Match of the Round
Hamilton Olympic vs. Lambton Jaffas
Saturday 16 March, 6:30 pm, Darling St. Oval
After coming off wins last week in the opening round, Hamilton and Lambton will both be confident of continuing their strong start when they do battle at Darling Street Oval on Saturday evening.
Olympic picked up a hard-fought victory last week when they travelled to Bear Park, showing they have what it takes to win the close games, however recent history is not on their side when facing the Jaffas.
In their last eight outings, Hamilton has only won one match and have never beaten Lambton at home in their history. After Lambton’s blitzing over Lake Macquarie last week, they’re sure going to be in for a fight.
Having lost multiple stars in the off-season, the Jaffas needed their retained leaders to step up and that’s exactly what Michael Kantarovski and Michael Sessions did in their 5-1 win, earning themselves a spot in the Round 1 Team of the Week.
Olympic’s international signings Ren Fukumoto and Shinichi Kawachi both hit the ground running in their first match at the club, but it was their senior men in Cody Lucas and Scott Pettit who were as reliable as ever and will be ones to watch out for this week.
In 2018, Lambton’s defence served as one of the strongest in the competition, while Hamilton’s offence was their best asset. This year though, their strengths may possibly be reversed.
When these two squared off in a pre-season trial game a few weeks ago, it was the Jaffas who ran out with a 6-3 win, and Hamilton coach Pete McGuiness believes if his defence doesn’t tidy up their error count, they could be in trouble.
“It’s no secret that in the trial game we coughed up six goals, and four of those goals were coughed up in our back-third,” said McGuiness.
“We need to clean up those basic individual errors and not make so mistakes in and around those areas where we can be punished.
“We’re expecting much of the same when we played them in a trial and it was only reinforced from the last weekend.
“From what I saw from Round 1, out of all the teams they’re probably the most organised. They’re hard to keep contained, they have a lot of go-forward when they win the ball. They’ll be tough.”
Coming off the back of a hard-fought win though, McGuinness admitted there was a strong sense of positivity in the playing group and said that although Lambton is a great side, they’re focusing on themselves.
“There’s a good feeling around us getting off to a win to start,” McGuinness said.
“Game plan-wise is to pretty much play our normal game and have a go at them.
“Hopefully we can score before they do.”
Edgeworth Eagles vs. Charlestown City Blues
Friday 15 March, 7:45 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
It was a tale of two different stories for these sides last week, as Edgeworth ran out huge winners while Charlestown went down in a rather dire performance.
When the Blues travel to Jack McLaughlan this Friday night, they’ll not only be looking for the three points but also attempting to prove to themselves and the rest of the league that they can mix it with the top clubs after a disappointing first week.
Charlestown wasn’t able to grab a win against the Eagles last year, in fact, they haven’t beaten Edgeworth since Round 2 of 2012, and after their 6-1 triumphing performance last week against Magic, breaking that dismal record is going to be a tough ask.
Last week Oliver Smith picked up a hat-trick in his debut match for the club, while the three Josh’s – Josh Rose, Josh Cairelli and Josh Evans – all also had tremendous games.
Home is where the defence is for Edgeworth, as they only conceded six whilst playing there in the 2018 regular season, however, they also scored just 16 there which was the third lowest in the competition.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said that despite Charlestown losing last week, he’s not anticipating an easy game.
“I’m expecting a tough game. We have a short turn around compared to them, so straight up that’s an advantage they’ve got over us,” said Zane.
“It’s probably good for us though, that if you’re gonna have a short turnaround, to put in a great performance the week before.
“The boys are buzzing but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’re one win down, there’s a lot more to go before we can even think about another premiership.”
New Blues signing Jamie Byrnes will also be returning to face his old club and after his team’s poor display in the final third in their opening match, he’ll be hoping to connect with Kane Goodchild and Scott Smith to jump-start their offence.
Zane confessed he was cautious of their attack.
“They’re dangerous up front. Kane, Scott Smith, and Cal Lewis, who I thought looked very dangerous last week,” Zane said.
“I thought we defended really well…but there isn’t exactly one area we want to improve. We’re very pedantic and want to fix up every little error we make.
“We want to stay in the habit of scoring, so that’s probably one area we’re working on.”
Adamstown Rosebud vs. Weston Bears
Saturday 16 March, 5:30 pm, Adamstown Oval
Adamstown will host Weston this Saturday evening in a game featuring two sides looking to bounce back from losing in round one.
