What They Did In 2016:
Yet another side unable to make finals in any grade during the 2016 New-FM season. The Under 23's were unable to follow up a historic Grand Final win with a repeat finals appearance, the 17's and 19's struggled and 1st Grade whilst finishing 5th, ultimately failed to make it into the playoffs.
Thornton simply lacked the quality needed in the 17's, the 19's were unable to put their best foot forward on enough occasions and a slow start to the season proved too costly for Darrel McAllister and his 1st Grade side. The aforementioned 23's were in a scramble for finals but as mentioned, fell short.
|Darrel McAllister's side cruised to a win at the AthField in the later stages of 2016.|
With clubs changing coaches, players and even in some cases changing a fair chunk of the club hierarchy, Thornton have travelled into 2017 with the status quo in place. An already difficult side to predict and to take on, the Redbacks have recruited one or two handy names and look set for a bigger year in 2017.
The Under 23's have lost a fair few players but will again be looking to start well in what is the most difficult competition to predict. Lower down, the Under 17's have brought in a lot of new faces. A handful of ex-Maitland players are local to the area and add something different but the sides are all still learning each other's gameplans.
|Shane Warden is one of a few new Thornton players wearing the black and white Maitland shorts this pre-season.|
Where Best Chances Are:
Thornton's best chance of making finals is at the very top. A solid 1st Grade outfit in 2016, they've managed to hold onto most of their key players and if guys like Jamie Subat and Nathan McAllister can find their peak form and keep it consistently through the year, the Redbacks will push for finals.
Darrel McAllister's side might not beat the heavyweights of the competition but they're capable of beating the majority of their opponents. The season starts with a few away games in a row as normal due to cricket and it's in this first few games where the bar needs to be set. They can ill-afford another slow start.
|Jamie Subat will be hoping to reach his best form in front of goals this season.|
Where They May Struggle:
Whilst there's some exciting youth talent at Thornton, the depth and quality of the Under 17's and Under 19's is simply not up to the level of other clubs. The Redbacks have found it difficult to ward off the likes off Maitland from poaching all the good local talent.
There's some handy footballers in the 17's and 19's but as a unit they have yet to find their form and it's hard to see the quality shining across the park. Losing star young goalkeeper Blake McDonnell to the Lambton Jaffas leaves a massive void and defensively questions were asked in 2015, 2016 and will be asked again this year.
|Caden Taylor is one of a few young Thornton defenders who'll be looking to excel in 2017.|
Thornton are a side that always slip under the radar. Coaches forget what a difficult proposition it is to defeat a determined Redbacks side. In terms of community and player numbers they are the league's smallest club but a tight-knit, close-bonded team is always a danger.
McAllister's Redbacks will be eyeing off a vacancy left by Lake's exit from the competition. They won't finish on top by all means but making the finals in 2017 might be slightly easier. Missing out last year will have them fired up for a fast start and Cessnock better be weary in Round 1.
What They Did In 2016:
Toronto-Awaba across all grades collectively were the poorest team in the 2016 New-FM competition. 1st Grade picked up some respectable results towards the back end of the year and the 17's on their day were a handy side that beat eventual winners Lakes at Lyall Peacock Field. The 19's only won two games all year and the less said about the 23's the better.
Things started in pretty poor fashion. Heavy pre-season losses to Lambton's U20's and Morisset United had ominous alarm bells ringing and even though they mounted a comeback, they were dumped out of the FFA Cup by Beresfield United. Round 1 saw them hammered by Lakes and it set up a season of failures.
Simply unacceptable at times. The Stags surprisingly were unbeaten in two against Belswans, stunning the eventual Grand Finalists with a late-season 2-1 win. Going to Cooks Hill and beating them was a huge victory but losing 6-0 at home on Old Boy's Day to Singleton was nothing short of an embarrassment.
|Toronto's 2016 season resembled a horror show at times. Only a reversed result against Wallsend saved them from the spoon.|
Behind the scenes, Toronto-Awaba is a different place. A couple of influential committee members have departed the club after a falling out and the Head Coach position has been given to Adam Routledge or Rudda as he's known. He's taken the reigns and a few that have left weren't happy with it but nonetheless, the coach deserves his chance to improve the side.
On the field, recruiting goalkeeper Blake Redman helps partly to fill a massive void left by the departure of Daniel March. Grant Morrow adds something up front with Nick Roberts and the supposed but still unconfirmed signing of former Cooks Hill coach Blake Glennie will add more quality.
The 19's are also a changed outfit from the one that picked up just two wins in 2016. Luke Gibbons, Connor Brady and the Winslade brothers headline a group of 17's players graduating to the 19's in 2017. Add in former Lakes duo Caleb Morley-Davies and Alex Matthews and in form goalscorer Connor Morgan and you have yourself a better side on paper.
|Connor Morgan and Luke Gibbons have been combining for a few goals in pre-season.|
Where Best Chances Are:
Toronto's best and in some eyes only chance of making the finals in 2017 are through the Under 19's. It'll be an extreme success if they manage to do it in such a tight competition but the players they have are capable of stirring up some big results.
Attack is where the Stags' 19's have in pre-season and will during the season shine but it's defence where the questions will be asked. Saving and stopping goals will be the thing that either makes or breaks the season for Lindsay Jamieson's side.
|Alex Matthews is one of a few new faces in the Under 19's team at Toronto-Awaba.|
Where They May Struggle:
1st Grade have recruited some decent names but it could all fall apart rapidly. Toronto have had a lean spell of failure and there's a few people involved, including the coaching staff who simply don't like losing. Players will need to be calm with each other and understand that rebuilding takes time.
Anyone tipping the Stags to make the top four is probably a bit too one-eyed. At this point, restoring some respect and avoiding the bottom two or three spots is probably the likely goal for Adam Routledge and his side. Once a grand old club, the Stags have been on their knees at various times in recent seasons. The next three years is the most crucial time in the club's survival.
It's not all doom and gloom. Belmont-Swansea proved a lot of doubters wrong last season and if Toronto can do the same it'll be just as great for the competition. The youth talent in that 19's squad makes the $5 admission the Lyall Peacock Field worth it alone and if 1st Grade can click, football at the Stags might be once again a decent thing to watch.