The NEWFM Northern League One is ready for another season with 2019 shaping up to be one of the most exciting and closest competitions yet.
2018 saw an extremely close competition with only eight points separating 2nd from 8th, but this year, all 11 clubs have made changes to their squads and been working hard in pre-season to be prepared for Round One.
Defending champions, Belmont-Swansea will be looking to re-produce their 2018 success and go back-to-back but West Wallsend will also be hoping to go one better and claim the title this year.
Cooks Hill will again be hard to beat and have quality all over the park while Thornton will be tough competitors as they intend to build upon their successful 2018 season.
South Cardiff and New Lambton are expected to be big improvers after recruiting heavily while Toronto-Awaba have also made some quality signings.
Singleton and Cessnock will certainly be formidable as they look to turn their home grounds into fortresses and Kahibah and Wallsend are two clubs looking to return to the peak of the mountain and recapture their form of seasons prior.
2019 looks set to be an evenly contested competition with Round One kicking off on March 10th.
Belmont Swansea United
Coach: Mick Stafford
Last Season: 4th & Grand Final Winners (4-2 over West Wallsend)
Ins: Joel Nicholson, Liam Creighton (both Charlestown), Matt Zechel (Cessnock), Quinn McNeill, Sam Parker (Cooks Hill)
Outs: Josh Sutton (Lambton), Klaudon Ahmataj (Cessnock), Mitch Harper
After years of waiting, Belmont-Swansea delivered grand final success in 2018 after downing West Wallsend, 4-2. The side went on a season-defining 10-game unbeaten run to storm into the finals and knock over the hot favourites, Cooks Hill, in the semi-finals.
This season Belswans will have a target on their back but have been busy bringing in talented players, in particular Joel Nicholson, who scored a bucket load of goals in the under 19’s division a few seasons ago.
The side has had a couple of mixed results in pre-season, claiming a 3-1 win over Beresfield, but went down narrowly to a strong Edgeworth side and will take on West Wallsend in a mouth-watering grand final rematch in Round 1.
Head Coach Mick Stafford will undertake his first year in charge after being assistant last campaign and has mixed the team with experienced campaigners such as Mitch Cook and David Hodgson whilst promoting young players from within the club including Matt Ellis and Cameron Lodge.
What Mick Stafford says:
“The boys have been putting in, but we’ve had a few injuries and lost a bit of experience. Josh Sutton is a big loss as he was one of the best attackers in the competition last season.
“It’s been a smooth transition becoming coach and I learnt a lot from Josh Rufo and I understand now how big of a job it is.
“I know the boys want to go back-to-back and push again for the premiership. But we also want to bring through some of our younger boys who are locals and have been loyal to us over the years.”
Prediction: There’s no doubt sides will want to beat the champions this year, but Mick Stafford has kept largely the same squad. The loss of Josh Sutton could hurt the attack but their defence is still a solid unit. Expect them to be there around semi-final time – 4th
Cessnock City Hornets
Coach: Arthur Hodgetts
Last Season: 8th
Ins: Jayden Ziernik (Maitland), Klaudon Ahmataj (Belmont-Swansea), Lachlan Hodgetts (Adamstown)
Outs: Kane Rodgers (Minmi Wanderers), Matt Zechel (Belmont-Swansea)
Cessnock are a club on the rise after improving massively in 2018 after their wooden-spoon finish in the year before.
The club will again look to rise up the ladder in 2019, after bolstering their attacking stocks with the likes of Lachlan Hodgetts from National Premier Leagues (NPL) club Adamstown and Klaudon Ahmataj from Belmont-Swansea, who knocked in seven goals last season.
The Hornets featured in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup and had mixed results in their first run out of the year including a 1-1 draw with Merewether Advance and 3-0 defeat to Weston.
Head Coach Arthur Hodgetts will undertake his first year at the helm and will hope to improve Cessnock’s away record of only three wins from 10 last year.
What Arthur Hodgetts says:
“The Heritage Cup was the first time we played together, and we have been struggling with injuries, but I think we have a strong side when at full fitness.
“We hope to produce some good football and good comradery as we’ve pretty much got the same group of guys from last year.
“The club is in a much better place than it was a couple of seasons ago and we haven’t lost many players so it’s an aim to try and hit finals this year.”
