Tuesday, 25 August 2015

SEASON REVIEW: Kahibah F.C (4th)

*Apologies for the lack of photos in the main article. A couple of helpful people sent some photos for the lower grades but I don't have any non-copyright photos for 1st Grade.

1st Grade:

After being promoted from the Zone League at the end of 2014, Kahibah F.C were out to make a name for themselves in 'big-time' football. Some were a bit questionable considering they finished so low on the Zone Premier League table but no one could question their intent as bringing in Andre Gumprecht was a strong indication among other things that the Green and Blacks were here to make a stand in season 2015.

The FFA Cup brought their first chance to prove themselves and they did so in impressive style, downing Zone League One outfit Westlakes Wildcats. The 9-1 victory was an indication that Kahibah were far superior to the Zone League Wildcats. Their FFA Cup dream would come to an end as they lost 3-0 to NPL side and soon to be NewFM side South Cardiff. The Gunners downed Kahibah 3-0 in the second round of the knockout competition.

Their season opener in the New-FM 1st Division saw them take on traditional powerhouse West Wallsend. Skii Webster claimed Kahibah's first ever first division goal but the Green and Blacks would go down 2-1 to the Bluebells in the Round 1 clash. It was a long awaited day for the Kahibah boys and I'm sure the result took a bit of a backseat to the fact that they were finally playing New-FM football.

Round 2 saw Kahibah travel to Blacksmiths Oval to take on 2014 New-FM Semi Finalists Belmont-Swansea United and after being down 1-0 at the break, a goal from Aaron Morris would allow Kahibah to draw level and bring them their very first point in the competition. A win would have been the more desired outcome but it was still a valuable point (funnily enough if Kahibah didn't get this point they would have missed the finals!)

A Round 3 bye was followed by a tough trip to take on promotion-favourites Valentine Phoenix F.C. The eventual minor premiers were up 2-0 at the half-time break but Kahibah would stage a memorable comeback as two goals to Brendan Trummel sealed a 2-2 draw for the Green and Blacks.

It took a month but that elusive victory would finally come for Kahibah. Goals to Mason Stankovic, Colvin Williams and Max Eschner would seal a 3-2 victory over Singleton and most importantly, Kahibah's first win in the New-FM 1st Division competition. The monkey was off the back after back-to-back draws.

An away trip to Thornton saw Kahibah record a 3-1 victory; their second in a row. This would be Kahibah's last game until May 10th due to the April storms and constant wet weather after that. They managed to take the field against Toronto and were 2-1 victors, courtesy of goals to Matt Lee and Skii Webster.

After two months of away games and wash-outs, Kahibah would finally take to their home turf in a mid-May catch-up game against fellow promoted side Cooks Hill United. I was at this game and it wasn't the prettiest in wet and cold conditions. Kahibah got the job done through Colvin Williams. It was a gritty win but an important one that stretched their winning streak to four.

A long-awaited catch-up game with Cessnock City took place on Wednesday May 20th and the Green and Blacks were 3-0 winners, making it five straight via goals to Matt Lee (x2) and Nathan Lara. It was all coming together for Kahibah and suddenly they were inside the top four.

Round 13 saw Kahibah finally host their first full New-FM matchday on a memorable Sunday at Kahibah Oval. Goals to Matt Lee and Max Eschner allowed Kahibah to come from 2-1 down at the break to draw 2-2 with Belmont-Swansea. This was the second time in the season Kahibah had come from behind to draw with the Belswans.

A Round 9 catch-up trip to The Gardens brought Kahibah's first loss in two months as they fell 2-0 at the hands of the Wallsend Red Devils. Heading into the Round 14 bye with a loss wasn't ideal but it would allow the Kahibah boys to have a few days rest after a busy period of wash-out fixtures.

Catch-up games were becoming the norm for Kahibah and a mid-week fixture against West Wallsend saw them come away with a gutsy 3-2 victory. Goals to Colvin Williams (x2) and Matt Lee saw Kahibah take a 3-1 lead into the sheds at half-time. Westy fought hard and got one back but the home side would hang on for the three points. And remember, Kahibah made the finals by a lone point, all these games were so important in the long run.

A Round 15 away trip to Cessnock seemed like one Kahibah would win, especially after beating the Hornets 3-0 a month earlier. Cessnock would go in 1-0 at the break and Jarrod Penfold was required to even things up for Kahibah. A fourth come-from-behind draw for the season for the boys in Green and Black.

Next up was the result that I believe proved Kahibah as a serious finals threat, a 4-1 victory over Cooks Hill United. I was at this game and the Cookers never stood a chance. A superb hat-trick to Matt Lee was added onto by Brendan Trummel in what was a convincing display from Kahibah.

Things were travelling smoothly for Kahibah and finals looked a near-certainty. That was until back-to-back 2-0 defeats to Valentine and more importantly Singleton left them in a vulnerable position. Suddenly the boys from Singleton were playing catch-up and doing a great job of it, not to mention the Belswans were also on Kahibah's tail.

