Premiers – Cooks Hill United
Not one, not two, but three in a row. Cooks Hill United created history in 2019 in claiming an unprecedented third straight Premiership with another unrivalled campaign. Winning nine of their first 12 games set the tone for the black and white with a number of huge victories. A league high 53 goals and an impressive defence brought another year of triumph to the Athfield, while only losing three games along the way. Graham Law’s men set the bar high in previous seasons, but they continued to rise to the task at hand with 14 wins out of 20 to reach 45 points for the season. The Cookers are littered with stars across the field, although Ash Balcomb and Nick Russell were two standouts, having spectacular individual seasons. Balcomb scored a notable nine goals for the year while Russell showed his class with a magnificent 14. Jack Wilkinson was a brick wall in defence while captain Daniel Johnson was a rock in midfield and was again a key player for the Premiers. Determined by their Semi-Final loss of 2018, the Cookers made no mistakes in 2019, accounting for South Cardiff in the Semi-Final series with a huge 9-3 aggregate victory. The side marched onto play Belmont Swansea in the decider, but came up just short of a achieving the double after being beaten 3-2.
2nd & Champions – Belmont Swansea United
Coming off a huge 2018 for the club, Belmont-Swansea certainly had a target on their back but they rose to the occasion to finish in second and remarkably reach another Grand Final in 2019. Since the opening days of the season, the boys from Blacksmiths meant business, determined to repeat their success of the season prior. The side only lost four games all year, two coming at the hands of Cooks Hill and the other two to Toronto. Mick Stafford’s men prided themselves on their defence, leaking only 24 goals in the season to finish with 38 points. Deploying Reece Newton further forward and acquiring the signing of Ty Goldsmith from Wallsend mid-season was a masterstroke as both players provided a continual goal threat. Newton was a standout all season scoring eight goals for the year while Goldsmith also notched up eight since his arrival. Clayton Poole and Chris Gazzard were influential in their roles in the team while Mark Finlayson was highly consistent in the backline. In Stafford’s first year of coaching, the team continued to deliver high-quality performances while bringing through a host of young talent with an eye for the future. Belswans deservedly earned their entry into the 2019 decider with a huge 6-0 aggregate victory over West Wallsend in the Semi-Finals, and continued that form into the big dance after defeating rivals Cooks Hill United 3-2 to win back-to-back Championships.
3rd – West Wallsend
After falling short in last year’s Grand Final, West Wallsend proved again a force to be reckoned with finishing in the third spot. The Bluebells had another outstanding season, only losing five games along the way and scoring the second most goals in the league with 48. Johnston Park is always a fortress for the blue and white, but it was their away form that was equally impressive, only losing twice on the road. Across the park, the Bluebells had continual performers, but it was Tye Jones who grabbed the headlines, finishing with the Golden Boot and 18 goals to his name. Bailey Jensen was a key player in the line-up and had an equally impressive season while Jarrod Olivieri always stood up in the big games with crucial performances and goals throughout 2019. Blake Redman also had a great year in goals, keeping seven clean sheets. Steve Thomson took over midway through the year at the helm as interim coach for the team and the side continued to deliver results until the Bluebells’ season came to an end at the hands of Belmont-Swansea in an intense Semi-Final series, losing 6-0 on aggregate.
4th – South Cardiff Gunners
South Cardiff finally cracked the top four in season 2019 after a solid regular season. The Gunners recruited heavily in the off-season and soon settled into their strongest squad. The side have a host of exciting attackers but it was their defence that made the difference in the end, conceding a league best 23 goals. Goalkeeper Tom Jenkin had a fantastic season keeping the most clean sheets in the league with eight, while defenders Corey Nicholas and Murray Leyland were also instrumental. Further forward, Tom Butzmann had a terrific campaign with nine goals while Sam Ford always was a threat and also bagged nine goals himself. The side managed to make their first finals appearance since joining the league, but went down to Premiers Cooks Hill United over two legs to miss out on a Grand Final spot. The Gunners have a great mix of quality attackers and defenders and keeping their stars will be key. South Cardiff will be jubilant with their season, but will be determined to go one better in season 2020.
5th – Kahibah F.C
An outstanding second half of the season saw Kahibah finish in fifth spot, but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to feature in the playoffs. After losing a couple of key players at the start of the year, Kahibah ran with a youthful side sprinkled with experience to try and bring some success back to Kahibah Oval. The black and green were a hard team to break down all season only losing three of their last eleven games. Few can forget Kahibah’s two clashes with Cooks Hill United with the first being a dramatic 5-4 loss to the Premiers before returning serve with a 2-0 win later in the campaign. Veteran forward Rhys Tippett led the way for Kahibah notching 15 goals for the Rams in an exceptional season. Heath Kepreotes was a stalwart at the back while Blake McDonnell also impressed in goals. After finishing a lowly tenth the season prior, this Kahibah outfit certainly brought some pride back to the club and they will feel they’re in a very strong position to once again challenge for the top four when season 2020 rolls around.
