NPL Men's NNSW Round One Preview: Azzurri fight Rosebud's remaining men while the Magpies battle it out with Valentine

Broadmeadow Magic FC v Adamstown Rosebud FC 
Magic Park, Friday 8pm 

The NPL Men’s NNSW season is set to start with a bang when Broadmeadow Magic hosts Adamstown Rosebud FC on Friday night. 

Magic’s men are coming into round one on a high after claiming the inaugural HMRI Charity Shield last week while COVID-19 has wiped out at least nine of Adamstown’s players and several members of the club’s coaching staff which will make for an interesting contest.

Broadmeadow has brought in new players to help boost their squad including Tom Parkes, Lewis Alvares, Sam Donnellan, Luke Cochrane and Thomas Beecham into their side. 

Magic’s new head coach Jim Cresnar is hoping that the confidence from last week’s win can help boost his squad heading into Friday’s clash. 

“There is obviously a confidence that you get from those games which is important. It was a solid performance, but this week is all about results,” Cresnar said. 

“We need to make sure that we go out and do our job.” 

Cresnar is aware that Adamstown may be missing key personnel due to sickness but is not letting that distract his side’s game plan for the weekend.

“We just need to focus on what we need to do individually,” Cresnar said. 

“I think our biggest challenge is our mindset and that we need to always be ready to play in big games.

“Adamstown are coached really well and they have recruited well so we need to be wary. 

Magic’s vice-captain Jayden Stewardson says that Cresnar has brought in a higher intensity game plan than previous seasons and knows how important three points this weekend can be to his side’s season after losing the premiership by one point last year. 

“This year you can notice the difference in how aggressive Jim wants to play his football and the team has really bought into the process,” Stewardson said. 

“Three points at the start of the season would be massive.

“I think that by the end of the year last year, we looked back at games that we drew and think about what could of been.”

Captain Jeremy Wilson remains out with an ankle injury, while Ben Diamond is still in doubt after suffering a calf strain. 

Adamstown’s new head coach Daniel Dawkins is one of the people affected by COVID and is unlikely to be on the sideline for his first match in charge. But the gaffer is focusing on the positives and looking ahead at the whole season, rather than focusing on this weekend. 

“If you had asked me three days ago how I felt, I would have said great but I now have potentially 10 first graders out with COVID-19 at the moment,” Dawkins said. 

“We’ve had a really positive pre-season with a lot of new players coming into the mix to help bulk up the squad.” 

“One thing that was really important was to bring in the experience to help increase that depth.” 

“I am really big on my teams playing positively and proactively, not just kick and run.” 

“We want to be positive to go forward where possible and move the ball around quickly.” 

Adamstown has heavily recruited to bring some more experience in to help boost their youthful outfit. Goalkeeper Stuart Plant, Aiden Haplin, Taiju Wantanabe, Koji Murai, Kye Fauchon, Alex Grant and Elijah Harrison have all joined the side in the hope of bringing the side up the table after finishing 10th last year. 

Dawkins is realistic in the fact that the majority of his first-grade side could be sidelined due to illness meaning that some of the youth players need to step up into the starting 11 for the first match of the season. 

“I think if everyone is fit and on deck, our game plan is always the same,” Dawkins said.

“10 plus players is a lot to try and replace.

“If we stay disciplined and enjoy playing football no matter who ends up on the pitch then I can’t ask for any more than that. No matter what we just need to stay positive. 

“This could be a great experience for some of the younger players in our squad.”

Regardless of who is in his starting 11, Rosebud’s gaffer is still looking forward to Friday night. 

“It will be a great match up and it comes down to the depth of the squad to bring players on and continue at that level as best we can,” Dawkins said.  

Maitland FC v Valentine FC  
Maitland No1 Sportsground, Saturday 2:30pm 

New look Maitland will go head-to-head with Valentine on Saturday afternoon. 

The two teams will be looking to start their season with three points with more on the line this season as promotion/relegation is reintroduced this year. 

The Magpies have lost nine players from the side that finished fourth on the table, but still arguably have the most lethal attacking pair in the competition through Brayden Crowley and Jimmy Thompson. 

But Mick Bolch has brought in some fresh faces to help boost the side including Regan Lundy and Callum Bower from Charlestown Azzurri, Charlie Pollard from the Newcastle Jets Academy, Matt Hoole from Lambton Jaffas, Harry Maynard, Zach Thomas and Jordan Jackson. 

With the big shake-up within the playing group in the off-season, Maitland’s coach is realistic about where his side sits heading into round one. 