Their next match was one I attended as the Green and Blacks hosted Lake Macquarie City on a chilly Wednesday night at Kahibah Oval. They absolutely dominated the Roosters and lead through Max Eschner. Chances were blown time and time again though and Lakes would steal a point with a late goal. It was a night of missed opportunity for the home side.

Round 20 brought a must-win game against lowly Toronto-Awaba and Kahibah did it in a decent fashion. Goals to Max Eschner, Matt Lee and Jarrod Penfold gave them a 3-0 win and a crucial one at that. A 2-0 win over Thornton in a mid-week catch-up game only strengthened their cause via goals to Brendan Trummel and Jacob Hill.

A home game against Wallsend brought a chance for Kahibah to seal their path into the Semi Finals but despite a goal from Max Eschner, the Green and Blacks were downed 2-1 by the visiting Red Devils. Suddenly Singleton were in a position to knock Kahibah out in the final week of the season.

I made the trip out to Macquarie Field to watch Kahibah's do or die game against Lake Macquarie City. It was a topsy-turvy affair to say the very least. Sam Walker put Lakes in front and I was messaged the half-time score at West Wallsend were Singleton were leading 1-0. I let some relay the message down to the Kahibah bench, it was suddenly time to step up or go home.

Jarrod Penfold was the hero for the visitors as he bagged a double to put Kahibah into a vital lead. They needed just a point and it was looking likely until Sean Matthew's scored for Lakes in the 88th minute. Around 6 minutes of edge-of-your-seat defending from Andre Gumprecht and his men saw Kahibah scrape into the Semi Finals. The job was done and celebrations were in order.

Finals football brought a big crowd to a wet Kahibah Oval last Saturday but it was a great day for the club to be able to host New-FM Semi Finals in their first year. Unfortunately the game itself, against minor premiers Valentine was just like the clash I watched Kahibah play against Lakes at the same venue a couple of months earlier.

The home side had the majority of the chances and just spurned chance after chance. It was quiet unbelievable that the Green and Blacks were unable to score at least one goal and of course it wasn't a surprise to see Valentine take advantage. The visiting Phoenix didn't waste their chance and scored a vital away leg win.

I was speaking to some Kahibah boys on Saturday morning at Valentine and the mood was set in, it was all or nothing and the side had to take the fight to Valentine. Again a few chances went wayward, crucial ones at that as Kahibah looked to score an equaliser to perhaps send the tie to extra time.

Their strikers just weren't firing over the two-legged Semi Finals and eventually Valentine would put them away with three late goals before Matt Lee got one back for the visitors, a fitting way to end a quality season for one of Kahibah's main attacking weapons.

I had the chance to chat at length with some club officials after the game and they were delighted with how well their season went. Yes the team fell short of a fairytale Grand Final appearance but they did a fantastic job of getting as far as they did.


Key Players:

If there is one person at the Kahibah Football Club who has changed the landscape of the club it has to be captain/coach Andre Gumprecht. Whoever was involved in bringing the former Mariner to the club should pat themselves on the back as it's arguably the best move across the entire NewFM division. He has brought so, so much to the club and their brand of football under his leadership is up there with any in the league.

Gumprecht is an easy-target for opposition fans (trust me I was into him when they played Cooks Hill) being such a key man for the club but I'm sure any team would move heaven and earth to have him on board. Kahibah's players have done such a great job this season taking the club through it's maiden First Division campaign but without Gumprecht I feel like they wouldn't have found themselves on the brink of finals. He has simply been that influential and I'm sure everyone at the club agrees with that.

Under Gumprecht, the Green and Blacks have brought in a distinct brand of football where possession is key and patience is virtue. Build-up play is entertaining to watch and their performances throughout the season has been what has led them to the Semi Finals in their first NewFM 1st Division season.

Everyone has their own Andre story, even people who knew him before he moved to Kahibah and the man is very highly-regarded. I'm told his strictness and ultra-professionalism caught a few off-guard but once the club grew use to the way Andre works it began to click. The results tell the story.

The hard-hitting German has been involved heavily with Kahibah F.C's juniors as well and has dedicated a lot of his time to the club. I'm not sure there has been a greater influence at a club in the competition this season. It's been great having someone of Andre's experience in the New-FM league and I for one am hopeful he'll be around next season at Kahibah.

It has certainly not been a one-man show at Kahibah Oval this season. Attacker Matt Lee has been crucial in the Green and Blacks' chances this season and his goals has helped them gain some positive results. I could probably list most their players as Kahibah pride themselves on a real team style.


Young Stars:

To name every decent young up-comer at Kahibah would take a while as it's a club that is intent on development and it's indicated by the fact that the 19's had a decent season and the 17's won the minor premiership. So instead of picking out individuals in this section I'll praise the pathways that the club want to implement over the foreseeable future.

