Match of the Round
Charlestown Azzurri v Maitland FC
Lisle Carr Oval, Sunday 3.40pm
It will be a strange feeling for the Merewether faithful to not see the red and white of the Llamas on the paddock in season 2021, with the question now, can Charlestown Azzurri achieve the same level of greatness United did over the past 12 seasons?
And while they will wear a different colour on Sunday, there will still be plenty of familiar names from Myamblah Crescent including midfielder Tamara Nash, Nicki Jones and Lori Depcznyski.
Azzurri will be without significant big game experience however, with former Merewether players Jamee Ellis, Rhali Dobson and Katy Gray all calling time on their careers, while goalkeeper Alison Logue has made the switch to Broadmeadow Magic.
Between the four of them they signify more than 430 games of first grade experience.
“We’ve lost a lot of players so that’s never ideal and everyone I’ve spoken to sort of said the difference between us and everybody else was always Alison Logue. So she is a pretty big loss,” Charlestown coach Micheal Lee said.
“We’ve got some really good young players that I am pretty confident in and our trial games they’ve all been really good. We haven’t been beaten and we’ve scored plenty of goals.
“We’re a footballing team. We like to pass the ball and we like to attack.”
Injuries will prove to be Charlestown’s greatest challenge early in the year, with Depcznyski, Imogen Tusek and Jones all under injury clouds. Azzurri are still waiting on a clearance for Jess Gentle, who has previously played for University of Wyoming in the United States of America.
“I’m confident in the young girls and we’ve played some really good football. The only problem will be if some of these injuries become long term,” Lee said.
Maitland will look to secure its first win of 2021 when they travel to Lisle Carr Oval. The Magpies suffered a first start defeat against Broadmeadow though were far from outclassed in the 5-2 loss.
“Things are good with the squad,” Maitland coach Keelan Hamilton said.
“We’ve got good competition for places and training attendance has been fantastic. There is a nice atmosphere around the group.
“We are very early in our development and need to keep improving our process week to week. If we do that we will get to where we want to be as a football side.”
The weekend off proved little challenge for the Magpies, with Hamilton looking for greater control from his side.
“Having the weekend off after round one is a strange way to start the competition and a bit disruptive but we gave the players Friday off and then resumed on Monday and have been able to have some really good sessions this week,” Hamilton said.
“We will aim to control as much of the match with and without the ball as we can and take the game on. Our focus is on ourselves first and foremost and continuing to improve our football.
“A strong performance will be one where we control the match for longer than our opponent and one where we are effective in possession.”
Warners Bay v New Lambton
John Street Oval, Friday 7.45pm
Warners Bay will look to bounce back from a disappointing start to the year when they face New Lambton under lights on Friday evening.
The Panthers were outclassed by a rampant Newcastle Olympic in round one, with the home side hopeful of restoring its early campaign form when they take on the Eagles.
“We didn’t match the intensity of Olympic. We knew how hard they were going to come out,” Panthers coach Craig Atkins said.
“The girls showed better ball movement and control in the second half. It is about starting that in the first minute, not the 46th minute.”
Asked as to what a good performance would look like on Friday, Atkins simply noted “90 minutes.”
“We’ve still been training as per schedule. We want to make sure we put in a complete 90-minute performance,” he said.
“We just need to simplify things and go back to some basics in terms of ball movement and positioning.
“We’re really focusing on that positive start and making sure everyone is switched on and really determined as soon as that first whistle goes.”
New Lambton coach Greg Lowe will hope to see more from his side when they take on the Panthers.
The Eagles suffered a round one defeat a fortnight ago, outclassed 2-0 by Adamstown.
Friday night’s clash is the first of three difficult matches for the fresh-faced Eagles, who face Newcastle Olympic next weekend followed by Broadmeadow Magic.
A win on Friday could well depend on the performance of star signing Adriana Jones, with the Eagles unable to find the back of the net in round one.
Former Jets defender Brooke Miller will need to be at her best, with Warners Bay captain Elodie Dagg leading a string of attacking options in the Panthers’ front third.
Broadmeadow Magic v Newcastle Olympic
Magic Park, Saturday 4.30pm
Expect fireworks when Broadmeadow Magic host rivals Newcastle Olympic on Saturday afternoon.