6th – New Lambton FC
The New Lambton Eagles certainly showed signs of real promise in season 2019, attaining their highest ever finish in sixth spot. The Eagles are another club on the rise, favouring a youthful squad in this season’s campaign that pushed for Semi-Final football throughout patches of the year. A 3-0 win over Cooks Hill United and a huge 5-1 victory over West Wallsend were certainly highlights in New Lambton’s season, knocking over two quality outfits. However, four straight losses after those two great victories affected the Eagles’ momentum. A similar tale of inconsistency was the Eagles’ downfall, finishing with nine wins and 10 losses. Striker Riley Taylor had another outstanding season, tallying 11 goals for the year to finish fifth on the Golden Boot list while Joel Caldwell was also an integral player to the Eagles line-up. Jim Foley’s men are improving every season, and a finals berth is not far away for New Lambton.
7th – Thornton Redbacks
After being one game away from a Grand Final in 2018, the Thornton Redbacks suffered a season that fell short of expectation, finishing in seventh spot. A horror run of injuries and constant washout of games meant a topsy-turvy campaign for the Redbacks. Gary Wand’s men certainly showed signs of their class with big wins over Wallsend and fourth-placed South Cardiff during the season, but the team couldn’t continue that consistency that served them well in season’s prior. Jake Millstead was a clear standout for the Redbacks knocking in 10 goals while outside-flyer Jacob Golding gave many defenders headaches and notched seven goals of his own. The side only registered three clean sheets and suffered nine losses, including three in their last four to finish in the mid-table position. Keeping key players fit and improving in their defensive areas will be on the agenda for the Redbacks in 2020 as they will no doubt be hungry to return to the finals arena.
8th – Cessnock City Hornets
Cessnock are a club on the rise after another improved season in 2019 that saw them play some determined football. The squad challenged for the top four spots for the majority of the season, however, will be disappointed by their finish losing four of their last five games to end up in eighth spot. Wins over Premiers Cooks Hill and Kahibah, backed up by a strong home record, was a highlight in Cessnock’s season but it just wasn’t enough to earn a high placing. The team played out six draws, the most in the competition, and also held an attacking record that only returned 20 goals which was a competition low. Greg Anderson had another outstanding year for Cessnock, leading from the back, while Tom Stewart and Isaac Peek played every game for the black and yellow and were consistent performers. The club has been quick to snap up most of their key players for the 2020 season, while a source of consistent goals and winning tight matches could spell another improved season for the Hornets next year. There are positive signs moving forward for the club from Cessnock.
9th – Singleton Strikers
A season that began with so much promise, soon turned into another harsh campaign for Singleton. A host of injuries to key players disrupted the Strikers’ campaign while the side struggled to find consistency in their performances. David Willoughby’s squad is littered with talent and they certainly showed glimpses of their considerable potential, doing the double over Thornton and Kahibah in their respective games. Hayden Nicol was again a standout for the Strikers as captain while Jake Barner and Joe Civello always provided a threat going forward, with the latter scoring nine goals this season. However, only three wins on the road and an unusually poor home record meant 2019 wasn’t Singleton’s season finishing in ninth spot. A long-awaited finals football appearance goes on although a strong recruitment drive to bolster the squad’s depth could bring about more success at Howe Park.
10th – Wallsend F.C
The side from Wallsend suffered another setback season in 2019 finishing only a point above last spot. In coach Jesse Pryce’s first year in charge, the club managed to avoid the wooden spoon on the final day of the season, but like Toronto, leaked a league-high 57 goals. Losing key personnel during the season, the Red Devils were forced into bringing through younger talent, in particularly young goalkeeper Chris Teasdale, who showed tremendous potential and will be benefitted by the experience. One win in the first half of the season got the Red Devils off to a bad start although Wallsend certainly finished the season better with wins over New Lambton, Singleton and Cessnock in the latter stages of the campaign. Wez Pryce was a standout for the Red Devils who notched five goals for the campaign and was a continual performer for the red and white. Wallsend will be hoping they can turn it around in 2020 and get back to the glory days of recent season’s gone by.
11th – Toronto Awaba Stags
Season 2019 was another tough slog for the side hailing from Toronto-Awaba as they slumped to their second consecutive wooden spoon. Under new coach Darrell McAllister, and a host of fresh faces, the club couldn’t progress up the ladder, however, they certainly made strides in their 20 games improving on their eight points tallied in the season prior and snapping a horror home record. Two wins at Lyall Peacock Field this season and doing the double over grand finalists Belmont-Swansea United was the highlight of a barren season, which included a 5-3 victory over the defending champions. The Stags conceded an equal league-high of 57 goals to again finish at the bottom of the ladder with only three wins. Nathan McAllister was a standout scoring seven goals along the way while Nick Roberts surpassed 100 appearances for the club this season and again was one of Toronto’s best. The wooden spoon tag is a title no club wants and Toronto will be looking to try and improve again for the 2020 season.