By Isaac McIntyre
Match of the Round
Maitland FC v Hamilton Olympic FC
Sunday, April 10, 2.30pm
Cooks Square Park
The first Match of the Round of the season sees Hamilton Olympic travel to Cooks Square Park to take on Maitland as both teams look to kick start their season with a strong three-point victory.
Hamilton’s appearance in the Grand Final after a 3rd place finish has pushed them to achieve a higher result this season and coach Michael Bolch knows nothing but a victory in their first away game of the year can be a positive result.
Maitland have proven that they are a team that Hamilton has struggled with however and although Maitland eventually only finished 8th place in the prior season, the final fixture of the year saw them sink Hamilton’s second place ambitions with a 2-0 victory at Darling Street Oval.
Olympic will also be under pressure from Maitland’s loyal fans, as the Magpie faithful are expected to give Hamilton the cold reception that so often comes hand in hand with away days at Cooks Square Park.
Steve Piggot has entered the scene for the Magpies, with a new coach at the helm of the club meaning that Maitland will be looking for a change of fortune when it comes to collecting points in the 2016 season.
“I’ve been coaching for twenty years and Hamilton have always been one of the top sides in the league,” Piggot said of the rivals for the weekend.
“They’re a balanced unit, they have some really great players and their introduction of some of their bigger impact players means that they have a strong team. I’ve coached a few of them before and I know what they’re capable of.”
“Michael Bolch is a good friend, and he’s done really well with his team. We want to prove ourselves against the strength of a team that hasn’t been out of the top five for the past two decades or so, apart from a handful of moments. There’s no surprises when you play Olympic and we have to respect them for the quality they have.”
With both clubs boasting ex-Hyundai A-League signings, the battle in front of goals between Maitland’s Dean Heffernan and Hamilton’s Leo Bertos would be worth the price of admission alone for the upcoming match, and both danger-men will be terrorizing defences for the entire match.
Matthew Thompson and Matt Crowell – another of Maitland’s ex-A-League players – also do battle in the match, with the midfield set to be a close duel between two players who are old friends off the pitch.
The first Match of the Round for the PlayStation 4 NPL Northern NSW is set to be a massive battle between two strong sides and with a new coach, A-League veterans and something to prove on both sides, this is not an opening round fixture to be missed.
Lambton Jaffas v Edgeworth FC
Saturday, April 9, 2.30pm
Arthur Edden Oval
The opening game of the season kicks off the afternoon before the Match of the Round, as Arthur Edden Oval plays host to the opening battle between the Lambton Jaffas and defending champions Edgeworth.
The resignation of long-term coach David Tanchevski for the Jaffas means eyes will be turned towards the first match of former Newcastle Jets assistant coach James Pascoe, who will test his skills in the PlayStation 4 NPL against the most recent champion coach in the league – Damian Zane.
Pascoe boasts a strong squad to challenge Zane and his defending champions however, with a side that includes new star signing, former Newcastle Jets striker, Joel Wood, he will be looking to bring fire to Lambton’s already strong attack.
Wood will not be the only A-League veteran taking to the field on the weekend however, another former Jets star will line-up against Wood and the Jaffas will be in the form of Daniel McBreen.
McBreen, 2012/13 Golden Boot victor and Grand Final man-of-the-match for the same season, will have a point to prove as he returns to the club where he first made his name before his A-League move and will be hoping to take Edgeworth to glory again.
Zane’s eyes turn now to the first challenge of the new season and the contest against the Jaffas.
“Lambton is our first big hurdle in the league on the weekend, but I feel like with the bolstered squad that we’ve built around and the strength of the side that we already had, we can continue to take victories in the league.”
“They cannot be underestimated however. None of the sides that we’re going to come up against can be ruled out and I’ll be choosing my side based on who I feel is ready to put in 110% when we come up against the Jaffas.”
“We’re ready. Pre-season matches and FFA Cup matches have prepared us for what lies ahead and anything less than three points this weekend will be a disappointing result for the lads and for me.”
The weight of the fixture will mean that eyes are turned from all corners of the league to watch as the top two teams of the season clash for the first time and it remains to be seen who has improved more – the team that fell just three points short in the battle for top, or the side that claimed the double and will be eager to do it again.
Weston Workers FC v Newcastle Jets Youth
Sunday, April 10, 2.30pm
Rockwell Automation Park
Weston Workers will welcome the Newcastle Jets Youth to Rockwell Automation Park for their opening match of the season, as both teams look to improve on their finishing places last season.
