Monday, 3 August 2015

SEASON REVIEW: Cooks Hill United Football Club


Season Review: Cooks Hill United (1st Grade)

I've decided to write season reviews for each and every New-FM club but seeing as there's still one round to go, I'll leave the majority until next week. What I will do now is review my club Cooks Hill United's maiden campaign in the New-FM 1st a Division. I still remember hearing that the a Cookers were going up and it brought a sense of excitement to the club.

Recruitment was absolute quality. Players like Peter Pryce, Pouria Pashadoust added to what was a strong squad already and the addition of former Socceroo Warren Spink to the head coach position saw Spink bring a bucketload of experience and some  professionalism to the club. Spink may not have been the easiest-going coach in the league but it's obvious he's raised the standard at Cooks Hill.

I was there for the first game of the season against Cessnock City and this was actually my very first time at a New-FM 1st Division fixture. Straight away I was impressed with the quality of Newcastle's second-tier competition and it was obvious I was a fan from the start or else I wouldn't have made it to every Cooks Hill home game and countless away games for both Cooks Hill and other fixtures as well. 

The second game of the season was a quality showing against early-season promotion favourites (and eventual promotion winners) Valentine Phoenix. The first win of the season would come in Round 4 at home to the Singleton Strikers and I'm sure most of the Cookers squad will agree that it was a slow start to the 2015 season. A 5-3 loss to NewFM powerhouse Lakes was one of the games of the season but the Cookers would go down to some late goals.

The 18th of April will go down as the best day of the year for Cooks Hill as our 1st grader powered their way to a thrilling 6-1 win over a hapless Toronto-Awaba outfit. Star striker Peter Pryce and Bryce Sargent both recorded braces on the day and Adrian Higgins and Alex Henn completed a flogging of the struggling Stags. It was a great day as all four grades recorded big wins.

Next up was a daunting trip to Blacksmiths Oval to face a tough Belswans outfit on a very, very windy day. Captain Jono Mitchinson was the hero on the day scoring an absolute screamer of a free kick to give the visitors a tight 1-0 win. A midweek loss to Kahibah saw the loss of key man Doug West to injury.

The next game was one of the worst of the season as Cooks Hill fell to a 4-1 away loss to the Thornton Redbacks. Two of the goals were controversial but it still wasn't good enough on what was a frustrating night for the coaching staff and saw a particular club man on the bench nearly lose his voice.

Next up was my personal favourite game of the season as Cooks Hill put five goals past Cessnock City at a very vocal Turner Park. The home side never had a chance against a strong Cookers side that looked superb in their blue, white and red away kit. Young stand-in keeper Kaia Roth really stepped up at Cessnock and began a mid-season purple patch that saw him eventually take out my personal vote for player of the season. Peter Pryce was again scorer on that day and Bowen Bagnall scored a classy goal if memory serves correctly.

I missed the majority of the 1-0 loss to Valentine at Cahill Oval but I made it in time for the last twenty minutes or so and the team really threw everything they had at the Phoenix. The Cookers returned to the AthField for the first time in seven or eight weeks and scored a late victory over West Wallsend with ten men.

One of my favourite home days of the year was the day Wallsend FC came to the AthField. The Red Devils looked professional as anything and were in front 3-0 in very short term. Everything was falling apart for Cooks Hill and the defender and goalkeeper were failing to match it with Wallsend. An inspired comeback almost caught the Red Devils off-guard but the Cookers would go down 3-2.

I had to play at the same time as Cooks Hill's 3-1 home win over Thornton so can't comment on that one but the next game was a disappointing 4-1 home loss to Kahibah FC and began a forgettable last month of the season for the Cookers. They lost by the same 4-1 scoreline at Singleton and were much improved against Lakes but gave away two crucial goals in a 3-0 loss.

Frustration was growing and finals were fading as the Cookers fell to back-to-back 2-1 loses to Toronto-Awaba away and the Belswans at home. Injuries crushed Cooks Hill but till they were disappointing over that late season period and no one could blame Warren Spink for losing his patience some days as the Cookers stumbled throughout the five losses.

The final game of the season yesterday was one were the luck finally came back to Cooks a Hill a they hung on for a gutsy 2-1 win over West Wallsend. It was good to see the team end the season on a high at Westy yesterday and good to see top goalscorer Peter Pryce end his season with a brace against the Bluebells.

Credit has to go to coach Warren Spink for using the last few game to give a chance to some of Cooks Hill's younger players. Upcoming striker Jayden Wiggins was really starting to shine in first grade and Spink did a good job of explaining how Wiggins should use his abilities and get the best of opposition defences. Fellow youngster Rocky Sovechles and Seb Lewis were among those to be given a first grade debut in the last few games of the season.

It was a season that fell away due to injuries and a lack of form but ultimately a successful first campaign in the NewFM 1st Division for the Cooks Hill 1st Graders. Warren Spink's men may not have made the finals but they've got a good foundation for next season and beyond as they look toward possible NPL promotion.

I'll be giving a Player of the Year award for each grade and as mentioned, young goalkeeper Kaia Roth is my vote for 1st Grade Player of the Year for Cooks Hill United. Roth stepped in at the start of the season and has for a lack of a better term saved Cooks Hill's backside multiple times throughout the campaign. Peter Pryce had a great season up front and Pouria Bashardoust and Jackston Pett were superb but it's Roth who get my vote for Player of the Year.

