Monday, 5 March 2018

Newysports New-FM 19's Season Preview 2018


Last Year: Mick Buckley took over the largely similar squad to the one that won the 2016 Grand Final and took them all the way to the big day once again where they were ultimately beaten by New Lambton. A lengthy unbeaten streak showed that the squad still could grind out results in all conditions. Falling short on the big day wasn't ideal but it was a largely positive season.

Changes in 2018: It's not all out, all change but it's about as close as you can get. Mick Buckley is still the coach but there's only a couple of players who remain from last year's lineup with a few going up to 23's and some leaving the club. The key quartet last year (Nicholson, Dundas, Ellis & McMaster) are all gone. It's a mostly new squad.

Best Qualities: Defensively this team should be quiet strong. Harry Rapp is an important piece of the puzzle as he has experience in 19's and is a rock solid defender on his day. Solomon Amos is another who stared in the 17's last year defensively and now has the opportunity to make an impact in the U19's competition. 

Where They'll Struggle: Their attack is the big question mark and it's pretty clear the side know that. It's no doubt expected that losing so many quality attackers will leave a void and now it has to be filled by the likes of former Kahibah 17's player Dave Scanlon and Rob Stuckey (formerly of Valentine). When you think of the goals that rained down over the last two years, it's a very, very tough job to replicate that quality.

Key Player(s): It again has to be Scanlon and Stuckey. They are the two players who have probably the most responsibility for scoring goals. Based so far on pre-season results there's still some work that needs to be done. On top of that, keeping their defenders on the park will help big time in the long run. If a couple of defenders miss out on a game or two, they'll struggle.

Top Scorer Prediction: Rob Stuckey. You don't play NPL unless you have some decent qualities about you. That said, there's absolutely no chance of this team providing a contender for the 19's Golden Boot. They'll likely share the goals around but as for any getting more than 15 goals, it's a tough ask.

Final Thoughts: To be brutally honest and this was said to the coach Mick Buckley on Friday night, this team will struggle to play finals. A huge changeover of players makes it difficult for the team and the ones that are there now are still a work in progress. This team is easily a two-year job. They'll improve over the course of the year though.

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Last Year: Not just last year, but the last few years, ever since Newysports started, the Cessnock 19's have failed to impressed. Their last finals appearance came in 2014 with Jason Zechel the only one left at the club from that team. Ironically he is the new coach of the Cessnock 19's. The last three years have seen the side finish 9th, 10th and finally last. The only way is up from here.

Changes in 2018: Based on the one pre-season hit-out Newysports has seen, this is a far different beast than previous incarnations of the Cessnock 19's. They're fitter, they're faster and they're better. Lots of experience in New-FM and NPL Youth too which will help. The goals they scored against Westy two weeks ago where top notch as well.

Best Qualities: Going off the pre-season trial, entertainment. They've got a confidence about them to try things that you just couldn't imagine seeing from a Cessnock 19's side. This team should score a few goals if Connor Morgan can fire. Youngster Kyle Ericksson also one to watch as well as the always reliable Jackson Watkins.

Where They'll Struggle: At the back. They look a side that will score but ultimately may get caught out sometimes on the break. It's a part of the game. Goalkeeper Jackson Bartlett has been a journeyman in recent seasons and his few chances for Wallsend last year weren't great. It's a big year for the upcoming keeper to show his true quality.

Key Player(s): Connor Morgan. At his best level, there's no better player in this squad. Cessnock Head Coach Brendan Slade has eyes on Morgan who has apparently struggled to train a lot this pre-season. If he steps up, trains well and plays well, he might get poached to the seniors some weeks but for now, he's the one to watch in 19's.

Top Scorer Prediction: Connor Morgan again. 15 goals in 15 games last year according to SportsTG stats. At 19's level he has experience banging in goals and that will show when the season starts. Expecting Kyle Ericksson to really partner well with Morgan in the final third. Could be hearing the phrase "Ericksson to Morgan and it's in" a fair bit this year.

Final Thoughts: This team should be mid-table and perhaps even pushing for a top four spot in various stages of the season. The latter comment might be jumping the gun but they looked impressive against Westy two weeks ago and they are definitely a side to watch this year. Round 1 v Thornton will be a very good gauge to see how both teams stack up.

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Last Year: 2017 was finally the year that Cooks Hill 19's took that next step to becoming the best team in the division. A premiership victory confirmed that against New Lambton but the Cookers would controversially fall to the eventual champions in the Semi Finals. The fact this side didn't win the 19's title is one of the lasting shocks of the 2017 season.

