Cooks Hill United FC v Belmont Swansea United FC
Sunday 8 September, 3:00 pm, Jack McLaughlan Oval
WHERE THEY FINISHED:
Cooks Hill United FC 1st, 45 points; Belmont-Swansea United FC 2nd, 38 points.
The biggest day in the NEWFM Northern League One calendar is upon us with a titanic clash to highlight a prestigious Grand Final day.
The two most consistent sides over the course of the 2019 season have made it into the big dance with Cooks Hill United FC and Belmont Swansea United FC set to collide.
Both clubs have formed a healthy, exhilarating rivalry over the years, built out of a high level of competitiveness and an enduring drive to succeed.
Sunday’s monumental showdown will be the second time in three years these two outfits will take to the big stage with the Cookers claiming the title of champions in 2017 over their rivals.
Belswans will be playing for back-to-back titles after claiming a long-awaited championship in 2018 while they will also be featuring in their fourth straight Grand Final.
The Cookers proved their strength in the Semi-Finals as they downed South Cardiff 9-3 over two legs, which included a huge first leg 5-0 victory.
The Belswans matched their upcoming opponent with a dominant semi-final display against West Wallsend to also win 5-0 in the second leg and march on with a combined 6-0 victory on aggregate.
The reigning Premiers had the edge over Belswans during the year, claiming both wins in the two fixtures between both teams, however, the Belswans last knocked over the Cookers in the 2018 Semi-Final series on their way to championship glory, and have the necessary experience for the big game.
Cooks Hill is also well renowned for rising to the occasion and they will be gunning for a historic double, and a fifth trophy out of a possible six in the last three seasons.
With plenty of history on the line, both outfits will be leaving it all on the park to set up another mouth-watering encounter.
Cooks Hill boasts the best-attacking record in the league scoring an incredible 62 goals over the entirety of the season.
The black and white only lost three games in 2019 on the road to the finals and picked up 25 points out of a possible 30 at the Fearnley Dawes Athletic Field.
The Cookers led the competition from start to finish and set the tone early with eight wins from their first ten games to establish a dominant opening.
The top-placed side also comes into the Grand Final off a great run of form, having only lost one of their last eight games.
For the defending champions, Belswans have prided themselves on their defence all year and have the numbers to back it up, conceding the fewest amount of goals in the competition with 24.
The yellow and green recorded a stunning nine clean sheets this campaign, and hold a superb away record, claiming eight wins out of eleven on the road.
Belswans surpassed their points tally of last season to finish in the second spot, while also scoring a great number of goals with 29 in the back half of the year.
The boys from Blacksmiths also come into the Grand Final in a rich vein of form, winning six of their last seven matches.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Both squads are spoilt with quality across the park and boast experience and youth in key positions, which has seen them finish in first and second respectively.
For Cooks Hill, their three-time Premiership-winning side is one of the greatest teams in the history of the league, and they will line-up another strong outfit for game day.
Daniel Johnson has led the way as skipper, playing a pivotal role in the heart of midfield and gets the attack started for the Cookers while Ash Balcomb and Nick Russell have had sensational campaigns, firing in 25 goals between them.
All three players featured in the NEWFM Northern League One Team of the Year, alongside centre back Jack Wilkinson who has been a rock at the back while Lee Ashton will lead the line in attack and has a history of producing in big games.
The Belmont-Swansea side also has an outstanding roster that will be motivated to take on the Premiers.
Reece Newton has been instrumental for the yellow and green earning a spot in the Team of the Year and is a player who competes on every play for Belswans.
The hard-working Mark Finlayson also earned a spot in the Team of the Year after a stellar campaign and was accompanied by Clayton Poole, the Grand Final hero of 2018, who is a constant threat in the front third.
Belswans also have a reliable goalscorer in Ty Goldsmith who is clinically in the box, scoring a remarkable ten goals in his last nine fixtures while the experienced Chris Gazzard is ever-present in big games and is deadly from set-pieces.
A few individual battles will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the decider.
WHAT THE COACHES SAID:
Graham Law, Cooks Hill United FC
“The biggest credit I can give the boys winning the third (Premiership) on the trot is exceptional,” Law said.
“We’ve been the best two teams, us and Belswans, for the last three years now, and it’s coming to a bit of an end of an era here at Cooks Hill, so we are delighted to play Belswans as we hold them in a very high regard, and it will be a cracking final.
“It is a rivalry, but on a very healthy level of respect, while knowing if you don’t turn up the other team will beat you.
“It’s a Grand Final, the boys will self-manage it, we’re all treating this as it could be the last one as you don’t know when the next Grand Final will be.
“The Grand Final is for the club people, they don’t have to open the gates or get the canteen ready, get the nets up, they can show up and enjoy the day.
“Cooks Hill will be represented in all three grades and that was a club target at the start of the year, we’re absolutely buzzing to have all three grades in the finals.”
Mick Stafford, Belmont Swansea United FC
“Consistency has been the key this year, based around a solid defensive structure, we have focused on a culture of hard work and commitment to each other and enjoying the journey of football together,” Stafford said.
“It’s one of the best squads in the history of the club (the current team), great mix of young and old, a lot of boys are locals and played together for years, which has built the good vibe which then breeds results and the winning culture of the last four years and hopefully years to come.
“They are a great side (Cooks Hill), filled with some classy players who I respect as footballers and blokes, they were well-deserved Premiers again and it’s going to be very difficult to beat them, but the pressure is on them to beat us.
“It’s four in a row now for a lot of us, and for a small community club, that’s huge. The experience of the last three will definitely help, and sticking to a blueprint that worked last year.
“To go back to back would be a little slice of history for the group and this era, I grew up in Blacksmiths and I’m proud to represent the area.
“The day will be an opportunity for our playing group to serve the club and its members, give them some joy and something to smile about after another year of hard work off the pitch.
“Committee, supporters, spouses and children all sacrifice stuff so we can kick a ball around, it’s time to serve them and they deserve to hold the trophy high, but we need 90 minutes of hard work against a tough opponent to do that.”
It all comes down to this, 90 minutes of football or more to determine the champions of 2019.
Will it be the yellow and green of Belmont-Swansea who earn glory and make it back-to-back titles or will it be the black and white of Cooks Hill who creates history and wins the double?
There’s no denying these two clubs have been two of the premier teams of the division for a lengthy period of time and the 2019 Grand Final is set to add another classic match to the colossal rivalry.
The sweet taste of Grand Final victory awaits one of the two clubs, while the 2019 Grand Final will certainly deliver a spectacle to remember.