Wednesday, 1 March 2017


What They Did In 2016:

New Lambton are the newcomers to the New-FM competition so to analysis their 2016 season wouldn't be quiet as accurate as other sides. The 1st Grade ZPL side finished the year in disappointing fashion, missing out on the finals but the Reserves and Third Grade sides played on Grand Final day and lost both games.

All in all, a season that ended in disappointment but an announcement of promotion just weeks after the competition ended meant their time in the Zone Premier League had come to an end and it was time to regain their status as a premier-level club in region.

Tony Gascoine coached the ZPL Reserves to a Grand Final appearance in 2016. He's now taken control of the U19's team.

What's Changed:

Everything has changed at New Lambton F.C. A couple of short years ago, the club was split in two, the Eagles at Alder Park in the ZPL, and the junior club NLFC at Novocastrian Park. Now the juniors and seniors have banded together to once again have New Lambton as a sleeping giant of Newcastle football. Only Cooks Hill come close to rivalling the numbers of players at the club.

The step-up hasn't been without major changes. The obvious one being the recruitment of Andrew Packer to be Head Coach and Technical Director. Packer has done it all, his only regret in his mind was never having the chance to pull on the Socceroos shirt. He's won the A-League, played at Brisbane under Ange Postecoglou. There aren't many that can match that involved in New-FM football.

Andrew Packer is the new Head Coach and has a solid backing of committee and coaching support.

The Eagles have recruited from far and wide. Zane Hand moving from Singleton to be playing closer to home, Josh Casey staying loyal to Packer and joining up from South Cardiff, Matt McLure from Lakes, Luke Jovcevski and Luke Maloney from the Stags, even James Finney from ZL1 side Beresfield F.C. So many new faces.

On and off the field, the Eagles landscape has changed. The club now has the premier Under 19's, 17's and 15's squads which means the juniors can now play for the club they love at a higher level.

Where Best Chances Are:

1st Grade's got the potential to stun a few opponents. Andrew Packer's South Cardiff had a never say die mentality last year and were never beaten heavily apart from a final round 5-1 loss at Lakes but it's the Under 19's where New Lambton's best chance of silverware lays.

Tony Gascoine's 19's squad on paper is as good as most in the league. Not many sides have looked as good during the pre-season trials. A Round 1 showdown with beaten 2016 Grand Finalists Westy will be a test like no other they've faced so far in non-competitive football. A side that could very well go the distance in 2017.

Adam Montefiore and Maurice Bechelli are two of many exciting talents in NLEFC's U19's squad.

Where They May Struggle:

It isn't really evident yet where New Lambton may struggle. The Under 17's are unproven but being a new side in the competition, time very much needs to be a given. 1st Grade may very well struggle considering the same. This is a new club and they might struggle to hit the ground running but if Wallsend and Kahibah's introductions are to go by, the Eagles have a lot to look forward to.

Additional Thoughts:

New Lambton Eagles are a tough side to make predictions about. In their 100th season, they make a long-awaited return to the 2nd tier but there's a lot of questions yet to be answered. The redevelopment of Alder Park is one of those and they'll be forced to play away in the first few weeks of the year as a result.

But the location of the club helps attract a lot of keen footballers. There's sprinklings of NPL Youth-experienced players in the 17's and 19's and 1st Grade have assembled a squad that looks quiet decent on paper. Whether it works or not is the million dollar question. But it sure is great to have another new club in the competition.

New Lambton's Under 17's will be gunning for a big win in Round 1 against Westy.


What They Did In 2016:

Singleton Strikers found some success in 2016 but missing finals in all four grades would have left a few people, including David Willoughby slightly disappointed. A magnificent FFA Cup took them all the way to a date with Edgeworth in the Round of 32 qualifier. They were solidly beaten but they made it further than any New-FM side has in previous seasons.

Impressive victories at home against Cessnock and away to Cooks Hill showed what the side were capable of but losses like the one at home to Thornton showed that work still needed to be done. Some young stars shone brightly as Jackson Skinner filled a void left by the sudden and drastic departures of two key players in pre-season.

The lower grades all showed their qualities from time to time but consistency was never there.

With a load of coaching changes this season, it's refreshing to see David Willoughby at the helm of Singo for another year.

What's Changed:

Of all the clubs in the league, it's Singleton who've probably changed the least in the off-season. Willoughby is still in charge, the 1st Grade squad is fairly similar to last year and so far, pre-season form has been decent at times. Young players like Nathan Hall looked poised to have a big season.

