Match of the Round
New Lambton FC v Singleton Strikers
Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility, Saturday 2.30pm
Reigning premiers New Lambton FC will face reigning champions Singleton Strikers to kick off the 2021 HIT Northern League One competition on Saturday.
With the 2020 season a shortened and disrupted one due to the Covid-19 pandemic, teams are eager to prove themselves and start the season strongly.
The first match of the round is a clash between 2020 grand finalists New Lambton and Singleton. The match has been moved to the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility due to a fixture clash with the Newcastle Jets W-League match at No.2 Sportsground.
New Lambton, who won the league convincingly last season, have had an active preseason with a number of young players promoted through their ranks. The Eagles will again look to utilise exciting goal scorer Riley Taylor to help retain their premiership.
Singleton are still on a high following their first grand final win in 28 years last season after they downed the Eagles 2-0 at Magic Park in the decider. The Strikers will look to continue their fine form from last season in round one with a full-strength squad.
Grand final hero Joel Barner will again be a key player for Singleton and one to watch this season.
Belmont Swansea United v Wallsend FC
Blacksmiths Oval, Saturday 6.30pm
Belmont Swansea will look to build on their 2020 season with the appointment of former A-League player Andre Gumprecht as their new head coach, taking over from Mick Stafford.
Gumprecht’s playing experience and many years of coaching may be the key to the team pushing back towards the top of the table this season.
BelSwans have made a number of key signings to strengthen their squad including Brendon Hall who should bring some excitement to the season.
Wallsend meanwhile will hope to improve on their last-placed finish in 2020 with the help of two signings in Sam Bradshaw, who returns to the club after a brief stint away, and Guilherme Evangelista.
The Red Devils have been training hard and look strong heading into the opening weekend.
Wallsend had a young side last season but will look to push for the finals this season with the help of key players Lucas Egge, Darcy Hall and Jake Sullivan.
Toronto Awaba v West Wallsend
Lyall Peacock Field, Sunday 2.30pm
Toronto Awaba’s 2020 season saw great improvement with a genuine finals push before a seventh-placed finish after two consecutive years of propping up the table. The Stags would love to build on last season’s effort as they celebrate the club’s centenary.
The clash with the Bluebells will be a challenge for Toronto Awaba with injuries already hitting the Stags hard with three senior players in doubt for Sunday.
Flynn Fittler is one to keep an eye on this season, with the youngster promoted from the club’s under-18s team and a testament to the Stags’ philosophy around retention and support of local players.
West Wallsend finished one place above Toronto Awaba on the table last season and will look to continue that superiority come Sunday. The Bluebells will be at full strength but will line up in a very unfamiliar way thanks to six new signings.
With the talent of Matthew Paul and Josh Knight, West Wallsend look to have set the stage for a lively and exciting season.
Cooks Hill United v Thornton FC
No.2 Sportsground, Sunday 2.30pm
Cooks Hill United and Thornton Redbacks kick off their 2020 campaigns at No. 2 Sportsground, with Cooks Hill again likely to be one of the teams to beat this season.
After an up and down preseason, Cooks Hill will look to Tom Smart, Cody Carroll and Luke Muller to be the difference which gets them to top spot.
For Thornton, it has been a positive preseason with some surprise new players coming into the squad.
The Redbacks will look to improve on last season and hopefully survive this season injury free after a badly disrupted 2020 campaign.
Cessnock City v Kahibah FC
Turner Park, Sunday 2.30pm
Cessnock City will look to open their 2020 campaign against Kahibah at Turner Park on Sunday with three points.
The Hornets will look to build some early momentum with their first five games all to be played at home, including their season opener against the Rams.
Cessnock have retained a stable squad from last season with the signing of Jacob Golding from Thornton their only addition.
Kahibah have had a rocky preseason but will look to make their mark early in the season through new head coach Mat Moncrieff and a handful of new signings.
The club will look to build on their strong 2020 season with the help of key players Simon Ward and Rohan Tamplin.
South Cardiff has the bye