First Grade – Edgeworth FC v Maitland FC
National Park No.2 Sportsground – Sunday 3pm
After a year like no other, the 2020 National Premier Leagues Northern NSW season will conclude with the Edgeworth Eagles playing Maitland FC for Northern NSW Football’s ultimate prize.
The season was tipped on its head due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the league forced to postpone the start of the season.
All 10 clubs rallied together to get the season underway in July and, after 13 regular season rounds and a scintillating finals series, two teams are left standing.
In a repeat of the 2019 decider, the Eagles and Magpies will face off again to decide who will be crowned champions.
Edgeworth have embarked on another incredible regular season to earn their fifth premiership in six years and 13th overall to mark the Eagles as the most successful club in northern NSW top flight history.
After a turbulent start to the season, player-coach Josh Rose took the reins and led the star-studded squad to the club’s lucky 13th premiership.
Winning 11 out of their 13 games and building on a solid defensive structure having only conceded eight goals in the regular season, the 2020 Eagles could potentially go down as one of the great modern day teams in Newcastle football.
Edgeworth have stars across the park including captain Josh Evans, who has formed a critical partnership with Ayden Brice at the back, while Tyson Jackson and Mitch Hunter have also been reliable figures in the line-up.
Pat Wheeler has worked tirelessly in midfield while Kristian Brymora has led from the front with 13 goals to be joint leading goalscorer for the regular season.
Rose will lead his team into the grand final and said the side looked forward to chasing back-to-back championships.
“It’s been a fantastic year for everyone involved. A lot of changeover and disruption early on but I think the boys grew together and became even stronger,” Rose said.
“Calling on the experience of Josh Evans, Ayden Brice, Pat Wheeler, these guys have been immense. Will Bower, Kristian Brymora, Keanu Moore and Tyson Jackson, all those young boys who bring lots of energy. It all just makes for a fantastic group of boys to work with.
“Maitland is in good form and they’re taking their chances and we need to be careful of that. I believe we can create a lot against them. We have a lot of belief and we’ll go into this game confident.
“The support in our major semi was incredible. A club without fans, sponsors or supporters is no club at all so they’re the heartbeat and we want them out in droves.
“Watching the young kids celebrate with us when we win titles and games is what Edgeworth is about and that is what drives these young players to want to play for the first team. Hopefully we can get the job done.”
Meanwhile Maitland have conquered all before them in the final six weeks to produce an unforgettable finals series run and make it to the last two.
Down and out in the regular season and staring down the barrel of a 1-0 loss to Edgeworth, two last minute goals in their round 12 clash changed the course of the season. Maitland have ridden the wave ever since.
The 2019 premiers finished fifth and had to do it the hard way to make the grand final, beating Charlestown Azzurri, Newcastle Olympic and Broadmeadow Magic in sudden death finals to qualify.
Braedyn Crowley has been one of the standout players of the competition to finish joint leading goalscorer with Brymora and has fired the Magpies into the decider with four incredible goals across the finals.
Zac Thomas and captain Carl Thornton have been instrumental at the back for Maitland while James Thompson has had a break out season and will be one to watch on grand final day.
Maitland will look to carry their momentum into the grand final while coach Mick Bolch said it was a tremendous feat for the side to play in another decider.
“Coming from fifth place has been a real ride for the group. The old saying of winning breeds confidence couldn’t be truer,” Bolch said.
“It is a great achievement by the club to make back-to-back grand final appearances. The confidence in ourselves as a group has grown in the last month.
“Edgeworth are the best side in the competition so to win the game that is who you have to beat.
“It is their sixth straight appearance so all credit to them. But hopefully we can get one over on them.
“After limping into the semis, to go on a run and defeat Azzurri, Olympic and Magic all away from home is a true testament to the character of the playing group and the club.
“We will give It everything we have come Sunday.”
Will it be the black and red of Edgeworth who make it an historic double and win back-to-back grand finals? Or will it the black and white of the Magpies who earn redemption and bring the trophy back to the city of Maitland?
The grand final is sure to be a fitting finale to an unforgettable season.
HEAD to HEAD
Round 1 – Edgeworth FC 4-1 Maitland FC at Jack McLaughlan Oval
Round 12 – Maitland FC 2-1 Edgeworth FC at Cooks Square Park
Road to the grand final
Major Semi-Final – Edgeworth FC 3-3 Broadmeadow Magic (Edgeworth FC won 4-3 on penalties) at Jack McLaughlan Oval
Elimination Final – Charlestown Azzurri 1-1 Maitland FC (Maitland FC won 5-3 on penalties) at Lisle Carr Oval
Minor Semi-Final – Newcastle Olympic 0-4 Maitland FC at Darling Street Oval
Preliminary Final – Broadmeadow Magic 0-2 Maitland FC at Magic Park