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Under 23's Season Review:

I'll put in a few quick words for each of the other grades as well. For the Under 23's I can certainly never forget that thrilling comeback from the death at top of the table Thornton. The Redbacks were unbeaten and they were home and hosed but Cooks Hill didn't give in and pulled off a gutsy 4-3 victory. The next fixture saw them come from behind to draw with a quality Cessnock City 3-3 at Turner Park. There's some steel in the Cookers' 23's.

The 23's weren't Cooks Hill's most technically pleasing side but he a quality mixture of youth and experience. Led by captain Jay Prinsen and Sheldon Candian at the back, the 23's played some decent football over the second half of the season. Both 19's and 17's coaches Giles Olsen-Boyd and Michael Best played for the reserves squad and provided some on the field knowledge to some of their own players from those younger squads in the 23's. Adrian Higgins before he got injured was one of the club's best strikers and scored some quality goals. A few of the 23's were the club's first graders last season and it's good to see them continue on in the black and white.

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Under 19's Season Review

I believe the Under 19's play the best football at Cooks Hill. A lot of them are actually playing up two years and could qualify for the 17's as well. Led by stalwart captain Rocky Sovechles and featuring quality players like midfielder Seb Lewis and strong defenders Jarod Neale and Bailey Graham, the 19's picked up some very decent results this season.

He may have been the centre of a now infamous and repetitive 'control' gag but Giles Olsen-Boyd did a superb job as 19's coach this season. Boyd was loud and clear in what he wanted his players to do and it's obvious from the stands that Boyd has a great footballing mind. The goal he scored yesterday was one of Cooks Hill's best this season in any grade and it was well deserved.

Two results stand out in my opinion for the 19's and both have happened in the last few weeks. A dominant 5-1 win over Kahibah showed the quality the side possesses. Two goals to exciting midfielder Seb Lewis, and goals to Oakie Humpries, Jackson Gosling and Jayden Wiggins capped a big day at the office for the Cookers' 19's.

Another key result was just two weeks ago as Cooks Hill came agonisingly close to beating a very strong Belswans outfit in the Under 19's. Jayden Wiggins scored for the Cookers who came within two minutes of a victory over the top of the table Belswans. I believe the 19's are placed well going into the finals and I think they can trouble the other top four sides. A grand final would be well deserved.

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Under 17's Season Review:

The club's youngest NewFM side was also the best performing throughout the first half of the season. The 17's haven't been in the best of form in the last month and a half but Michael Best's squad is prepped for finals and will no doubt lift for the biggest two games of the season. A few of them have been called up for higher grades and it's well deserved.

Kaia Roth was constantly backing up from the 17's for 1st grade later in the day and did a great job of balancing his commitment to the two teams. Wingers Harrison Owens and Campbell Guest both have strong seasons and Interdistrict-registered midfielder Michael Dalton was quality all season. The defensive line was strong every week regardless of who was in there.

Some days the 17's failed to put the sword through their opposition but when they clicked they did it very well. At one stage the Cookers bagged 16 goals in four games. Two of my personal favourite games for the 17's this season were a pair of 1-0 win against Wallsend and Thornton. The Thornton one was ugly as any game all season but the Cookers didn't give up and won the game through Campbell Guest at the very end of the match. The performance against a quality Wallsend outfit was much better as they defensively dominated the Red Devils and held on for a 1-0 win.

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My Players of the Season for each grade are as followed:

1st Grade: Kaia Roth (Goalkeeper) 
Already explained this one in the paragraphs above.

23's: Adrian Higgins
I know he's technically a first grader but Higgins had a big impact on the 23's squad when he did play for them before he got injured.

19's: Rocky Sovechles
Rocky's one of my personal favourites in the Cookers NewFM squad and is a great captain for the Under 19's. His vision is fairly decent and he helps a lot when it comes to defending. He has featured in the first grade squad over recent weeks and it's well deserved.

17's: Seb Lewis 
Seb hardly played at all for the 17's but he is still in that age group and was one of Cooks Hill's best across all four grades this season. He was handed a first grade bench spot yesterday which was great to see. He's got vision, quality technique, quick touches and a fair bit of pace. A great attacking midfielder who's bomb free kick goal at Singleton can't be forgotten.

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Anyway I believe the future is bright for Cooks Hill and I can't wait to be around for it next season. I've spoken to the club higher-ups about working alongside the club and maybe even get an official role. The 17's and 19's are still alive and I personally hope they go all the way obviously. The ground needs to be worked on as the pitch has been voted the worst in NewFM as far as I've been told. The future is bright if ambitious decisions can be made.

It's not well known but if Cooks Hill didn't get promoted then I wouldn't have gone to a NewFM match and wouldn't have fallen in love with Newcastle's second-tier competition. Newysports would never have started and none of this would exist. I'm a proud member of Cooks Hill and the black and white flows through me. 

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Also a big shoutout to the ones who made Cooks Hill in the New-FM league possible. President Ed Crawford, Vice President Dave Morley, Secretary Di Spurway, countless others in the senior committee. Craig Heighs for his work as team manger and who can forget Mark Trenter as the Head of Football (I think that's his official title!)

Also a shoutout to the supporters and parents of players who have made long trips to Singleton and Cessnock and been there on freezing cold nights at Kahibah and Thornton. It's been a great ride and hopefully the finals series can bring our younger players some silverware.

Onwards and upwards in 2016!

FIRE IN THE HOLE!

Ty Stedman
(CHUFC Player and Supporter)

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