Kahibah's 23's In Action. (Courtesy: Simon Frary)

Kahibah work very closely with their juniors and have held combined training sessions with Under 10's, 11's, you name it, they've done it. The club have proudly hosted gala days that have seen hundreds of kids show up and as mentioned, club leader Andre Gumprecht has spent a lot of time with the younger players, as well as some of their other coaches. It's a club with a big community feeling, from Under 6's to All-Age.


Full Results:


Under 23's Wrap-Up:

Kahibah's season in the Under 23's got off to the perfect start as goals to Daniel Cvetanoski and Blake Illfield gave the Green and Blacks a first-up 2-1 win over West Wallsend. It was a season that saw this team pick up a lot of positive results, including two 3-1 victories over Singleton. 

Finals football looked a real possibility, especially after a 3-1 win over eventual Grand Finalists Lake Macquarie City. It was a day where the young guns would feature as a double to Thomas Houston and a goal to striker Jacob Hill would seal the deal for Kahibah and see them take a step towards finals. Ultimately they would miss out after losing a do-or-die game against the other Grand Final-qualifying team Thornton.

Kahibah 23's v Valentine. (Courtesy: Simon Frary)

I've been told that Lachlan Hopton has had a stand-out season and is a quality up-comer in the Kahibah squad. A personal thanks has to go out to this team as they were the first bunch of guys to really take this site on board and really throw some interest into it. 23's defender Alex Evans is currently the site's EPL writer and is one of the most emotional club men you will ever meet. A real team spirit amongst these boys and its evident in every Kahibah team, right down to All-Age.


Under 19's Wrap-Up

The 2015 season started poorly for the Kahibah 19's and it's probably that slow start that really cost them a chance of finals football. Like the 23's, the 19's would end up finishing in fifth position so it's definitely been a season that can be built on in 2016.

They did the job against sides below them on the league table but were unable to gain meaningful enough results against top four sides. That's what would ultimately cost them a chance at finals football. Standouts I'm told include Josh Spencer who has been a real star for the 19's side and Carson Gray, who has bagged a few goals this season.

Apologies for not having a bit more written for this side but I haven't been given too much info to work with. I'm fairly sure a few of the Kahibah 19's are enrolled at the footballing school on the Central Coast so there's some serious talent in the squad and no doubt 2016 will see some improvement.


Under 17's Wrap-Up

Kahibah's Under 17's may have missed the Grand Final due to some horrendous luck costing them in the end but it has been a season to remember for the 2015 Minor Premiers. A fair chunk of the squad were involved with Kahibah's interdistict U16's squad that won the Grand Final last year against Magic.

Standouts have to include top goalscorer Bailey Cooper as well as striker Matthew Hughes who has a real eye for goal but in reality, this team is chocked full of talent who don't play for themselves but for each other. Trust me, I've seen these boys play a few times now and the team spirit is almost infectious.

Lake Mac. City 2-5 Kahibah F.C (Winning The Minor Premiership)

Across the park this is a side that were arguably the best in the Under 17's division. Defender Harry Flick was strong all season, attacker Jacob Hill is always trouble for opposition defence, they've got the New-FM's youngest player Connor Cromarty who has matched it amongst older players and goalkeeper Brock Turner has done a lot to help what has been without doubt, the best defensive line in the Under 17's and perhaps the entire New-FM competition based on goals conceded. It's a true team in every sense of the word.

My first chance to see this team play was their 7-0 demolishing of a poor Cooks Hill side. No remorse was shown as goals were whipped in left, right and centre. Another game I was there for was their greatest win of the season, the 5-2 minor premiership-sealing victory over Lake Macquarie City.

Matty Hughes In Action v Singleton Strikers

The way Kahibah put Lakes away that day was just so, so impressive. Bailey Cooper scored twice, as did Matthew Hughes and young gun Connor Cromarty scored to seal a memorable win. The parents and families that day were louder than any fans I've heard in New-FM this season. This is a passionate team supported by great parents and I think 2016 will bring them continual success.


Keys To The Future:

Keep doing what you're doing; it's that simple. Kahibah have done themselves proud in their first New-FM season and everyone involved should give themselves a pat on the back. As I mentioned, the club care greatly about their youth talent and I have no doubt this club will become one of the biggest in Newcastle.

No doubt Kahibah will look at ground upgrades over the next decade or so and there's no reason they can't eventually reach the NPL. I feel as though the foundation is in place for the club to become one of the biggest in Newcastle, just like fellow promoted sides Wallsend and Cooks Hill.

Keeping their squads together next season will most likely see them reach finals in all four grades in my opinion. There's a lot of positives for Kahibah to reflect on and a lot of positives to build on.

Personally I believe Kahibah are one of the friendliest clubs in town and it's been a pleasure getting to a fair few of their games over the last month or so. They were one of four clubs to present me with a free jersey which I appreciate and I've enjoyed the time spent talking to the Kahibah boys over the last few weeks. 2016 will no doubt be a big year for the Green and Black.


-Ty Stedman

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