Wednesday, 12 August 2015

SEASON REVIEW: Toronto-Awaba Stags FC (9th)

1st Grade:

Next up is the Toronto-Awaba Stags and their 2015 season started poorly and never really recovered as they ended up finishing 9th and narrowing avoiding the wooden spoon. Their competitive season started in style with a 3-0 win over Zone Premier League outfit Garden Suburb in the opening Preliminary Round of the Westfield FFA Cup. 

The reason I'm mentioning the FFA Cup is that next up was a 3-1 FFA Cup loss to Zone League One side Jesmond F.C. The Rams were this season's cup specialists and got past Toronto-Awaba in style on that day. A pre-season friendly against local rivals Morisset United ended in a heavy 10-3 defeat for the Stags and I'm sure they were keen to put that behind them and begin the new New-FM 1st Division season.

The season itself for Toronto began with a tough trip up the street to Macquarie Field and a battle against relegated Lake Macquarie City. The Roosters were far too good in that opening game as they secured a 6-1 win over Toronto-Awaba. The Stags scored through Nick Roberts to make it 3-1 at the half-time break but it wasn't to be as Lakes dominated the rest of the proceedings.

Toronto-Awaba led 2-1 at half-time in their Round 2 match at West Wallsend but the Bluebells secured the win with a classy second half. Despite goals from Nick Robert and Joshua Bruce, the Stags would go down 4-2.

Round 3 brought a tricky away trip to 2014 finalists Belmont-Swansea and a commanding second half sealed a 4-0 win for the Belswans over Toronto. A horror opening month was summed up by the Stags' 2-0 loss away to Cessnock City.

Starting the season with five away games in the first six weeks was always going to be tricky but a Round 5 bye brought a chance for Toronto to re-assess the situation and Tony Jovcevski's men came out firing in their Round 6 match at Thornton Park. Goals from Luke Jovcevski and Michael Baillie gave Toronto their first win of the campaign and a much-needed one at that.

With the win under their belts, Toronto traveled to Cooks Hill in Round 7 expecting a decent result. They started slowly in that game and never recovered as they fell to a second 6-1 defeat of the season. I don't want to be too harsh but I was at this game and Toronto will remember it well. It simply wasn't their day, that's all that can be said.

Nick Roberts was on the scoresheet when the Stags hosted promotion-favourites Valentine F.C but it wasn't enough as a Scott McGinley hat-trick sealed a 3-1 win for the visiting Phoenix. An improved performance from Toronto and next up was a tight 2-1 loss against New-FM newcomers Kahibah F.C. The 2-1 scoreline would become a staple in Toronto's season as eight of their last thirteen games ended in football's most predictable scoreline.

After losing in a close contest against promoted Kahibah, it was off to The Gardens next and a battle with another promoted team, Wallsend F.C. The Red Devils came out 4-2 winners in that game.

Toronto-Awaba's next match was in my opening their best win of the season as they produced a 2-1 away win over a decent Singleton side. This match was played at 8pm on a Wednesday night and no doubt would have been a tricky one for Toronto to travel to and prepare for.

With some confidence, Toronto headed to West Wallsend and produced yet another tight 2-1 win with goals to Liam Watson and Blake Redman. It was two in a row for the Stags and suddenly things were starting to come together. Unfortunately it wouldn't last.

The Stags gave their all in a home game against Belmont-Swansea but would go down to the visitors 2-1. Round 15 brought a bye and some hope that the week off would help them produce another gutsy away win like it did at Thornton. It didn't though as Toronto fell to their worst loss of the season.

Taking on a desperate Valentine side was never going to be easy and the Stags just never got going at Cahill Oval. They were down 6-1 at the half-time break and whilst the second half was a vastly better display, they'd still go down 8-2 to the eventual minor premiers.

Backing up from the heavy loss at Valentine against fellow promotion-seekers Lakes was a tough ask but the Stags led through Nick Roberts early on in the mid-week fixture at Lyall Peacock. Lakes showed their class though and denied a gutsy Toronto a famous victory in the local derby.

Toronto's performance against Lakes gave them some belief and they used it in their first home win of the season against Cessnock City. A double to Luke Jovcevski was enough to allow the Stags to sing the team song at their home ground for the first time in 2015. It was a crucial win too as it took them off the bottom of the New-FM 1st Division ladder.

A strong effort against Thornton wasn't enough as Toronto went down in their Round 18 fixture at Lyall Peacock. Next up was a late, late win against Cooks Hill United with the Stags pulling off a victory in the final moments of the game. Goalscorers were Nick Roberts and Tim Davies in a victory that would end up being the one that helped Toronto avoid the wooden spoon.

Round 20 ended in a 3-0 away loss to Kahibah and Round 21 didn't end much better as the Stags went down 4-1 on their home patch to Singleton. Youngster Jessi Cowie got his name on the scoresheet that day though and what I believe was his first goal in the top grade, barring an FFA Cup goal I've been told.

Toronto's season ended with the Stags going down 2-1 (that score again) to finals-bound Wallsend F.C. All in all, a disappointing season and no real way to sugar-coat that. Wins against Singleton away and Cooks Hill at home, along with the gutsy display against Lakes at home proved that there are some building blocks to extend on in 2016. Toronto have room for improvement and I'm sure it'll come.