The Under 19's see a few 17's graduates join up. Brad Fairclough, Trae Proudlock and others bolster the new-look Under 19's lineup but leaves the 17's a little bit short on firepower and needed some new answers to their quest to push for finals football.

Goalkeeper Brad Fairclough moves up to the Under 19's squad in 2017.

Where Best Chances Are:

Once again like the last two years, Singleton's best hopes of breaking a finals drought lays with the 1st Grade squad. David Willoughby's team is settled, know each other's games and have another year of experience together. Stuey Plant in goals is as good as any keeper in the competition and there's some boom youngsters coming through the ranks.

Don't rule out another FFA Cup run either as the team have a knack for grinding out tight games and they know what it takes to progress deep into the competition after going the distance to the qualifying weekend in 2016.

Jackson Skinner was one of the best upcoming players in the league last season.

Where They May Struggle:

The Under 17's are going to be a mystery for Singleton in 2017. With so many new faces, it's hard to judge until the season proper starts but based on pre-season results and the fact that there's so many quality clubs in the competition, it's the Singo 17's that look like being an also ran than a finals contender at this early stage.

The Under 19's too have to get it right and get it right early and consistently. Making the finals in the U19's is going to be a very difficult proposition and even though there's some handy players at Singleton, it's going to be quiet the challenge to make it into the final four. They'll be jumping at the chance to try though.

Singleton U19's will be on the hunt to upset defending champs Belswans in Round 1.

Additional Thoughts:

Being so far up the Hunter Expressway, Singleton are often overlooked for other clubs. Opposition 1st Grade coaches are starting to really see Singleton as a threat, not just at their home base but on the road too. The club culture at Singleton is second to none and the players show it across all grades.


What They Did In 2016:

South Cardiff dropped down from NPL to New-FM in 2016 and despite playing a decent brand of football, they never looked like pushing for a finals spot and finished 9th at the end of a long season back in the 2nd tier. Missing out on NPL promotion at the back end of the season would have disappointed a few staunch supporters as well.

The Under 23's were the club's best side in 2016 and despite form being patchy, they demolished rivals Cooks Hill for a spot in the Grand Final where they were outplayed by Lakes. Still a massive run to the Grand Final with some players that are still at the club.

The 19's as well proved to be a handy side, only missing out on finals by a win or two at the end of a fairly decent season at times.

Southy 23's made it all the way to the Grand final and despite losing it, they were delighted with their season.

What's Changed:

It's 'much of a muchness' in the lower grades. Some 17's have aged up to the Under 19's and the sides will be keen to get to The Gardens next weekend and start their season. It's in 1st Grade and Under 23's where the club has really been turned on its head.

Andrew Packer is out, gone to New Lambton and in his place is Denis Fajkovic, one young Head Coach replaced by another. Fajkovic whilst not probably having the technical footballing mind of Packer, brings recent NPL experience and knows what it takes to compete in the region's premier footballing competitions.

Fajkovic will be joined by his father Dalibor who'll not only help Denis with 1st Grade but take the reigns of the Under 23's side. Football runs in the family blood so expect a lot of hard work from both of them and a lot of emotion to be showed on and off the park. They'll want to win games no doubt.

Based on last weekend's trial at Thornton, it appears Denis Fajkovic will be not only coaching the side but playing. The only player-coach in the New-FM competition this season.

Denis Fajkovic has brought a lot so far to South Cardiff according to his players.

Where Best Chances Are:

South Cardiff's U23's look to be the team that's most likely to bring success to Southy this season. After only viewing them once this pre-season, it's difficult to rule out 1st Grade but there's a lot of quality teams fighting to make the top four and it's hard to tell if Southy will be one of those just yet.

The 23's though have a decent team on paper and have last year's success behind them. There'll be a few in this squad that'll be striving to go one better and get their hands on some silverware.

South Cardiff U23's made the GF in 2016 and will be aiming for finals once again in 2017.

Where They May Struggle:

The Under 17's and Under 19's seem to be a mystery for South Cardiff so far. A rumoured lack of numbers and some inconsistent pre-season results is hard to judge on but based on last year, the 17's especially need to step up to match levels of other clubs in the competition. The 19's have lost some quality as well so the job for the youth at Southy is a difficult one.

Ethan Spiers will be lining up in the Under 19's this season and has praised the Fajkovic's work so far.

Additional Thoughts:

South Cardiff are probably the biggest question mark for 1st Grade this pre-season. They've kept very quiet, they've flown under the radar and they could produce anything against Wallsend in Round 1. Whilst it's unclear what sort of results they'll produce, sides need to know that it's very difficult at times to overcome the spirit of Southy.

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