Match of the Round
West Wallsend vs Belmont-Swansea United
Sunday 10th March, 2:30 pm
The NEWFM Northern League One is set to get underway for 2019 and what better way to kick things off than a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s grand final between West Wallsend and Belmont-Swansea at Johnston Park.
Belswans capped off 2018 with a 4-2 win over the Bluebells, ending a back-to-back grand final heartbreak to raise the trophy, while the result will still be fresh in the minds of West Wallsend.
The two clubs come into the new season as potential champions and will be raring to get one over on their title rivals come Sunday.
Both sides’ traded wins in the regular season in 2018, with Belswans winning at home 2-1 while West Wallsend returned the favour with a 3-1 victory in the last round.
Belswans were the best defensive team of last campaign and have retained most of their defensive unit, however, have lost the experienced Joel Shearer and attacking livewire in Josh Sutton.
Coach Mick Stafford says his players have plenty of motivation to once again challenge for the title.
“Everyone is keen from our older guys to our young boys, they want to win everything,” Stafford said.
The match against the Bluebells will be Stafford’s first as head coach and he admits he can’t wait to get started.
“Feeling good, excited but want to get the result.”
“Three points will be massive, we’ve got the bye after this so don’t want to be six points behind from the start but Westy are a great side, some good young players and they dig in at home in front of their crowd.”
West Wallsend coach Brendan Slade will also be in the dugout for the first time with his new club and says his side have been preparing well.
“The boys are up for it, we’ll be missing a couple of players in Tye Jones (suspension) and Ash Illfiled who’s another two or three weeks away so we’ve tweaked our line-up a bit,” Slade said.
“I’m expecting Belswans to be really tough, they got off to a slow start last year but I don’t think that will happen again but of course we want the three points to start the season.”
Cooks Hill United vs Thornton Redbacks
Saturday 9th March, 2:30 pm
Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field
Game One of the NEWFM Northern League One season sees a blockbuster of a match between last year’s premiers, Cooks Hill and Thornton Redbacks in a 1st vs 2nd from the regular season of 2018.
The Cookers and the Redbacks were the two best sides over 22 rounds last year and have assembled largely similar squads to again look dangerous in 2019 and set up an exciting opening fixture.
Both clubs shared the wins in the two clashes against each other last season, including two entertaining 4-2 results with Thornton winning their home game while the Cookers got one back with the same scoreline later in the campaign.
The signing of Martin Raines could be one of the pick-ups of the off-season with the new addition showing his quality in Cooks Hill’s trial games, however, the black and white will be wary of Redback’s striker, Jye McKellar who notched a double against them last season.
Cooks Hill’s Head Coach, Graham Law, says he’s excited to see where his side sits early in the season.
“I rate Thornton highly, they’ve got some good players and a good coach, very well structured so we’re quite pleased to have it as the first game and use it as a benchmark going forward,” Law said.
“I put my players through a tough pre-season so they’re ready to go, we recently versed another NEWFM Northern League One team in a friendly game and I was really pleased with that performance.”
The Cookers play seven of their first eight games at home and coach Law says it’s crucial his side start strongly.
“We need to put points on the table, we have seven games at home to start the competition so if we do it, it puts pressure on the teams around us,” Law said.
Thornton certainly gave the premiers problems last season, although coach Gary Wand says Cooks Hill are still the benchmark of the NEWFM Northern League One.
“They’re going to be very tough, they’re still a great side and the worthy favourites so we just want to put in a decent performance,” Wand said.
“We’re going to have to take our opportunities when they come and limit them as much as possible but we have a platform to build on from last season.”
Cessnock City Hornets vs New Lambton F.C
Saturday 9th March, 2:30 pm
Round 1 continues with the Cessnock City Hornets hosting New Lambton at Turner Park with both outfits ready to kick-start their campaign.
Cessnock finished in a commendable 8th spot last season and have acquired, Arthur Hodgetts as the new First Grade coach in a bid to achieve new heights in 2019.
The Eagles of New Lambton have also brought in some new faces including the likes of Bradley Andrews and Brady Carr to try and improve on their 2018 finish of 9th.
Both club’s traded victories in their two games last season, with Cessnock winning 2-1 at Turner Park before New Lambton responded with a 3-1 triumph in the corresponding fixture.
