Coach of the Year: It's hard to go past Valentine's Alan Hackett as Coach of the Year. He has steered his Phoenix side to promotion and overcame a very strong Lakes outfit. The 4-0 win at Lakes a few weeks back was a dominating display from Valentine and from what I've been told, they were scouting Lakes for a couple of weeks before that in preparation.
Hackett's done well steering Valentine to the NPL but a special mention has to go to Andre Gumprecht was has implemented a new foundation at Kahibah Football Club. The powerful German hasn't just helped take first grade to the finals but is a constant across the whole club. He works well with the lower grade NewFM squads and even helps the club's juniors at their training sessions. I've been told he's a great guy but trust me, don't get on his angry side. It's been a treat having Andre in the competition.
For those who think I'm a tad bias towards Cooks Hill I'd note the following as I strongly, strongly believe that the Newcastle Athletics Field is by far the worst pitch in NewFM. Opposition players hated it, Cookers players hated it, improvement is needed.
As for the best pitch I'd have to toss up between Toronto-Awaba and West Wallsend. Toronto's pitch was the greenest all season and looked fairly soft, maybe too soft if anything. Say what you want about the surroundings at Westy (it's a farm!) but their groundsman has to hold his head high for the job he's done at Johnston Park. Best in the league in my opinion.
Best Ground: Best all round ground I don't think I can come up with one. Valentine would have to be up there as the view from their grandstand at Cahill Oval is by far the best view in the league. The Gardens (apart from their pitch and away shed) definitely have the best fan facilities but the ground is a fairly long way away from the grandstand compared to other fields. Best changeroom would have to be the brand new upgraded rooms at Cooks Hill. Now to fix the field.
Best Fans: This could go a few ways couldn't it. The most vocal fans had to be those at Cessnock City's Turner Park. Whether they were PG-rated is debatable though! A shoutout has to go to the parents and families supporting Kahibah's Minor-Premiership winning Under 17's. They had the loudest cheers I've heard all season and why not, it was a great day of celebration for them at Macquarie Field. Shoutout to Westy for having some of the most passionate fans going and to Singleton for having a big travelling party each week.
Best Kit: For those who know me well I am a avid jersey collector and guess you could call me a bit of kit nerd. The best kit in NewFM belongs to both Wallsend and Valentine. Funny enough both kits are made by Joma and both look mint.
Wallsend's shirts are the best in the league and their red and white hooped socks are a throwback to the days of old. The 1887 badge on the back of the shirt is a proud nod to their historic roots.
Valentine's shirts aren't that special but the combination of orange with the navy blue shorts has to be my favourite colour combination in NewFM. Special mention has to go to Cooks Hill for their wonderful away kit (blue, red and white) that they wore at Cessnock. Love to see that brought out again next season
Best Canteen: Singleton are renowned for having a great canteen and he volunteers there do a great job but Cooks Hill all agreed last week that West Wallsend was the best canteen they'd gone to all year. Without the volunteers who work hard at all 11 clubs, there'd be no canteen facilities at all.