Missing out on finals football and a shot at the Grand Final victory by just three points last season, Weston will be keen to take a victory early and get their season’s campaign off to a strong start in 2016.
The Newcastle Jets Youth will be looking for a victory as well, with only five victories in eighteen games last season meaning that they struggled to break away from the mid-table battle that ensued in the late part of the year.
The travelling side claimed a victory over Weston last season when they travelled to Rockwell Automation Park, with a goal from Tom Waller securing the Jets Youth’s win, but their latest clash saw Weston take revenge in a 2-1 victory with a brace from Paul Clout that the Jets failed to answer in kind.
Trevor Morris has full faith in his side to deliver the goods come Sunday afternoon at Rockwell Automation Park.
“A lot of the young players coming through are real talents and I feel like if they can take the opportunities that we’re giving them and run with it then we’ll be sitting great in terms of wins and points.”
“There is no easy match in this season and this first round is no different. We have to go out like it’s an elimination final every week, because on paper every team is strong and every team has the talent to take the wins.”
“With the Jets Youth it’s the same – development is the name of their game, and with young star players constantly coming through their ranks we’ll be up for a tough fight against Zane’s team.”
Rockwell Automation Park is set to be the stage for a battle that could determine the early fates of two teams in the PlayStation 4 NPL and three points is vital to both sides – the question is, who will show that they are willing to take it?
Broadmeadow Magic FC v Adamstown Rosebuds FC
Sunday, April 10, 2.30pm
Four points was all that separated the Adamstown Rosebuds and Broadmeadow Magic last season and their opening battle of the season will see if either side’s fortunes have changed.
Magic will be a tough opponent to knock down and the home team will not give up three points so easily, with their game last season at Adamstown Park seeing Broadmeadow take the win with four goals to Adamstown’s answering one.
Dino Fajkovic was the star of that match with a brace to sink the home side and with Fajkovic netting eleven times all season in 2015 – three of which came against the Rosebuds – Broadmeadow will be looking to him again to make his mark on the game.
Joseph Grujevski will also be a key figure in the match, with Grujevski having signed with Adamstown for the 2016 season from Broadmeadow, he will be looking to fire up against his old club.
Adamstown coach Graham Law believes that his side can prove their strengths at Magic Park in the opening match of the season and remains confident of the three points regardless of Magic’s forwards.
“Some of our best performances have come at Magic Park, against strong teams like South Cardiff in the FFA Cup, or against Broadmeadow in the regular season. Our boys love playing there and it gives it a sense of occasion when we clash.”
Magic will bring full force to the field with Jets signings James Virgili and Michael Kantarovski who will be able to strengthen Magic’s forward and will hopefully find the back of the net on the day.
A long standing rivalry will soon add one more clash to their history and Magic Park is the place to be come Sunday afternoon as the Rosebuds and Magic run out against each other with their eyes set on a crucial win.
Charlestown City Blues FC v Valentine FC
Sunday, April 10, 2.30pm
Lisle Carr Oval
The final match of the afternoon is to be played at Lisle Carr Oval, where Charlestown City will take on the newly promoted Valentine, a side that is helmed by new coach Darren Sills and looking to achieve in the top league.
Charlestown themselves avoided the drop by only four points at the end of last season and will be keen to stay away from being relegated that they were almost caught in, in 2015..
A win could put them in good stead to climb the ladder and stay clear of the danger, but Valentine are not a club to be taken lightly.
Valentine coach Sills knows that the win will be vital for his side in their first run out in the PlayStation 4 NPL.
“The first game against Charlestown is the main focus of the team and we’re going to be taking the season a single game at a time,” Sills commented.
“We have time to develop our game and take wins for the side – the board has been fantastic with setting us up as a team that wants to be in the National Premier League for seasons to come and now we have a chance to repay their faith, especially with this first battle against a long-standing club.”
“Strong showings in the FFA Cup and our trial games show that we are ready. We’ve had two losses since we started developing this squad and they’ve come from Magic and the Rosebuds, both top sides in the league. We’re ready to show that we belong in the league and to take our first win,” Sills concluded.
With everything to prove and nothing to lose, Sills and his newly promoted side will be looking to state their intent in the league and get a foothold against one of the stalwarts of the competition – Lisle Carr Oval could be the proving ground of the high-flying Phoenix and their season ambitions.