Changes in 2018: Coach Michael Best no doubt had to expect a bit of changeover with players like Luke Muller & Michael Dalton making the jump to 23's. Further forward Nick Fakes is out with Rory Kalnins adding some quality to the attacking line after moving up from 17's. Add Golden Boot contender Will Dundas to the piece and you have yourself a top quality squad.

Best Qualities: It's quiet difficult to pick a standout quality. Across the park this team is as good if not better than any in the 19's competition. They're a serious football side and they've shown that in pre-season with some solid outings against NPL opposition. The midfield is probably where this team shine the most. Just so many good players.

Where They'll Struggle: The question mark has to be on the keeper Zach Hamilton. Just like his brother last year. A decent keeper on his day but is he one that will keep guard for a championship contender. Jake proved he could handle it last year and the good thing for Zach is he has a much better defence this season. He'll take the challenge on.

Key Player(s): Will Dundas, Rory Kalnins and Tom Negline. Dundas simply has to deliver. His impact at Belswans showed a lot of goalscoring quality and he obviously isn't at CHU just to hang out with mates. He's a player who aims to compete for the Golden Boot. Rory Kalnins very similar. Excellent quality, gets under opposition skin, knows exactly how to play game well. Lastly, a big season ahead for Tom Negline who steps up from the 17's to try and be a rock at the back alongside the likes of Chad McCarter.

Top Scorer Prediction: Will Dundas. He's been a Golden Boot contender for two seasons in a row and there's nothing saying he won't do it again this time round. It's still bizarre to see him wearing the black and white stripes but he has a lot of quality around him and if history is to go by, he'll find a way to the back of the net more often than not.

Final Thoughts: These guys are the premiership favourites. Michael Best is a coach that can get the very best out of his squad. Cooks Hill have that demand from the top down. They know how to be a consistent performer based on last year and it wouldn't surprise at all to see Cooks Hill United at the top of the table come Round 22.

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Last Year: The Kahibah 19's like all of the club's lower grades ultimately disappointed last season. Jarrod Gorsuch's first year in charge brought challenges and commitment levels varied with the team really fading away at different portions of the season. They had players to do better (as the result at Blacksmiths showed) but it very rarely worked out for them.

Changes in 2018: There was no secret about Jarrod Gorsuch's recruitment drive last year. He'd get to a lot of Lakes 18's games and now he has both McRitchie brothers at the club. There's other former Roosters as well. Kallum Garbett, Preston Cunningham & Jack Smith all new to the club. A few 17's have moved up as well and have brought a good attitude with them. The likes of Ryan Stuchbury & Kyle Williams adding a lot to this side.

Best Qualities: The pure quality this team has is as good as any in the league. Very similar in that regard to Cooks Hill. Brady McRitchie is on paper the best goalkeeper in the 19's and his brother Kurtis will be a leading contender for the Golden Boot if he can fire. Lots of New-FM and NPL experience means this side know what it takes to win a football game.

Where They'll Struggle: Attitude problems in pre-season have led to some less than impressive results. No doubt the team will raise the bar when the season starts but there'll be issues through the year. A lot of man-management needed to keep everything in line. They just need to put their best foot forward every week and they'll be fine.

Key Player(s): There's a lot of key players in the squad but it'd be ignorant to not point out Kurtis McRitchie again. He's been brought in to score goals, it's as simple as that. He has to find the form that made him such a star for Lakes 17's two years ago. Midfielder's Kallum Garbett and Isaac Zek also very important as a lot of the team's movement goes through them.

Top Scorer Prediction: Not many teams have so many players who can pop up and score. Pre-season has shown that it's not all about McRitchie up front but the Golden Boot race you'd imagine would have to include Kahibah's main attacking recruit. Anything less than 10 goals is a failure. Between 15 and 20 is probably the target.

Final Thoughts: Kahibah are championship contenders and a team to beat no doubt. Consistency is probably the key word and it's why they aren't the premiership favourites. Cooks Hill at this stage have a more disciplined and more focused effort. It's safe to say that Kahibah should be there come the business end of the season.

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Last Year: No-one, not even the NLFC club were expecting the 19's to win the Grand Final. They started like a house on fire but had mixed form throughout the year. They weren't expected to do much in the finals but with some controversial calls going their way, they found a way past Cooks Hill. Then no question about their effort on Grand Final Day. It was one for the ages as New Lambton lifted their first New-FM championship trophy.