In a match that could have gone either way, the Bears fell to Hamilton while the Rosebuds squandered an early lead against last year’s wooden spooners Valentine, and losing back-to-back to begin the season could quickly lead to a tough hill to climb.
Due to the recent encounters between these two, it’s almost impossible to pick a winner. Over their past five matches, Adamstown and Weston have both gathered two wins each and a draw and even finished on the exact same points total last season.
Adamstown has only won one of their past seven games at home, and although their defence lacked much throughout last year, it was their offence that was dim against Valentine. Therefore their forwards will have to be more precise in front of goal if their team are to win.
The same could probably be said for the Bears who looked strong in glimpses, especially in defence, but just weren’t clinical or creative enough going forward.
The Bears’ new Dutch striker Jason Tjien-Fooh had a promising start to his Weston career but will need to convert his dangerousness into goals, while league veteran Chris Berlin, who also looked strong in his first outing for the year, will need to do the same for the Rosebuds.
Maitland FC vs. Valentine Phoenix
Saturday 16 March, 6:00pm, Cooks Square Park
Coming off the first-round bye, Maitland will host Valentine who were able to kick-off their season on the right track with three points.
That win stands as the only time the Phoenix have beaten a team that wasn’t Weston since July 2017, and they’ll be fixed on continuing that form against a side that they’ve not lost to in the past five matches.
The last time Valentine lost at Cooks Square Park was back in Round 18 of the 2014 NEWFM Northern League One season, but as the Magpies do feature much of the same squad as last year, plus a few new top additions, keeping that record will be difficult.
Maitland possessed the league’s best record when playing at home in 2018 and scored a whopping 30 overall goals in the 12 games they played there.
The Magpies may be now missing Matt Comerford who scored many of those goals, however, coach Mick Bolch will be hoping that his new recruit, veteran Joel Wood, can successfully replace that attacking contribution in his first game for the club.
A new man that shined for the Phoenix in their win last week was Ben Hay who was selected in the Team of the Week alongside double goal-scorer, Luke Willard.
With taking on a team who is fresh off the bye, Valentine coach Sam Griffin suggested that it came with both its upsides and downsides, but regardless, their upcoming match will be a tough one.
“It’s probably a blessing and a curse,” Griffin said.
“We don’t get to have a look at what they did last week, but we also can’t get distracted by it either.
“At the moment, we just know that they’re a strong side and we need to be ready.”
Bolch echoed his opposite number’s thoughts about the challenge the match on Saturday evening will bring, but said that after missing the first week of the season, his team was raring to go.
“It’s always a hard one having the bye first up, but the boys are real keen,” Bolch said.
“It’s been a long-preseason and we’ve had plenty of trials, so they can’t wait for our first comp game.
“Anyone you play can beat you on your day. They [Valentine] ran last last season and we had two draws against them and we ran third. They’ve got plenty of quality across the board.
“Their midfield is as good as any in the comp now with Jake Bailey, Matt Paul and Benny Hay, so you can’t take them easy…we won’t be going there thinking it’s going to be an easy game.
“We should be at first strength. Everyone is right to go.”
Lake Macquarie City Roosters vs. Broadmeadow Magic
Saturday 16 March, 7:30 pm, Macquarie Field
Last year’s champions Broadmeadow Magic got off to the worst of starts in round one, but their opponent this weekend, Lake Macquarie City, didn’t experience much better.
The Roosters will get the chance to host their first home match of the season and after conceding five goals against Lambton last week, their defence will need to be a key priority especially as they face-off with a team who arguably boasts one of the best attacking line-ups in the league.
Magic’s offence struggled to fire last week against Edgeworth though. The injury to captain Josh Piddington heaved pressure on the side’s back-line which eventually crumbled in the late stages of the 6-1 loss.
In a boost for their defence though, Jon Griffiths will return from suspension to replace Piddington.
Broadmeadow has won all of their past three games against Lakes and have done so by large margins with an aggregate score of 12-0, but with a strong, youthful attack including reigning Graham Jennings Medallist Sam Walker, expect the Roosters to trouble the Magic defence.
Lakes possess an extremely young side compared to most teams in the competition and will only grow together as a squad the more they play with one another.
However, if they continue to drop points in the early half of the year, they may just have to wave goodbye to their target of the top four.
Getting the win on Saturday night is paramount for both of these teams.