Prediction: The Hornets will again look to make Turner Park a fortress and build on their previous campaign. A source of consistent goals will be a must for Cessnock. They have potential to be around mid-table and push for finals – 9th
Cooks Hill United
Coach: Graham Law
Last Season: 1st & Semi Finalists (Lost 4-1 on aggregate to Belmont-Swansea)
Ins: Martin Raines (Belconnen United)
Outs: Hakan Canli (South Cardiff), Sam Parker (Belmont-Swansea), Zac Hamilton (Wallsend)
Last season’s premiers fell a game short of back-to-back grand finals but were the most consistent team of 2018 racking up 50 points and scoring an impressive 76 goals to be the best side of the regular season.
Lee Ashton and Nick Russell scored 21 goals each to both make the NEWFM Northern League One Team of the Year and will again look to combine and find the back of the net consistently in 2019.
Along with the addition of Martin Raines from the NPL in ACT, Cooks Hill will again be a force to be reckoned with.
The side have played a number of trial games against quality NPL sides and had a 4-1 win over Toronto Awaba and a 5-0 win over Kahibah in readiness for their anticipated clash with Thornton in Round 1.
What Graham Law says:
“We’ve been highly competitive in all our pre-season games and the boys know each other inside and out now.
“I want to win the league and be the best team over the season and finish first, grand finals are for the players.
“It’s a massive drive to win it this season, not just for the players and coaching staff, but for the volunteers who deserve it for all their hard work.”
Prediction: Few could argue that Cooks Hill have been the premier side of the past two seasons in the NEWFM Northern League One division. They will again challenge for the title in 2019 – 1st
Coach: Andre Gumprecht
Last Season: 10th
Ins: Blake McDonnell (Thornton), Cameron Walmsley, Coan Ungaro (Rydalmere), Jason Zechel (Cessnock), Sean Greene
Outs: Brandon Hayes (West Wallsend), Brady Carr (New Lambton) Jake Kepriotes (Toronto Awaba), Murray Leyland (South Cardiff), Nick Hartnett, Riley Hill
After being one game away from a grand final in 2017, Kahibah suffered a disappointing 2018 finishing on 14 points to settle for 10th spot.
The side will look to improve upon their three overall wins from last campaign, with experienced coach Andre Gumprecht rejuvenating the squad with younger players whilst potentially promoting their premiership winning 19’s side from last season to provide quality depth.
Kahibah knocked over Cessnock 5-1 in a trial game but also went down 5-0 to Cooks Hill in a couple of mixed results in pre-season.
Key players, Asher Beasley and Rhys Tippett, will look to have big seasons if Kahibah are to return to the summit of the competition.
What Andre Gumprecht says:
“Our pre-season has been up and down, with 4 players on the injury list but we are very happy that we have the first-round bye in what will give us extra time to get our troops back.
“[The bye] will also give us time to implement a more consistent understanding of roles and responsibilities throughout the team.
“We need to improve defensively as we leaked too many goals last season, as I have a very young squad, I would like to see them mid-table within touching distance of 4th spot.”
Prediction: Kahibah have brought in a few players whilst letting some influential players go. The team will need to gel quickly if they are to bounce back this season. Could be another rebuilding season due to their youthful squad with a mid-table finish possible – 11th
New Lambton F.C
Coach: Jim Foley
Last season: 9th
Ins: Ben Prangemeier, Bradley Andrews (West Wallsend), Brady Carr (Kahibah), Gabriel Cerda (Wallsend)
Outs: Alex Ilhow, Luke Rodgers, Nick Pepper
New Lambton encountered a frustrating 2018, conceding 55 goals to finish in 9th position and suffering 10 defeats along the way.
The Eagles kicked off 2019 in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup suffering narrow defeats to Wallsend and Edgeworth but had a 3-1 win over the Newcastle Suns in another trial match.
Head Coach Jim Foley has been hard at work in recruitment, picking up quality signings in Brady Carr and Bradley Andrews to bolster his squad.
Riley Taylor will also look to build on his impressive 10 goals from last campaign by continuing to find the scoresheet.
What Jim Foley says:
“We’ve had a few decent hit outs and competed quite well especially against the young Edgeworth side.
“I’m looking forward to seeing New Lambton go well across all the grades as the club ticks a lot of boxes for what’s healthy in the game so I hope we can back that up with good performances.”
Prediction: A solid defence could be the key to New Lambton improving this season whilst getting their new players to adapt quickly to their new club. Expect the Eagles to be one of the most improved sides this season – 6th
Coach: David Willoughby
Last Season: 7th
Ins: Jake Barner (Weston)
Singleton produced a solid 2018 campaign, boasting one of the best defensive records in the competition to finish in 7th and only two wins off a finals finish.
