haven’t lost in their last seven, scoring 22 goals on the way – including four in a 4-1 drubbing of Singleton in round 18.
Belmont Swansea United FC v New Lambton FC
Magic Park, August 27, 12:15 pm
It’s second v fourth in the under 19s after a handy red card to the opposing goal keeper in the 45th minute, earned fourth-placed New Lambton the chance to compete against Belswans for their maiden NEWFM Northern League One trophy in any grade.The sides have met twice this season so far, with Belswans doing enough to claim the better of their encounters. A 2-2 draw at Blacksmiths in round 6 on Good Friday was followed by a 2-0 Belswans win away at Alder Park.
The sides have met twice this season so far, with Belswans doing enough to claim the better of their encounters. A 2-2 draw at Blacksmiths in round 6 on Good Friday was followed by a 2-0 Belswans win away at Alder Park.
Belswans finished runners up, with points dropped against Kahibah with just three rounds to go proving damning for the young side. They earned the right
to contest the trophy thanks to a 3-2 aggregate win over West Wallsend, picking up a 2-1 win away from home last weekend.
One of only two Belswans senior sides to make the finals, they came into the finals in red hot form – only one loss from their last five, with 12 goals scored throughout that run.
Only 15 goals have made their way through Belswans this season, but more concerning for New Lambton on Sunday is the fact they’re the most potent attacking side in the competition. Will Dundas and Joel Nicholson have 13 and 16 goals respectively this season and they could be dangerous again. Newly promoted, the New Lambton 19s have
Newly promoted, the New Lambton 19s have outdone their fellow senior squads in making the season’s main event. They finished in fourth place, eight points behind premiers Cooks Hill but it was that side who they managed to knock off in the semis – 3-all on aggregate, with New Lambton going through on away goals.
A 2-2 draw in the second away leg saw the Eagles through. Their defensive record is not as strong as Belswans this season, however, all you need to do in a final is outscore your opponents, and that’s something New Lambton can do.
Luke Homer and Lachlan Jones are tied atop the goal scoring charts with 17 apiece – Jones taking top spot thanks to two fewer games than Homer, 55 goals all season put them second on the goals scored list, just two behind Sunday’s opponents.
West Wallsend SFC v Cooks Hill United FC
Magic Park, August 27, 10:15 am
It’s the best of the best taking on one another in the under 17s Grand Final – Premiers West Wallsend doing it the hard way, with second place Cooks Hill cruising their way into the final show over two legs.
The Bluebells have had the better of Cooks Hill on both occasions when they met this year. A pair of 2-1 wins, away in round 2 and then at home in round 14 perhaps proving the difference in the premiership race.
West Wallsend finished the season as the Premiers, capping off a dream season in which they were the most solid at the back and tied for most potent at the front. They won their right to challenge for a minor-major double with a tight 1-0 aggregate win over New Lambton.
The young Bluebells have enjoyed some thrilling form this season, with one of their defining moments being the 8-1 win over Cessnock in round 22 which secured them the Premiership.
Three players to look out for among the Westy ranks, Khie Drayton leads their goal scoring charts with 15 so far this campaign, Blake Ciappara with 12 and Sam Whyburn with 11 goals. It’s a dangerous three pronged attack.
The only Cooks Hill senior side to finish without the Premiership seemed to do it easy against Toronto in their semi final. They scored a 6-2 win on aggregate, with a dominant performance in the second leg seeing them emerge 4-0 winners on the day.
They’ve scored five goals on three different occasions this season, in wins over Southy, Thornton and Singleton. Despite a number of big wins, they finished three points behind Premiers West Wallsend and will be up for the challenge on Sunday to get the win over Westy and take the Championship.
Rory Kalnins is the danger man for Cooks Hill, with 14 goals from 21 appearances so far this season, including one in each of the semi final legs.
Cooks Hill United FC v West Wallsend SFC
Magic Park, August 27, 8:30 am
The only Grand Final out of the five on show on Sunday where neither first nor second feature, third-placed Cooks Hill facing fourth-placed Westy in Sunday’s early kick off.
Points have been split straight down the middle between these two sides so far this season. Cooks Hill bagged a 1-0 win on Good Friday in round 2, and Westy struck back with a 3-0 win at Johnston Park in round 14.
Cooks Hill finished third on the ladder and faced Toronto in their 2nd v 3rd semi final, a single leg final unlike the four senior grades, who all played two-legged semis. A 2-2 draw after full-time meant penalties was required, with Cooks prevailing.
There have been a couple of memorable results for Cookers throughout the season – 7-0 over a depleted South Cardiff outfit in round 20 was their biggest winning margin of the season, but perhaps their best was a 3-2 boil over against Premiers New Lambton back in round 10.
Martin Wilson is undoubtedly the danger man for Cooks Hill. He is far and away the leading goal scorer for his side with 19 this season. Jay Deamer is next best, with 8 to his name.
Fourth-placed Westy knocked off the Premiers New Lambton in the semi-finals, progressing on penalties after Tom Maddock scored their solitary goal in the 1-1 draw.
West Wallsend can boast the second best defence of those in the 15s competition, leaking only 18 goals in the regular season. One of their best results was the 3-0 win over Cooks Hill back in round 14 – but can they do it again?
The threat is Ethan Wright for Westy on Sunday. He has 15 goals from his 19 matches this season, whilst Tom Maddock is next best with 11 from his 20 appearances. The pair could be a real threat to the Cooks Hill defence this weekend.