Changes in 2018: There is no team in the league that has more changes. Centre back Jack Neenan is all that's left from the Grand Final squad (and that's if he plays 19's more than 23's). A few newcomers (three from Kahibah) but for the most part, this team is Craig Tindall's 17's side of last season. Good to see a side all step up in age group together but as always, it's not going to be a walk in the park in the 19's.

Best Qualities: Jock Dockrill and Blake McDonnell. Dockrill in particular is new on the New-FM scene and has been impressive this pre-season. He scored yesterday in the team's 2-1 shock win over Cooks Hill. And as for Blake McDonnell, he was a star in goals for Thornton 17's over two seasons before moving to the Jaffas last year. With a more reliable defence in front of him, he might improve even more on his Thornton days.

Where They'll Struggle: The pointy end of the field. With no Lachlan Jones, Luke Homer, Maurice Bechelli and etc, it's going to be a challenge for the young attackers to step up. The only player to hit 10 in the 17's last year was Liam Walker. Connor Tindall hit 9 and Jacob Lidden 8 and Lidden is a midfielder. They don't on paper have a hit-man who'll grab 15-20 goals.

Key Player(s): Literally the whole team need to perform to grab results. It's doubtful that one or two players will carry the weight on their shoulders like some clubs. There's plenty of potential though for success. If Jack Neenan slots in, he'll be expected to lead from the back. If he's not there then Hayden Pearce is a player that's very reliable at the back. Key players further forward have to be the likes of Tindall, Walker, Townsend and Mourlet. Still think Dockrill will be their standout star.

Top Scorer Prediction: This is a tough one to predict. It's hard at this stage seeing any players get over 10 goals. The goals will come but they'll likely be shared around. It's probably Connor Tindall or Liam Walker who'll come away with top scorer with Jock Dockrill definitely an fair outside shot.

Final Thoughts: Newysports has concerns for this side. They'll improve as the year passes by but being such a young lineup, it will be a challenge. The result yesterday was very positive for them and hopefully they'll continue the Eagles charge forward in the lower grades. Won't be in the title race but may very well push for finals if they perform well enough.

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Having not seen this team or even seeing who's in the squad, it's impossible to tell you anything. Last year was ultimately a disappointment for the Strikers after having a decent squad on paper but as for this year, your guess is as good as mine. No idea what else to say than that. Judging their past history, it's hard to imagine them being title contenders but who knows if they'll push for finals.

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Last Year: Southy 19's were spiralling towards a fairly low finish in 2017 when Chris Moylan was given the reigns mid-way through the season. His coaching must have sparked a fuse for the team as they found a way to overcome the likes of New Lambton away from home. Their second half of the year was very respectable and included some getting a chance to play 23's and indeed 1st Grade.

Changes in 2018: New 19's coach Steve Blunt (who has also taken on a committee role) has taken over a squad that is made up by a lot of last year's Southy 17's. Jake Amodio, Callum Stone and Callum Walsh are the only new players to the club in the team so it's a team that know each other fairly well which helps.

Best Qualities: The goalkeeper Kyle Furness has come in leaps and bounds this pre-season. The only issue now is the fact the club don't have an active 23's keeper meaning Furness might have to either play twice or focus on the senior squad. He's a top notch shot-stopper and at this early stage on paper the best player in this squad.

Where They'll Struggle: It's hard at this stage to see this side scoring a lot of goals. The pressure is firmly on the likes of Lachlan Morgan and Jake Amodio who are unproven at this level as routine scorers. Another key issue is one that Steve Blunt's accepted in the fact he may have to filter player into 23's some weeks and thus not have a full compliment. The team is obviously favouring development over any piece of silverware.

Key Player(s): Kyle Furness is key for their success. As mentioned above. On top of that, there needs to be a solid partnership and understanding between Jon Ridgeon and Jake Amodio, two players who know each other well. And not so much a player but there is a key need for the team to muscle up each week. They need to have a physical presence.

Top Scorer Prediction: Jake Amodio. Again it's not a case where this team will provide a contender for the Golden Boot. It's likely the top scorer will only scrap 10 maybe pushing a few more. Either way, it's Jake Amodio who'll be looked at to score the most goals and on his day he can certainly deliver chances. Whether he consistently takes them or not is the question.