Head Coach David Willoughby has shaken things up in the 2019 pre-season whilst retaining largely the same squad from last year.
Former NPL player Jake Barner will be a massive boost to the side who’ll be looking to finish higher this season while defender and NEWFM Northern League One Team of the Year inductee, Jordan Phelan, will look to back up his outstanding 2018.
The Strikers will again look to improve on their nine draws from last year – the most in the division – and convert some of those into wins but they’ll need to improve on their 28 goals to be a top four side.
What David Willoughby says:
“The off season has been very productive. We’ve strategically changed our pre-season to be better prepared for the year ahead.
“We’re definitely working towards finishing high and being competitive.
“Our defensive and attacking records were quite good from last season but will need a slight improvement so making the semis for the first time would be great for the club.”
Prediction: Singleton have continually improved and now have a squad of players that are experienced in the league. Depth in numbers will be key for the Strikers but expect them to potentially chase a finals spot – 7th
South Cardiff Gunners F.C
Coach: Denis Fajkovic
Last Season: 5th
Ins: Alex Bozinovski, Daniel Casciaroli (both Charlestown), Dino Fajkovic (Broadmeadow Magic), Hakan Canli (Cooks Hill), Murray Leyland (Kahibah), Sam Ford (Weston), Riley Holahan (Broadmeadow Magic)
Outs: Josh Benacquista, Nathan McAllister (both Toronto Awaba)
South Cardiff narrowly missed out on the finals by a single win in 2018 and will be looking to make amends this season.
Player-Coach Denis Fajkovic has been hard at work, bringing in several recruitments highlighted by the signing of his attacking brother, Dino Fajkovic, from Broadmeadow Magic.
Dino Fajkovic featured in Magic’s championship campaign last season and could potentially be one of the stars of the competition this season however, the departure of Nathan McAllister will be a big loss for the Gunners, who has fired in 35 goals in the past two years.
The former NPL side have tested themselves in pre-season in coming up against top division sides in Hamilton Olympic and Charlestown whilst also recording a 2-0 win over Central Coast club, Toukley.
What Denis Fajkovic says:
“We’ve played against some quality sides in pre-season and recruited quite heavily so it was good to give them game-time.
“Nathan McAllister is a great player and he left on good terms, but I think we can fill the void.
“We want to go a step further than last year as it hurt missing out on the finals but I believe we’ve learnt from it and will be stronger.”
Prediction: The Gunners have recruited well and their new signings could potentially be the difference in making the finals. South Cardiff will be a tough team to play against this season so expect them to challenge for the title – 3rd
Coach: Gary Wand
Last Season: 2nd & Semi Finalists (lost 3-2 on aggregate to West Wallsend)
Ins: Jed Unicomb, Shane Farmer
Outs: Nick Thompson, Trent Partridge (Minmi Wanderers), Tyson Fletcher
Thornton were one of the top sides of last season and finished in an accomplished 2nd position but went down 3-2 to West Wallsend in the semi-finals in two tight games.
This year, Coach Gary Wand has kept most of the same squad, however, has lost key midfielder Trent Partridge while regular first-graders Tyson Fletcher and Nick Thompson have also departed.
The Redbacks do have strength in depth from the Under 23’s side that finished 1st last season, whilst also adding former NPL defender Shane Farmer to their squad and retaining striker Jye McKellar, who will be the Redbacks target man again after knocking in 14 goals last campaign.
A win over strong Central Coast outfit Killarney Vale was the highlight of Thornton’s pre-season as they prepare for their Round 1 showdown with Cooks Hill in a 2018 1st vs 2nd clash.
What Gary Wand says:
“Shane (Farmer) will provide some added physicality as we lacked that sometimes last season as he’s a good, old-fashioned defender.
“It been a bit of a mixed pre-season with two wins and a loss.
“Everyone’s going to improve, so we’re not going to put too much pressure on ourselves, but the aim is for consistency as we still are a younger squad.”
Prediction: The Redbacks were one game away from a grand final last season and again have the potential to make the top four. With teams around them recruiting heavily, the young Redbacks squad will have to produce another quality campaign to make the finals – 5th
Toronto Awaba Stags F.C
Coach: Darrell McAllister
Last Season: 11th
Ins: Jarrod Purcell (Charlestown), Jake Kepreotes (Kahibah), Josh Benacquista, Nathan McAllister (both South Cardiff), Peter Asvestas
Outs: Blake Redman (West Wallsend)
Toronto Awaba had a 2018 to forget as they came last, conceding 95 goals along the way and only claiming two victories.
