By James Ward
Edgeworth coach Damien Zane has attempted to walk the line between changing too little and too much as the Eagles look to continue on as the most dominant team in northern NSW into the new decade.
The Eagles had won four premierships in a row before Maitland ended that streak last season. But Edgeworth still managed to lift silverware in 2019, crowned champions after downing the Magpies 2-0 in the NNSW NPL grand final. The title was their seventh in the last five seasons.
It was another outstanding campaign for Edgeworth who also reached the FFA Cup round of 16.
And despite some high-profile departures, the Eagles appear on course to continue their strong run.
Former A-League veteran Daniel McBreen has retired, while lethal striker Oliver Smith has joined NPL Queensland side Brisbane Strikers. NNSW NPL team of the year inductee Aden Gardner has also left, signing with NPL Victoria club Bentleigh Greens.
But in a huge boost, former Eagles defender Ayden Brice has returned to the club from Melbourne Knights.
While already hungry for more success the Eagles are also chasing history. Should they win the league again this year, Edgeworth would go past Adamstown Rosebud as the most successful club in the region with 13 top flight premierships.
Zane said while some change was necessary, it was not necessary for the Eagles to completely re-invent themselves.
“You’ve always got to change up. We don’t want it to become stagnant and the key is it comes down to having a group of winners. You can see it in young kids who are really driven and I’m lucky enough to coach a group that is full of them,” Zane said.
“We had a fairly disrupted year last year and we walked away with a grand final, we were in the premiership race until the last week and made the round of 16 [in the FFA Cup]. So I think it will be about keeping players on the park, keeping it fresh and we’ve also got a few young guys putting pressure on the squad.
“Week in, week out we have to turn up and switch on and the competition gets better each year. But I don’t think we have to change up too much.
“It’s been our best pre-season since I’ve had them, it’s been fairly consistent and we’ve played fairly decently. The boys are really keen and busting to get out on the field.”
Edgeworth had picked up where they left off last season before the suspension of football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Eagles secured back-to-back Heritage Cup trophies with a dominant 4-1 win over Adamstown in the 2020 pre-season decider.
Edgeworth scored 44 goals in 2019, the equal second most in the division. The Eagles also hold a formidable record at their fortress, Jack McLaughlin Oval, having only lost three games at home in the last three regular seasons.
Will Bower is set to go from strength to strength in 2020 and will play a pivotal role in the revamped Eagles attack. Adam Cawley will be one to watch after having an outstanding pre-season while former A-League star Josh Rose will look to flourish in a more advanced role.
Coach: Damian Zane
Captain: Josh Evans
Last Season: Third, champions
Ins: Ayden Brice (Melbourne Knights – NPL VIC), Jeremy Judge (Western NSW Mariners – NPL NSW 4), Mitch Hunter (Lake Macquarie)
Outs: Aden Gardner (Bentleigh Greens – NPL VIC), Daniel McBreen (retired), Oliver Smith (Brisbane Strikers – NPL QLD)
The Bottom Line:
Edgeworth continue to be a force to be reckoned with and, judging on their pre-season form, will again be challenging for honours in 2020. The playing group look to be on the same frequency and will be out to reclaim top spot. The red and black will again be one of the teams to beat in the NNSW National Premier League.