The cross-town rivalry is one of the region’s most fierce, with both sides evenly matched on the field.
Olympic and Magic finished first and second respectively in 2020, with extra-time required to separate the two sides in the major semi-final.
“Last year it certainly proved to be quite a passionate match-up, which is really good to have that local rivalry,” Olympic coach Harmonie Attwill said.
“It is good to be up against a challenging opposition. Magic have got a few new signings and we know that it will be a physical battle.”
Olympic will be without Emily Frost and Brooke Summers for the clash, while Jemma House returns to the squad having spent the off-season playing with the Newcastle Jets in the W-League.
“It gives our younger players an opportunity. A few players will be stepping up which will give us a bit more depth in our squad,” Attwill said.
“Frosty is a strong defender so we will be looking for someone similar to play that role. I’m always looking for that versatile player.”
Away from the tribalism of the match, Attwill believes the game will be won or lost in defence, with individual battles key to three points.
“The one v one battles across the field I am really interested to see. I want us as individuals to really match up with our opponents,” Attwill said.
“Defence will probably be the key to whoever wins.
“I am big on the players believing in themselves. They train hard, they know what their role is. Sometimes it can be the hype and the pressure of the game but there’s absolutely no pressure on them from me.”
Broadmeadow will go into the derby without Erin Wilson and Alice Munro, though coach Jake Curley doesn’t believe that will impact his side’s approach.
“The squad is good, the girls are still learning how to play together and getting those combinations,” he said.
“The players we have dictate our strategy. We go forward and we try and play attacking football.”
Saturday’s opponents field a star-studded attacking line-up, with holding possession a key factor for the women in red, something that has been well-drilled at training in recent weeks.
“I would have preferred to play over the weekend to get some continuity. However, we did play an 11v11 and we will play another 11v11 on Thursday night,” Curley said.
“A strong performance would be being effective in possession and creating lots of chances.”
Adamstown Rosebud v Mid Coast FC
Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, Saturday 7pm
Adamstown Rosebud will look to make it two wins from two when they host Mid Coast FC on Sunday.
The Buds started 2021 with a win over New Lambton, with coach Ryan Campbell confident his side has had the preparation to land results.
“Results right now are key. I believe we are in good shape and have had a good pre-season, so we need to take advantage of it at this stage,” Campbell said.
The past week has been a far from an ideal preparation for the home side, who will be without Ellen Hughes, Rachel Duffin and Jenna Doyle for the clash.
“We have a couple of niggly injuries so we will have a few changes to our line-up for this weekend,” Campbell said.
“This gives some other players a chance to stake a claim for a spot which will be good.
“We played an intra club match on Thursday evening last week and then gave the girls the weekend off and came back in on Tuesday.”
The Rosebud mentor believes the synthetic surface at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility will play into the hands of his side, with the well-structured attack of the Buds a signature of recent years.
“We are looking forward to playing at Speers Point. It is where we do the majority of our training and the size of the field suits how we wish to play,” Campbell said.
“This weekend we are looking to maintain the ball in our build up much better than we did last game. We want to play through the lines whereas last game we got nervous and started to play too direct.”
Mid Coast’s first round match against Charlestown Azzurri was postponed due to flooding which struck the region, with coach Mick Grass approaching the weekend’s clash against Adamstown “as if it is round one.”
“The feeling around the squad is positive albeit a bit frustrated, having had very few trial games and no consistent training due to the weather up here over the past couple of months,” he said.
“I would have loved to have had a game or train over the Easter weekend but once it was a free weekend in the draw, I knew several players would have made plans, so we had a very physical week last week and gave them the weekend off.”
The losses are significant for the visitors, who will be without 2020 regulars Courtney Anderson, Layni Fens and Emma Shipperlee, while Jess James and Nikki Learoyd will also be missing for Middies.
“Obviously in losing our entire front line from last year we have lost a lot of goals but I see it as an opportunity for us to find the next Layni, Jess or Courtney,” Grass said.
“We have some good young talent coming through but we’ll have to be patient and not have our expectations too high, too soon.
“I have every faith in them but I’m not going to pressure them with unreasonable expectations.”
Alira Knight has also been ruled out for the season after rupturing her ACL.