I've been told by one of the Toronto players that there was a large turnover of players from last season, as well as the addition of incoming coach Tony Jovcevski and it took a few games for the Stags to find their feet properly. With a strong pre-season and taking the experiences from 2015 into next season, I'm sure the Stags will start to climb up the New-FM table.

Key Players

I've been contacted by a few Stags players and staff and have been given a few names to give mention to. First off is key defender Michael Baillie. I've been told that Baillie's efforts this season have helped the Stags immensely and he's one of their best players.

Luke Jovcevski followed his father Tony to Lyall Peacock Field and was key in Toronto's operations this season. He scored a few crucial goals, including a double in a 2-1 win over Cessnock City.

Owen Mostyn was another who's name popped up a couple times from some different sources. Mostyn helped control the midfield and was influential towards some of the younger players who stepped up to first grade this season.

Last but certainly not least was top goalscorer Nick Roberts. Considering the Stags had the equal least amount of goals in the New-FM 1st Division this season, Roberts' tally was crucial in keeping the Stags away from the wooden spoon. Remember they only avoided the spoon by a lone point so Roberts' goals have been very important.

Young Stars:

As mentioned I've reached out to clubs and players for suggestions for the season reviews and for Rising Star at Toronto-Awaba, I've got two names. First is Jessi Cowie. The 17-year old Cowie has played all four grades this season, including a fair few in 1st Grade and he's been deployed up front, on the wing, in the middle and at the back. He's young and versatile and it seems the only place he can't play is in goals although that wouldn't be a surprise. He's got a handful of goals this season and you'll find it tough looking for a 17-year old being so versatile across all four grades. Amazing!

The other name I've been given is that of Gordan Ballin. Ballin has been featuring as centre-back for the Under 19's, despite being an attacker and has just like Cowie shown versatility in positions. He's made a fair few appearances for the Under 23's as well and was given a chance in 1st Grade against Kahibah F.C not that long ago where he was voted Man of the Match. Another upcomer who could very well play a big part in Toronto's hopes in 2016.

Full Results:

Under 23's Wrap-Up:

The 23's season at Toronto-Awaba was nothing to write home about but the fact is due to the first grade side rotating players so much, the 23's were forced to use around 40 or so players throughout the season. I've been told from a few sources at the club that Toronto 23's coach Jarrod Gorsuch did an excellent job with the resources he had and he has been rewarded with an First Grade Assistant role at another New-FM club which I'm not going to publically reveal until I'm given the club's statement, although many already know.

As for actual results, well truth be told, there weren't many good ones. I've been told Tim Stones had a strong season as well as a couple of the other players but with such a high turnover of players, it was never going to be easy. They managed to do the double over cellar-dwellers West Wallsend and they ended the season in a decent way with a 1-0 win over Singleton and a final day draw with Wallsend.

Under 19's Wrap-Up:

I think I remember being told a couple of weeks ago that one of the Toronto 19's main players took off mid-season but I could be wrong so don't quote me on that. It was a tough season for the Stags in this grade and as one of only two sides out of 44 in the New-FM competition to remain winless, there obviously wasn't too much joy.

I saw them play against a quality Cooks Hill outfit a month ago and they didn't look like a side that hadn't won all season. They deserved the draw that day and maybe more. Feeding a few players to the 23's and 1sts wouldn't have helped stability but from what I've been told, there are some signs of vast improvement next season with some player additions looking to boost the squad's hopes for 2016. 

Under 17's Wrap-Up:

There's some quality Under 17's players coming through at Toronto-Awaba but arguably none better than Jessi Cowie (who I've mentioned already.) Toronto have used a few of their 17's to fill in for higher grades and looking at the table, the Stags' 17's finished higher than any other team at the club. Some unlucky results cost them the chance to finish higher.

Stand out results this year include back to back smashings of Belswans (5-1) and Cessnock City (8-1) as well as a very impressive draw with Lake Macquarie City. A few of the guys from this squad have been in touch and I've been told captain Darcy Newton was decent all season and goalkeeper Kye Abrahams had a quality season in between the sticks. The future at Toronto I believe is a bright one if majority of this squad stay together and gain experience.

Keys To The Future:

As mentioned, I feel Toronto have a few decent young players coming through and it seems the club are adamant on giving these young players a chance in 1st Grade. Results could have been better this year but there was a lot of player turnover going into the season and it seemed like the side struggled to click on somedays.

I feel like Toronto have a lot to offer to the New-FM competition and can bring in players from the West Lake Macquarie area and try an really build a strong club. The club celebrated 80 years this season and I'm sure the Stags will want to make season 2016 one to remember.

It's not something I write about much but I hear a fair few teams or players complain about opposition players, fans, whatever it may be to grind their gears. I haven't heard anyone criticise Toronto's fans or players. The day I was out there was enjoyable and it seems like a really passionate club they've got at Lyall Peacock Field. And for a shared rugby league ground, the actual pitch looked high quality when I was there.

I feel like this Season Reviews will help bring some attention to each club and I've enjoyed hearing from Toronto's staff and players and compiling this review. Hopefully it's a good read.

Best of luck for 2016 and beyond Stags!


-Ty Stedman

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