Final Thoughts: From that interview with Steve Blunt a month ago to watching their games, it's obvious the side don't see themselves as a title threat. It's all about development for the future and building a pathway to the 23's and 1st Grade. That said, they'll hope to pull off some big scalps but it's hard on paper to see them anywhere near the finals race.

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Last Year: Thornton 19's were a good team on their day last year, as good as most in the league but inconsistency cost them a shot at playing in the finals. Team captain Josh Davies top scored once again with 15 but has departed whilst players like Edan Ruddy and Brock Thomson really shined in their first year with the club. Overall it was a pretty good year.

Changes in 2018: When the squad was named late last year, on paper it didn't certainly match the top squads but some of the new players have really impressed and it's an overall positive feeling heading into the new season. From front to back and side to side there are new faces all over the park as well as some that are returning for another year.

Best Qualities: Based on the one trial match Newysports caught, the strength of this side has to be its defence. Lachlan Mortimer a very solid goalkeeper and some imposing centre backs that look like they can handle a challenge and then some. Mith Preston, Jasper Kennelly & Bailey Anderson all impressive. Further forward, the likes of Edan Ruddy and Matt Gardiner are ones to watch.

Where They'll Struggle: The midfield might be the key area for focus. It's the engine room of a squad. They'll need physicality in that middle third to get anywhere this year. Apart from that, their real worry would have to be squad depth. If there's any injuries woes then the team may struggle compared to some other clubs with more solid depth. Not too many worries though.

Key Player(s): Matt Gardiner & the defenders. Gardiner will be mentioned more in the prediction below but he is as vital as any player in the team. If not him then surely their defence. Preston, Kennelly & Anderson all super impressive against Lakes 18's and fullbacks Declyn Ford and Vincent Plater also did a good job. This is a team that is built for grinding out results.

Top Scorer Prediction: Matt Gardiner. If the defence delivers, it opens a door for victory. But that can't be done without goals. Edan Ruddy is a brilliant assist-maker and will score some of his own but this squad's top scorer will surely end up being Matt Gardiner. The former Maitland player looked solid in that pre-season trial and will be a headache for a lot of defenders this year.

Final Thoughts: The top four predictions is obviously CHU, Kahibah, Westy and Wallsend but Thornton are a definite contender for finals. If they can be consistent and establish the brand of football they want to play early on then they'll be a team to keep tabs on. It's safe to say you probably won't get an easy match when you visit Thornton Park.

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Last Year: They looked alright during pre-season last year but it all fell apart as it has done for Toronto over the past few years in most grades. The 19's couldn't replicate the form the 17's put together. Connor Morgan was their top scorer with 15 but has left and the next nearest was on no more than about 5. They were nowhere near finals by the half-way point of the year. Complete write-off of a season.

Changes in 2018: In comes last year's 17's squad or at least most of them including coach Shaun Paterson who is a demanding coach that drives his player but it a definite improvement in terms of coaching ranks for this squad. Any worry of Connor Morgan's departure should be eased by the fact that 17's top scorer Thomas Appleby is now in the 19's. They look an improved side so far.

Best Qualities: The belief the 17's showed last year was quiet impressive. Shaun Paterson deserves a lot of credit for the job he did with that team. Now some of those players have been rightfully promoted to the higher grade. Arbi Watt up there as one of the best young fullbacks in the league and they've got other exciting players like Jackson Treiger going forward.

Where They'll Struggle: Experience is probably a key worry. The team is moving up with their coach from 17's to 19's and with that comes the challenge of the higher age group. They've got some players who need to work on their physical presence. 19's is a tougher grade and if they can manage to raise the bar in that fashion they'll adapt.  

Key Player(s): Tom Appleby will have much of the spotlight on him as the top scorer last year and rightfully so. He proved in a 19's appearance at Cessnock last year he has the size to potentially do well in this grade. Big year for the wingers Andrew Clempson and Jackson Tregier. They'll need to ride more than a few challenges this year. Goalkeeper Josh Masters too will be one to watch after joining some former teammates from Lakes.

Top Scorer Prediction: Tom Appleby. He might not get as many as he did in the 17's last year namely due to 19's defenders being slightly harder to get past. But he has size, power and aerial prowess. Three things you want from your striker. For Toronto 19's to get anywhere near finals Appleby needs a good 15 or so goals with others chipping in around him. 

Final Thoughts: This team is more talented than previous incarnations over the last few years but similar to some others, they may be a two-year sort of team. This year may finish up a mid-table spot but doubtful for finals. Next year they'll be even better so for this team it's all about that journey.

