West Wallsend SFC are the first team I'll be reviewing this week and their season started on a very strong note with a 2-1 victory over NewFM newcomers Kahibah FC on the opening day of the season; an infinitely better opening day result that last year's 11-0 hiding at the hands of Valentine FC.
Next up was a 4-2 victory over a poor-starting Toronto-Awaba side with two goals to main striker Tye Jones and a goal each to the Wilson brothers (Gary and Mark.) Westy in two weeks had almost matched their entire points tally for the 2014 season. Their next assignment was a tougher one though as they hosted Lake Macquarie City.
Tye Jones was again on the scoresheet with a double as West Wallsend overcame a 2-0 half-time deficit to draw 2-2 with the early season promotion favourites and last year's relegated NPL side. Amazing to look back on that day now and see how good Westy were against Lakes and amazing to see that no Walker brothers scored as well.
Round 4 brought another decent result for Westy as Tye Jone's 5th goal of the season, along with goals from Andrew Cairney, Sam Holt and Chris Hughes helped the Bluebells to a satisfying 4-1 victory away from home against 2014 New-FM finalists Belmont-Swansea United.
Next up was the biggest game to date. Good Friday at home against arch rivals, local nemesis and New-FM newcomers Wallsend Football Club. The history between these sides always meant it was going to be a big game on Good Friday. Tye Jones got on the scoresheet but it wasn't enough to avoid West Wallsend's first loss of 2015.
After 5 rounds, the Bluebells had passed their win tally for 2014 and were looking destined for the finals, perhaps even the Minor Premiership. Week 6 is when the season turned South at an alarming rate. Memories of last season's horror show against Valentine, both home and away would have come flooding back as the Bluebells copped a 6-0 loss on their home turf.
That was a tough loss but they bounced straight back with a win at Turner Park against Cessnock City. Tye Jones and Grant Morrow were the goalscorers that day. Morrow would score again in the next game, along with Sam Holt and Kyle Clarke as the Bluebells scored three but were disappointingly held to a draw by Thornton at home.
Round 11 brought a trip to Singleton and a 2-1 loss, despite a Kyle Clarke goal and it was much of the same against Cooks Hill away. The visitors troubled Cooks Hill but a ten-man Cookers outfit would go 2-1 in front and tensions boiled over late on when Jarrod Olivieri was sent off. It was a wild night but a night of survival for Cooks Hill and one of disappointment for Westy.
2-1 losses were becoming the standard and despite a Gary Wilson goal, the Bluebells were downed by Toronto-Awaba. Next up was the heaviest loss of the season as West Wallsend were blown off the park by a rampaging Lakes outfit. The Roosters put eight past the Bluebells who could only muster up the one goal through Grant Morrow.
A 3-2 loss away to Kahibah F.C was an improved performance but despite a Tye Jones double (he also scored against Cooks Hill-forgot to mention) the Bluebells were downed. A trip to The Gardens for the local derby ended in a 5-0 defeat to an in-form Wallsend outfit and a 6-1 loss at Blacksmiths compounded another tough day at the office; Kyle Clarke scored a consolation on that day.
Westy will be happy that Valentine are promoted as their last four outings against the Phoenix have all been heavy defeats, their latest being a 5-0 loss at Cahill Oval. Tye Jones scored twice at home to Cessnock but it ended in a 5-2 loss that left the Bluebells bottom of the league.
It's not pretty writing this part of the season review so I'll make it quick. A 4-0 loss to Thornton saw the Redbacks leave Westy at the bottom and luck was not on the Bluebells' side when Cooks Hill left Johnston Park with a 2-1 win. I'm a Cookers man though and though and still don't know how they won that game. It showed that even luck had left West Wallsend behind unfortunately.
Lastly was yesterday's 2-0 loss to Singleton, sealing West Wallsend's second-consecutive wooden spoon. Painful reading for any Bluebells' players or supporters but a fact of life in football. After 5 weeks, the Bluebells were at the top and flying high but the season would ultimately end with 12 straight losses.
The FFA Cup was a decent run for West Wallsend as they overcame the likes of Beresfield F.C and Singleton Strikers on the way through the Preliminary Rounds. They beat Thornton to secure a spot in the FFA Cup Qualifying weekend at Speers Point. Their epic 5-4 penalty win over Zone League One side Jesmond F.C still remains probably my favourite game of the season. It had absolutely everything and Westy will know they dodged a bullet that day.
The Sunday game and FFA Cup Round of 32 qualifier saw West Wallsend totally outclassed by a star-studded Broadmeadow Magic side. The Bluebells were fatigued from the 120 minute thriller 24 hours earlier and were no match for Magic as the NPL powerhouse put a cricket score on Westy (I don't need to mention how many it was as I'm sure you all remember). Still, it was a decent cup run for West Wallsend and one they can be proud of.
