Match of the Round
Broadmeadow Magic vs. Edgeworth Eagles
Sunday 10 March, 2:30 pm, Magic Park
The National Premier League (NPL) Northern NSW (NNSW) is finally back and there’s no better way to ring in the new season than with an epic tussle between the two sides that culminated its predecessor.
This Sunday, the Eagles will be out for revenge when they travel to Magic Park after going down to Broadmeadow on Grand Final Day last year despite sealing their fourth consecutive premiership with a tremendous 11-point margin over the second-placed Magic.
The two sides share a strong recent history after battling a total of an incredible 10 encounters in just three years of which Broadmeadow have only won two, however, a statistic that does work in Magic’s work is the fact that they’ve never lost a Round 1 match-up since 2011.
Last season Broadmeadow possessed the best-attacking record in the competition and with the addition of Kristian Brymora, who will make his debut for this side this weekend, that offence looks like it’s only going to improve.
It’ll be interesting to see how Broadmeadow function without the key cog in midfield that was league veteran Shane Paul, who retired at the end of last season. New signing Ryan Ensor, formerly from Wollongong Wolves is expected to try and fill that void in his debut.
Edgeworth is also expected to field their new star striker in Oliver Smith and will be hoping he can continue the same goal-scoring form he showcased in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup where he scored four goals helping his side to lift the pre-season trophy.
That piece of silverware is not the main one on the club’s mind though, as if they win the premiership this season, they’ll not only break the record for the most premierships ever won in the top flight of Northern NSW Football, but also equal Adamstown’s record of most consecutive premierships won.
Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said his side wouldn’t be focusing on the potential milestones, and not on getting revenge against Broadmeadow either.
“I don’t think so [on getting revenge]. If we win on Sunday, we don’t get their medals,” said Zane.
“It’s more about getting off to a good start and defending the premiership.
“You always need one or two new guys to freshen up the squad, but at the end of the day we won the comp by 11 points, so we didn’t need to change it up all that much.”
Magic coach Ruben Zadkovich echoed Zane’s thoughts.
“Everyone keep’s calling it a Grand Final rematch, but we’re not looking at it that way. It’s two completely new teams,” Zadkovich said.
“My prediction is that it will be a really good game. It will be two good teams, full of good players going at it in Round 1 of the new season.”
With such a strong offence, Zadkovich admitted that although he was confident in his front men, his team would be placing their focus on combining together as a collective.
“We’ve been working on making sure that were attacking as a team and defending as a team,” Zadkovich stated.
“We’re looking to take ownership and not just relying on any individual. It was nice last year that most of our goals were spread across our front three the players and it just means were playing the right type of football.
“We look at it like doing everything as a unit and when we can do that right, we’re really hard to beat.”
Zane agreed that Broadmeadow’s attack would be hard to stop, but had faith in his defence, who achieved the best record in the competition last season, were up to the task.
“I always say, it really is a battle of our defence verse their attack,” said Zane.
“That’s no disrespect to their defence or our attack, but that’s what were both renowned for.
“On the other end, the balance has got to be better for us this year.
“The key will be trying to halt their attack.”
Charlestown City Blues vs. Newcastle Jets Youth
Thursday 7 March, 7:45 pm, Lisle Carr Oval
It’s the match that marks the beginning of the 2019 season and comes in the unfamiliar, but exciting timeslot of Thursday night when the Blues host the Jets Youth.
Although neither of these sides were semi-finalists in 2018, this match has the potential to feature an abundance of goals considering there have been a whopping 26 goals scored (Charlestown 16, Jets Youth 10) in their past six outings – averaging over four a game.
The Blues enjoyed a terrific start to the season last year, winning five of their first six matches and they’ll be looking to emulate that same early form in 2019 especially as they possess close to a full-strength squad which wasn’t the case for much of the year.
Jamie Byrnes will also make his club debut and will attempt to create a solid combination early on with the rest of his new squad’s deadly attackers in Kane Goodchild and Rene Ferguson.
The young Jets will need to be on their toes in defence, especially after it was a major weak point in their game last season conceding 45 goals.
Jack Simmons won’t be featuring for the team this week as he’s overseas in Turkey as part of the Australian Joeys squad, and with Kaleb Cox, Josh Cairelli and Cai Tipaldo all moving on in the off-season, it may provide an opportunity for the newly promoted 18s in the squad to make their mark.
Charlestown City coach David Tanchevski said his team were preparing themselves for a challenging contest.
“We’re expecting a really tough game,” said Tanchevski.
“I think it’s well known that you don’t want to get the Jets in the first few games because you’re still building a bit of match fitness in those games and you’re playing a team that is fully ‘match fit’ and already had a competition together.
“They’re a great team at the best of times, but the first round of the competition is probably not the time you want to get them, but I guess that’s the luck of the draw.”
The Blues held a strong defensive record last year, but in attack, they just couldn’t seem to find consistent form but Tanchevski believes the Blues won’t experience the same woes this year, especially due to a star striker returning from an injury-filled season.
“Our defence last year was pretty good, I think we just lacked goals,” he said.
“We’ve got a little bit more depth this year so there’s been a good fight for places.
“We haven’t really seen a full fit Kane Goodchild except for the first couple of games where he did score a few goals.
“Kane’s a really good pre-season and Scott Smith plays better with Kane beside him as well. There a lot better as a duo than individually so having those two boys up front and now with Jamie Byrnes, we need to do better.”
Weston Bears vs. Hamilton Olympic
Friday 8 March, 7:45 pm, Rockwell Automation Park
Both Weston and Hamilton would have been disappointed with their seasons last year for differing reasons, but with renewed, rejuvenated squads, their opening contest at Bear Park this Friday night is sure to be an intriguing one.
