HIT 106.9 Northern League One Round One Preview: Turnbull signing has Kahibah confident ahead of opening round clash with West Wallsend

March 31st, 2022

 Jacob Briers

 Sproule Sports Focus

Match of the Round
Kahibah FC v West Wallsend SFC
Kahibah Oval, Sunday 2.30pm

The signing of NPLM veteran Robbie Turnbull has Kahibah FC coach Mat Moncrieff confident of a much-improved season for the Rams.

Kahibah host West Wallsend in the match of the round on the opening weekend of the HIT106.9 Northern League One season on Sunday.

The unlikely foes have produced some entertaining matches over the last couple of years, trading blows year in and year out.

Last season the Bluebells produced two thumpings on an injury-riddled Rams winning 5-3 and 4-1.

Both coaches stated their doubts about the game going ahead at Kahibah Oval due to the persistent rain, which will prove problematic for most fixtures heading towards the end of the week.

On top of Rhys Tippett and Asher Beasley returning from season-ending injuries, Moncrieff has recruited goal-scoring machines Lachlan Hodgetts from New Lambton reserve grade and Rush Wislang from Broadmeadow Magic under-18s.

Kahibah youth products Curtis Baggs and Robbie Flick are also set to feature this weekend. The pair scored 12 and nine goals in 16 games respectively in the under-18s competition last season.

Toronto Awaba goalkeeper George Stephens has also joined the club but the headline acquisition for Kahibah is Turnbull.

“Robbie Turnbull [has] played 350 first grade games in the NPL [most recently for Weston]. He has brought a lot of professionalism and experience over from his NPL days,” Moncrieff said.

Moncrieff believes that a reinvigorated Kahibah side can build on their disappointing 2021 season and challenge further up the table, improving on their pre-season successes and opening with a win against the Bluebells.

“West Wallsend [have] always given [Kahibah] a nice physical battle. They had one on us last year but in previous years we certainly held our own against them,” Moncrieff said.

“We played the [Australia] Cup [on Monday] night against Charlestown Juniors and won 5-1. We’ve had a pretty good pre-season. [I’m] pretty happy with our new additions.

“We are a different side to what we were last year so we are hoping for a lot better showing this season.”

West Wallsend head coach Darren Sills is also aware of Kahibah’s threat this season.

“[Kahibah] have some good players. Bringing in Robbie Turnbull this year, it’ll be interesting to see how we measure up against those guys. It’s not going to be an easy game up there,” Sills said

The Bluebells may be looking a little thinner than last season, losing a chunk of their senior squad over the pre-season period.

Key players Josh West, Wes Pryce, Jed Conway and Quinn MacNeill have left the club alongside a couple of other fringe players.

Sills believes that the situation at the Bluebells is an excellent opportunity to introduce new blood into the senior picture.

“Whenever you lose players it gives an opportunity for someone else to come in and I’m pretty happy with the playing group and whom we have in there to fill that void,” Sills said.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom for the Bluebells.

“We’ve strengthened through a wide left player by the name of Dain Greentree. [He] has been at Valentine and also with Lambton Jaffas.

“Wade Ciappara [has arrived] from [Newcastle] Olympic. [He is an] exciting young player, [plays as a] midfielder, [he] should be quite good.

“Tyler Rankmore [has also joined the club], coming from Cooks Hill and Sam Robson [joins] from Edgeworth Eagles.

“[This season] is one of those scenarios [for us] where if you can keep players on the park, we’ll go okay. But if you can’t do that, then we’re relying on new blood to come through the ranks and hopefully can make the step up to do the job just as well.

“We’re ripping and raring to go and we should be very competitive this year.

“[The squad] is ready.”

New Lambton FC v Wallsend FC
Alder Park, Saturday 3pm

Reigning premiers New Lambton will open the 2022 season when they host a new-look Wallsend FC on Saturday.

Wallsend enter the fixture having lost six matches in a row at the end of last season, a run which began with a 6-2 loss at the hands of New Lambton in round 14.