Key Player: Jarrod Olivieri
West Wallsend are renowned for their physical style and some days it does cost them a little in terms of cards and discipline issues but it has helped them get under the skin of other NewFM teams throughout the year. Barnstorming defender/midfielder/occasional striker Jarrod Olivieri is the centrepiece of Westy's squad. He brings a hard-hitting, powerful style to each and every game and is entertaining to watch.
Olivieri gets under the skin of opposition players and I'm sure he's been on the back end of a few harsh words from crowd members at away games. Olivieri does look like a player who'd just run over the top of opponents but he does possess a fair bit of footballing knowledge and can pull off a trick or two when he's on. Westy no doubt would have some more technically skilled players, top scoring attacker Tye Jones comes to mind but Olivieri has to be my personal favourite. Every club needs someone like him. Someone you love to hate but if cheer on if he's in your club's colours.
|Jarrod Olivieri isn't the most technical player going but he is a barnstorming player|
Young Player of the Year: Josh Knight (Under 17's)
While Olivieri is one of West Wallsend's key men in first grade, young star Josh Knight is one to watch for the future at Johnston Park (if he stays there next season.) Knight is a goal scoring machine and it wouldn't surprise me to see if he has over half of Westy's goals scored in the Under 17's this season. He has impressed me in the two first grade games I've seen him play, especially in the FFA Cup against Jesmond FC. He wasn't intimidated and was ready to get physical with the more experienced players in the top grade. Sometimes a younger player can get pushed around when they play against experienced first graders but Knight looks well in his environment.
Discipline is something Westy need to control better (I might sound like a repeating record at this stage) and Knight has had a few issues this season with controlling his anger. If he can get that more under control than he definitely can make it in the higher grades and the NPL perhaps after that. He has a keen eye for goal and can play across the park in a few positions. A quality player for his age.
By the way, Knight's been named as West Wallsend's Golden Boot winner for the season with a whopping 24 goals from 20 games. I don't have the stats available but he has to be a shoe-in for most goals in the Under 17's this season.
|17's attacker Josh Knight finished the season with 24 goals|
Under 23's Wrap-Up
It wasn't the best year for West Wallsend in the Under 23's as they stumbled their way to just seven points and the dreaded wooden spoon. They did have some positives, including a delightful 2-1 win over arch rivals Wallsend F.C on Good Friday.
Under 19's Wrap-Up
The 19's were a bit higher up the table and picked up some impressive wins throughout the year. None more impressive than a 3-2 result against what was then top of the table Belmont-Swansea away from home. Two goals to Greg Mason and one to Matthew Turner secured a huge victory for the visitors.
The Bluebells' 19's also ended the season on a big high with a decent come from behind draw with Cooks Hill being followed up by a convincing 6-1 victory over Singleton. Goals to Liam Keating, Adam Solman, Max Clark, Isaiah Button and a double to Liam Muir allowed the side to end the season on a very high note.
Under 17's Wrap-Up
My personal favourite team from West Wallsend this season has to be the 17's. They showed some skill in the games I saw and there's some real future talent in the squad. Their record against lower sides was impressive but their form against the higher-placed sides ultimately cost them a finals spot.
Led by captain Mitchell Kramer, a decent midfielder, the Westy 17's finished higher than all three higher grades and showed that the future at Johnston Park is bright. As mentioned, Josh Knight is one of the best goalscorers in the 17's and I've heard opposition praise Bradie Coe and Tom Muir. If the side can stay together, I think finals will be a target in 2016.
Keys To The Future:
I know the ambition is strong at Johnston Park and I have no doubts the club will be stronger, bigger and better in season 2016. West Wallsend is a passionate community and one that really gets behind their football team. The volunteers at West Wallsend are among the hardest working in the league and the groundsman there does a bang-up job on what is in my opinion one of the best fields in the New-FM 1st Division.
Retaining players is key for next season and from what I've heard, nearly all of the 1st Graders have re-committed to the club, which is fantastic to hear. Sitting top after five weeks proved that the club have it in them to succeed and if they can find their feet next season, anything is possible.
They may not be the most-liked team in the league and their players are renowned for being physical, perhaps too physical but West Wallsend command respect. It's not often you'll go to Johnston Park and ease your way to victory. Most days, West Wallsend will grind their way through the game and force you to really dig in and give it your best.
I appreciate the work that West Wallsend have done in promoting Newysports (both on their Facebook page and in their Matchday programs) and am looking forward to continuing a healthy relationship with the club next season. Give me a spot on that old school truck with the lounge on top next time I'm there and I'll be delighted.
Cheers Westy, have a good off-season and well wishes for Season 2016!