The club wasted no time in appointing experienced coach Darrel McAllister to the First-Grade squad to help bring back some pride to the Stags after guiding Thornton to the finals in his latest stint two seasons ago.
Nathan McAllister has also signed with the club in a massive boost for the team and will look to bring his prolific goal-scoring form of 2018 to the new-look outfit while youngster Jarrod Purcell could also be a key player in attack.
Toronto have played against some quality side’s in pre-season including Maitland, Weston and Cooks Hill whilst narrowly going down 2-1 to Singleton.
What Darrell McAllister says:
“We’ve recruited a lot of players and it was just about bringing in much needed quality after running last.
“We got a lot of answers from the trials and we definitely want to aim as high as possible this season. Finishing fourth will be great but finishing in fifth or lower will be disappointing.”
Prediction: The Stags have certainly brought in some quality acquisitions and are expected to be one of the big improvers this campaign. Injuries to key players could be damaging while Nathan McAllister will have to fire in the goals if they are to reach the finals. Possibly a mid-table finish – 10th
Coach: Jesse Pryce
Last Season: 6th
Ins: Jonathan Olivares, Michael Wright (Lake Macquarie City), Quentin Conners, Luke Conners, Zac Hamilton (Cooks Hill), Jai Webster, Jackson Couper, Jordi van Kemmenade (all West Wallsend)
Outs: Gabriel Cerda (New Lambton)
The Red Devils have had two mid-table finishes in a row after finishing just outside the top four in 6th spot last season.
Coach Jesse Pryce will take the reins for the first time and is tasked in bringing back finals football to The Gardens and recapture their 2015 and 2016 grand final winning form.
Wallsend made the most of their Ampcontrol Heritage Cup campaign, knocking over New Lambton 2-1, but were defeated by the Edgeworth Eagles in a close game missing out on the cup playoffs due to goal difference.
Attacker Ty Goldsmith will again look to produce lots of goals this year having featured in last season’s NEWFM Northern League One Team of the Year with an impressive 17, while captain Matt Williams will be a key figure in the line-up and new signing Michael Wright is driven to bolstering the defence which leaked 48 goals in 2018.
What Jesse Pryce says:
“We had a decent run in the Heritage Cup and were unlucky not to go further but we’ve got a few new guys on board this season, so we got into pre-season early.
“We’ve also kept a lot of the same guys but definitely want to improve.
“The ambition is to get back into the play-offs for sure and as we know anything can happen from there.”
Prediction: Wallsend will need to fix up their defence if they are to once again climb to the top of the NEWFM Northern League One as their attack can certainly deliver goals. A finals finish is certainly attainable in Pryce’s first year in charge – 8th
West Wallsend F.C
Coach: Brendan Slade
Last Season: 3rd & Grand Finalists (Lost 4-2 to Belmont-Swansea)
Ins: Ash Illfiled, Blake Redman (Toronto), Cameron Smart, Ethan Coulter (Edgeworth)
Outs: Adam Cooper, Bradley Andrews (New Lambton), Jesse Cook
Last season’s runners-up will be out to go one better this season after going down 4-2 to Belmont-Swansea in the Grand Final.
The club have appointed ex-Cessnock coach Brendan Slade as Head Coach and have brought in some quality players including experienced goalkeeper Blake Redman, whilst re-signing a large percentage of their 2018 squad.
The Bluebells had a great run in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup claiming third place and knocking over NPL side Weston in the process, whilst beating Minmi Wanderers and going down to Lake Macquarie in a tight affair.
Captain Jarrod Olivieri will again be a crucial figure for West Wallsend while Tye Jones will be an influential player and will be looking to provide the goals as the team prepares for a highly-anticipated grand final rematch against Belmont-Swansea in Round One.
What Brendan Slade says:
“The Heritage Cup was a great experience especially for our younger players in playing against top quality NPL sides. The boys are pumped for Round One.
“The aim is to win it this year and I think we have the squad to do it, anything less will be disappointing.”
Prediction: West Wallsend will be out for revenge this season after tasting grand final defeat. Expect a strong season from the Bluebells as they are equipped to push for the title – 2nd