On the contrary New Lambton remain on the up. The Eagles are undefeated in their last six competitive fixtures including a 21-0 annihilation of community side Metford Cobras in the Australia Cup. The Eagles also won the 2021 premiership, three points ahead of Cooks Hill United.

New Lambton have retained most of the senior squad while also adding youth, making them once again the team to beat leading into round one.

“Overall we have the same style and core that we had last year but we are really looking to promote a lot of the young boys from reserve grade this year,” New Lambton coach Tom Davies said.

“We’ve been able to give lots of players opportunities throughout pre-season [so the whole squad] can have a good look at how we want to shape up this year.”

Davies has been in isolation due to contracting COVID-19 and has not been able to attend training sessions but will be available for the game.

Wallsend should be looking to make a finals push and give New Lambton a run for their money this weekend.

“[We’re] as confident as you can be. Obviously [New Lambton] have been the measuring stick for quite a while in the competition,” Wallsend coach Michael Gatt said.

“They are always there [or there abouts]. And obviously, with their [Australia] Cup win, they are on song, so it should be a very interesting and challenging game for us.”

Depth does not seem to be an issue at Wallsend. The inclusions of Greg Anderson, Brad York and Tommy Stewart from Cessnock, combined with the existing player pool of Guilherme Evangelista, Sam Bradshaw and Jakob Keating exemplify the plethora of talent Wallsend possesses this season.

But Gatt said the Devils would not rely on individual brilliance to succeed.

“We are an overall good, well-rounded side. There isn’t really anyone standing out. Everyone has put the yards in and all [are] working hard,” Gatt said.

Thornton Redbacks v Singleton Strikers
Thornton Park, Saturday 3pm

Two sides looking to build on impressive 2021 campaigns will meet on Saturday when Thornton host Singleton.

Finishing third and fourth on the table last season respectively the Redbacks and Strikers will be hoping to carry on their improvement into round one this season.

Both clubs are also hoping to break a lingering round one curse. Singleton have not won a round one fixture in the last two seasons, while Thornton have not won their round one fixture in the previous four seasons.

The Redbacks have remained relatively unchanged throughout the off-season, with the only significant loss coming  with Liam Thornton departing for NPLM club Valentine Phoenix.

Jayden Ziernik and Jamie Tassell arrive from Cessnock to fill the void in the squad.

In terms of outs for Thornton, coach Gary Wand confirmed that Sam Rossi and Jye Mackellar will miss round one through injury.

Singleton are also have a relatively unchanged squad make the trip down to Thornton looking to open their season in a positive fashion.

“The attitude is good,” Singleton coach Mick Jarvis said.

“[The team] is confident and keen to get some football played with so much stop-start in the pre-season.

“[The game] is going to be on the day who shows up and puts the effort in.”

Jarvis also confirmed that Singleton have a few players out including goalkeeper Corey Cleaver. The injury paves the way for 19-year-old recruit Max Hampton to make his first-grade debut.

“We’ve got a few guys out for rounds one and two but again there’s been a lot of work done to make sure we’ve got depth, so it’s a good opportunity for some of the young guys to step up,” Jarvis said.

“Max Hampton kept two clean sheets [in first grade and reserve grade] in the recent trial verses [Coastal Premier League team] Southern United and is set to feature in this week’s game.”

Thornton beat Singleton twice last year, 2-1 and 3-1.

Belmont Swansea United v South Cardiff FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 6pm

In the game most likely to be given the green light, Belmont Swansea United host south Cardiff on the sand-based pitch of Blacksmiths Oval on Saturday night.

The match should be interesting given that both squads have improved.

Belswans head coach Michael Stafford said that despite the advantage Belswans have with their pitch, it had still been a relatively vile pre-season.

“It has probably been the most disjointed pre-season we’ve had with the weather but the boys have done well. We’ve got every session in and we’re looking pretty fit to start with,” Stafford said.

“We’ve been able to train on our pitch every time so that has been a massive asset to the team this year and we are lucky for it.”

Belswans have re-recruited some old faces to the club meaning a lot of positions are now being fought for, which was absent last season.