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Last Year: The season pretty much ended before it started for Craig Tselembis' team last term. Losing some of his key defenders to 23's meant that the 19's were never really at full strength and it showed with some shocking results at time. Copping five in the Wallsend Derby and then eight at the hands of Cooks Hill at home. Other times they beat the likes of Cooks Hill so it was safe to say a mixed year but mostly disappointing.

Changes in 2018: There's a lot of new faces in the 19's team. Some moving up from the 17's and a fair few joining the club from elsewhere. What's safe to say is coach Craig Tselmebis is pleased with the side he's assembled. Noah George probably the biggest addition who'll add so much to a defensive line that was slaughtered at times last year.

Best Qualities: Across the park there are solid players but more importantly there is belief and confidence in the side. Steve Sarayeldine was a stand-out in a trial against Kahibah. Gilbert Harabukunzi is a good pick-up from the Grand Final-winning Cooks Hill 17's and goalkeeper Jacob Gallagher has potential to improve well as the year goes on. Their best quality is the brand of football Tselembis has them play. It's great to watch when it works well.

Where They'll Struggle: Like a lot of teams, there's the issue that the 23's might come knocking over the course of the year. Noah George is one player that the side expect will feature in 23's at some stage. So that will no doubt test the depth of the team. Up front there's still questions to be answered. Round 1 against Toronto will be a great chance to see how they stack up.

Key Player(s): Already mentioned Noah George multiple times. A key defender for the side. This team don't have any one or two stand-outs going forward so it's got to be all about a consistent effort across the park. A true team performance will get them over the line but if individuals struggle it'll bring the quality down. So with that said, most players on the park are key for their success.

Top Scorer Prediction: This is by far the hardest top scorer to predict after seeing just one or two games. Maybe come back after the first week or two but Steve Sarayeldine might be a rough shot. Based on pre-season scoring form when Newysports has been in attendance, you'd have to rate Nick Bull the top chance but that probably ain't going to happen.

Final Thoughts: Wallsend 19's will be fighting for the top four and at this stage are the Newysports tip to finish in 4th spot behind Westy, Kahibah and CHU. A good brand of football and if they keep everyone on the park they'll be a very hard team to compete with on their day.

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Last Year: The 2016 Grand Finalist 19's were unable to match that result as they fell short to eventual runners-up Belswans in the Semis. But it was a positive year for Steve Thomson's side as they proved to be a serious premiership contender for the majority of the season. They continued the successful pattern of Westy lower grades making the finals.

Changes in 2018: There's a few players who have left the squad. Josh Knight obviously a big omission as he moves permanently to the 23's/1st squad. But the players that have left have been replaced with players who are as good if not better. Josh Snedden takes over in goals, the likes of Drayton, Ciappara & Blomfield move up from 17's as well as a few others. It's a very handy squad on paper.

Best Qualities: Westy's best attribute is their determination. Maybe not as much in the youth grades but when you play the seniors you're going to be know you're in for a tough physical outing. One key aspect for this side is the fact that they can score from anywhere. A lot of attacking options and even the likes of Blomfield for a free-kick or Melville for a powerful header.

Where They'll Struggle: Honestly there isn't a player on this team who is poor. It's a strong a lineup as you'll see in the league and the only worry would have to be depth. They had a few out at Cessnock the other week and were towelled up. Apart from that, the only issue for coach Thomson is to send his side out with the right mindset each week which Westy get right more often than not.

Key Player(s): There is no one player on this team. There's a solid squad of 16 or so players who for the most part all have a job to do and all very capable doing said job. Obviously goalkeeper Josh Snedden is key for them as are the spine of the squad. The engine room with Lachlan Coombes, Mitch Kramer and co. is impressive. Pick a weak point of the squad, it's quiet hard to do.

Top Scorer Prediction: The 17's last year scored a whopping 51 goals in the regular season whilst the 19's weren't far off with 47. 98 goals in 40 games. Need I say more? As for top scorer, Khye Drayton or Jaryd Hayter are the tips with Blake Ciappara not far behind. Not many teams will have multiple players with double digits but this may be one.

Final Thoughts: When this side was named they looked like title contenders. A shocking trial performance in December showed a need for better fitness. They've improved in the pre-season and they are a serious, serious threat to not just the championship but the premiership this season. Only Kahibah and Cooks Hill look better on paper at this stage.

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