For 2019, both these teams have made numerous signings in the attempt to make a return to the semi-finals but the big question will be how quickly the multitude of new faces can gel with their new teammates. This match will certainly give pundits a great early insight into that.
Olympic only came within one point of qualifying for last year’s finals, and if they hadn’t struggled as badly as they did in the early part of the year only winning one match from the first seven rounds, then they might have been found themselves there, although history is on their side when versing the Bears.
If Hamilton win this Friday night, they will have won 10 straight matches between the two (the last time Weston beat them was back in April 2014) and it’ll need to be the end of the trend if the Bears they wish to start on track of achieving the high hopes they have for this year.
Weston has brought in some fresh faces as well as some old ones in Robbie Turnbull and Zac Sneddon who will both be making their anticipated returns this weekend for the club in defence.
A former teammate who used to share the backline with Sneddon is that of Reece Pettit who will be in a different jersey this weekend when he makes his debut for Hamilton Olympic, as too will Marcus Duncan, as coach Pete McGuiness looks to sure up a defence that leaked far too many goals last season.
There’ll also be a world flavour to this game, as each club look to try out their international signings in Jason Tjien-Fooh (Weston) and Ren Fukumoto and Shinichi Kawachi (Hamilton), who will surely be players to watch.
Adamstown Rosebud vs. Valentine Phoenix
Saturday 9 March, 5:30 pm, Adamstown Oval
Valentine will travel to Adamstown Oval this weekend in a match scheduled between the two lowest-placing sides from last year’s competition, however, it does provide a golden opportunity for either side to begin their campaign with a victory.
The Rosebud’s won both games against the Phoenix last year however their Round 1 form is pitiful having not won a State League opening round since 2004.
Valentine has recruited well and their two new midfielders, Ben Hay and Jacob Bailey, will both be making their debuts and looking to add that creative flair going forward that the club lacked so much last season after only achieving 19 goals.
New signing for Valentine Brenton Olzomer will be also looked toward in that area and will be keen to get off the mark for his NPL NNSW returning match.
With one of the youngest squads in the competition, getting off to a strong start will be vital for Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and his Adamstown team if they want to be challenging some of the more experienced teams in 2019.
In defence, the Buds were far too weak, and they’ll need to make it a point of emphasis this season and captain and league veteran Ben Higgins, as well as goalkeeper Benn Kelly who had a strong 2018, will be determined to do that.
One of Valentine’s co-coaches Sam Griffin said that although his side is facing off with second-last from the previous season, they’re not expecting any lesser of a challenge.
“It won’t be any easier or harder playing anyone else first round,” Griffin said.
“You always want a good start to the season.
“It is a long season, but it’s always hard to play catch-up at any point in the year.
“We haven’t been paying attention to who were versing as we’re just focusing on ourselves.”
Griffin expected his team to be almost at full strength including the fresh faces that will be making their club debuts and he’s confident it won’t take long for them to fit in with the squad.
“We’re at full strength, with the only small issue being Brent Olzomer who’s coming back from an injury, so we’ll just monitor that,” he said.
“I believe we’ve made a good fit for the players we’ve got coming in.
“Luckily a lot of these guys have played together before, or on the flip side, myself or Sillsy [Darren Sills] have worked with them before.
“The first thing you really have to do before you win games is not lose them. Our focus is really on keeping a clean sheet and being organised in defence.
“If our guys up front only have to score one to win, that makes the load a lot easier on them.”
Lambton Jaffas vs. Lake Macquarie City Roosters
Saturday 9 March, 5:30 pm, Arthur Edden Oval
When Lake Macquarie last met Lambton in the final round of the 2018 regular season, the only difference between the two was a stunning last-minute Sam Walker free-kick, and when they meet the Jaffas again this week at Arthur Edden Oval, they’ll be hoping to begin their year with a similar result in their favour.
Lambton will field a rather different side to the one that lost in a nail-biting semi-final bout to Edgeworth last year, having lost their three former Newcastle Jets player Jobe Wheelhouse, Ryan Griffiths and Jobe Wheelhouse, as well as others which will make this opening match rather testing for James Pascoe’s team.
Although a lot of experience will be missing, the Jaffas still have the core of the squad such as Michael Sessions, Luke Remington and Michael Kantarovski and they’ll be key to the team transition through this period early on in the year.
On the other side of the field, Lakes have been touted as a potential dark horse this season, and after bringing in plenty of new promising youngsters to their squad, a positive start to the year will be key to any kind of success.
Captain of the Roosters, and reigning Graham Jennings Medallist Sam Walker will once again be the key target for the Jaffas defence to try and defuse, however, after scoring seven goals in the Ampcontrol Heritage Cup recently, Mitch Hunter will be someone they need to focus on as well.
Lake Macquarie coach Nick Webb said that he was confident his strike-force would once again shine this season, but his defence across the park needed to be sharper.
“We weren’t far off it last year, we just let ourselves down defensively, so we need to fix that part and we’ve definitely strengthened everywhere else,” Webb admitted.
“We’re focusing on defensively when we lose the ball and how we react to stop the opposition’s attacking weapons.
“At the end of the day, we score enough goals at the every of the game to generally win it, what we have lacked is being on top for 70% of the time, and then letting silly goals in.”
Although Lambton was only a whisker away from qualifying for the Grand Final last year and finished much higher on the table than them, Webb isn’t fazed suggesting the new year brings a completely new chapter and he’s assured his team have what it takes to challenge the top teams.
“How Lambton finished last year means nothing to us because it’s a new season,” said the Lakes coach.
“We’re a new group, and we expect to win. We do believe we have the team to go all the way this year. We’ve prepared really well.
“If we don’t get a win I’ll be very surprised.”