“We’ve got a few boys back at the club that have been elsewhere so it’s lifted the vibe a lot and everyone’s competing for spots again, which it wasn’t like the last two years,” Stafford said.

“Coming back we have Reece Newton, who was playing at [Lake Macquarie City] NPL and former club captain Nathan Bevan [arrives] from Swansea.”

Belswans come into the game in hot form, beating Newcastle Suns 5-1 in the Australia Cup.

“[The Cup game against Newcastle Suns] gave us belief in our system and our fitness work also showed as we rolled on against a pretty quality side,” Stafford said.

“Cameron Lodge has been in good form in the trials. [Also] Clayton Poole has been doing really well.”

It was also confirmed that young goalkeeper Joel Perrin will make his first grade debut this weekend.

South Cardiff head coach Scott Taylor is not using the awful weather as an excuse for subpar performances.

“We’re not making excuses. We are where we [want to be] now and we will be ready to go,” Taylor said.

The Gunners have also attracted a wealth of experience to a relatively young squad.

“We’ve bought a bit of experience in with Tommy Walker, he has been at Lake Macquarie, Broadmeadow and he played at Cooks Hill last year,” Taylor said.

“Corey Fletcher, who’s been around the NPL for a while as well, we’ve got him over from Lake Macquarie.

“They’ll add a bit of experience for us, which is what we’ll need.”

Belswans completed the double over South Cardiff in 2021 with emphatic 7-1 and 6-0 wins.

Cessnock City v Toronto Awaba FC
Turner Park, Saturday, 7pm

Cessnock City are hoping the rain holds off long enough for them to host Toronto Awaba in their season opener on Saturday night.

Cessnock have lost plenty of first graders to other Northern League One clubs leaving an enormous void for the youngsters of Cessnock to fill. This situation has led to the club possessing one of the youngest sides in the competition’s history.

“It’s a very young squad. I think our oldest player is 25-years-old. There’s a bit of work to do but we’re getting there,” Cessnock head coach Brad Miles said.

“We have a lot of young talented players in our youth set up as well. [We are] trying to encourage promotion of the youth into the first grade.”

The Hornets have made a couple of critical signings to help bridge the experience gap.

“We signed Zane Morphew-Watson from Maitland FC reserve grade. [He is] quite a talented midfielder,” Miles said.

“We [also] signed Clayton Williams from Singleton. He is a Cessnock local and has come back to play at the Hornets this year.

“We have a quite talented striker in Zac Kronholm and another striker Jacob Bartlett who’s come across from [Zone League Two]. He scored a lot of goals last year for Greta Branxton. He’s a very talented striker [who played] NPL as a junior,” Miles said.

The heavily interrupted pre-season did not help Cessnock.

“We are confident but we haven’t had many trial games, so it’s going to be hard. After our first few games, we’ll know more about ourselves,” Miles said.

“I’m quite confident as a coach. We had a decent hit out against Cardiff City last Tuesday night and [the team did] quite well,” Miles said.

Finishing only two points and one place above Cessnock City last season was Toronto.

Stags head coach Jarrad Hiles will not be letting the team use the inexperience excuse when it comes to crunch time this season with the introduction of some older talent.

“We have a couple of new boys in with experience and leadership and a bit of quality, so that creates a good environment around the place,” Hiles said.

“[We signed] Scott Smith, who has been at Charlestown Azzurri. He is good value. And [we also signed] Peter McPherson, who played at [Lake Macquarie City] last year.

“Just that bit of experience to lead some of the young blokes around will be good.”

Smith especially is expected to score a few this season and Hiles is anticipating a step in the right direction against Cessnock.

“I’m hoping Scotty Smith can tuck a few goals away,” Hiles said.

“We have another young fellow called Jacob Dundas who is just a machine. He’ll go all day and he is just a real competitor, so he is one to keep an eye on during the year as well.

“Hopefully we get the go-ahead and Cessnock is not getting the rain we are getting.”

Cessnock won the only competitive fixture between the clubs 2-1 at Turner Park.

Related Topics:
Northern League One Round One Preview

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