Cessnock will be without Brodie Williams and new signing Klaudon Ahmataj for the opening game however coach Arthur Hodgetts says fellow recruit Lachlan Hodgetts is capable of firing in the goals.
“He’s set himself the goal of 20 goals this season and he’s certainly capable and I’d love to see him do it,” Hodgetts says.
“I’d prefer it if we didn’t have so many injuries to start the year but even so we have had some decent hit-outs against Central Coast sides”
The Hornets have retained a large percentage of their squad from last campaign and coach Hodgetts says the team is eager to get started.
“I think we can improve on last season but the competition looks really strong this year. Hopefully, we play to our ability and we get a win under our belt.”
The Eagles come into this game with a couple of mixed results in pre-season and coach Jim Foley believes his new-look side is still a working progress.
“We’re under no allusion, we need more time together to develop our combination-play type of football,” Foley said.
“Although, I would like to see a good effort and give a good account of themselves and play in the right spirit.”
New Lambton will be missing club captain, Dan Luther for the match and a couple of other key players.
“Dan Luther will be out as will Josh Williams and Asama Radford, one of our best young players but Cessnock will be like us and hope to get off to a good start,” Foley concluded.
Toronto Awaba Stags vs Singleton Strikers
Sunday 10th March, 2:45 pm
Lyall Peacock Field
Toronto Awaba comes up against the Singleton Strikers at Lyall Peacock Field in another intriguing Round One fixture.
The Stags have put their woeful 2018 season behind them and brought in a host of new signings, including star forward from South Cardiff, Nathan McAllister.
Darrell McAllister has also come on board as First Grade coach, bringing a wealth of experience to the role and will look to push Toronto back up the ladder.
Toronto Awaba has managed well in their pre-season and tested themselves against heavyweights Cooks Hill in preparation for their opening round match.
The Singleton Strikers are also a club on the rise following their creditable 7th placing last campaign and will look to carry on in 2019.
New signing, Jake Barner, could be a player to watch as he arrives with National Premier League experience to bolster the Striker’s squad.
The away side had the edge over the Stags last season with a win and a draw while the Strikers also claimed a 2-1 victory over their opposition in a pre-season friendly.
Singleton Coach David Willoughby says he expects Toronto to be even tougher then they were last time out.
“We played against them a couple of weeks ago and they did quite well, Darrell is a very well organised coach so expect them to improve,” Willoughby said.
“We want to start on a positive and execute the game plan we’ve devised for this game and continually improve.”
The Strikers boasted one of the best defensive records of last season but coach Willoughby believes the competition will go up another level.
“Everyone will be up for the fight and everyone’s had an injection of quality but we’re quietly confident.”
South Cardiff Gunners vs Wallsend F.C
Sunday 10th March, 5:30 pm
The opening round of the NEWFM Northern League One wraps up with what shapes up to be another cracking fixture between South Cardiff and Wallsend at Ulinga Oval.
Both sides will contest for a chance at early season silverware in the Gallagher Shield which is contested between the two clubs.
The Gunners narrowly edged the Red Devils on the table by a single point last season to finish 5th, however, the boys from Wallsend claimed a 3-0 victory over their rivals in their regular season fixture in 2018.
South Cardiff have recruited heavily in the off-season, including the imposing signing of striker, Dino Fajkovic from NPL NNSW outfit Broadmeadow Magic.
Captain-Coach, Denis Fajkovic, says the recruitment drive was necessary for the Gunners to get back to their best.
“One thing is to sign a player, another is for them to deliver, so we want all the new boys to play their game but the experience those guys are bringing in will hopefully fill that void as we have always had good youth but lacked the right experience,” Fajkovic said.
“We have a few doubtfuls but we’ll definitely put out a strong team.”
The Gunners will be without their Captain-Coach in Fajkovic due to suspension, however, the coach says his side want to win a piece of silverware.
“Wallsend is always a tough game but we’re in the Gallagher Shield so we want to win that for the first time.”
The Red Devils are no strangers to big games and will also be out to win under their new coach, Jesse Pryce.
Pryce has recruited a few new players and says his squad is raring to go.
“We’re excited, a bit of nervousness but we’re really looking forward to the game,” Pryce said.
“The cohesion is still developing but we’re in a good spot and we just want build on what we’ve been working on in training plus this game will give us a good gauge to see where we are at.”