“There is definitely quality in our squad but depth may be an issue. We have lots of young boys stepping into our squad this year,” Bolch said. 

“We have around six new starters.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and it hasn’t been the greatest pre-season. 

“We will see our best football at the end of the season. We are still a few runs short of where we need to be.”

Despite not having the best start to 2024, Bolch has full confidence in the quality of his attack. 

“We haven’t been scoring a lot of goals in pre-season but we know they will come,” Bolch said. 

Bolch is hoping his side can stick to the gameplan on Saturday as he knows that it won’t be an easy battle against Valentine.

“We always have a lot of respect for our opponents. They have quality all over the park,” Bolch said. 

“Our main focus will be about our structure and doing the little things right.” 

Valentine finished ninth on the table at the end of 2023 but is hoping to bounce back this season. 

The side has seen the return of Nick Cowburn and picked up Sakeel Balfour Brown, Tyrell Paulson, Newcastle Jets Academy duo Jordan Gu and Kai Herd as well as international signings Mohammad Hossein Ellahi and Nicolas King. 

Coach Adam Hughes will be hoping his new flush of players can help to spring his side back into finals contention this year and put a good fight up against the Magpies this Saturday.  

Edgeworth FC v Weston Workers FC 
Jack McLaughlan Oval, Saturday 2:30pm 

Two teams will be looking to start their season with three points when Edgeworth hosts Weston Workers at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Saturday afternoon.

The Eagles fell short of making the finals in 2023, finishing sixth on the table just four points behind their opponents the Bears. 

The two sides will be eager to move higher up the table this season, with a win crucial to start each team’s 2024 campaign.

The Eagles have lost experienced veteran Josh Rose, who retired as well as Jacob Pepper to Newcastle Olympic, Jarryd Sutherland to Charlestown Azzurri and Shayne Van As to New Lambton. 

But Peter McGuiness and his coaching staff have recruited heavily bringing in international players Seth Clarke and Theodor Skarp as well as local talent including Flynn Goodman, Chris Fayers, Keanu Moore, Xander Woweries and Josh Dwyer. Aaron Oppedisano also returns to the side. 

On the other side of the dugouts, Weston has seen little turnover of personnel, signing players to help boost their mostly existing squad. 

Blake and Dominic Archbold, Tom Duggan, Chris Hatfield, Angelo Calfo and Jye Bailey have all joined Kew Jaliens' side for the new season. 

The Bears were tipped to be premiership contenders last year but dropped crucial points to lower-ranked sides when it mattered most to see them finish fifth. 

Jaliens will be hoping to improve on this and see if his team can continue to be consistent during the season. 

This weekend will be a big test for the two teams to see what they will bring to the 2024 season.  

Cooks Hill United FC v Newcastle Olympic FC 
No.2 Sportsground, Saturday 5pm

Cooks Hill will start their season with a showdown against Newcastle Olympic at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday afternoon. 

The two sides will be eager to walk away from the match with a win to kick-start their campaign after both missing out on finals last year. 

Cooks Hill started their run to finals too late last season and with only a few departures, they will be looking to continue that momentum into 2024. 

Chris Zoricich’s side has picked up quality players including Kai Bradley and Charlie Buffon and will be hoping their stability of playing group can play to their advantage this weekend. 

Olympic did not have an ideal season last year, falling from being 2022 finalists to finishing seventh on the table. 

But the side is starting the new season with a new coaching team and some new players to help boost their finals chances. 

Olympic have lost key players including striker Jared Muller, Will Southcombe and Grant Michales. 

But the side has brought in experienced midfielder Jacob Pepper, Lachlan West, Rhys Cooper and Louis Townsend to help fill in the gaps. 

Paul DeVitis and Neil Owens have taken over the reins as head coaches and will be eager to start their season on a high note by bringing all three points home from No. 2 Sportground.  

Lake Macquarie City FC v Lambton Jaffas FC 
Macquarie Field, Saturday 7pm 

Lake Macquarie will be out with something to prove when they take on Lambton Jaffas on Saturday night.

Lake Macquarie had a horror season last year, picking up just one win from 22 matches and 20 losses. They will be desperate to turn things around this year with the threat of relegation hanging over their heads.  

The side has seen a big turnover in the off-season, bringing in several new players as well as acquiring new coach Peter Preston.

Preston has brought in young talent from along the coastline to help his side change the script this season. 

The Roosters have recruited talented players including Jerome Abrahams, Tap Goora and Hamish Meldrum to help boost Preston’s squad. 

Up the other end of the scale is Lambton Jaffas, who is coming into the 2024 season as last year’s premier-championship winners. 

Lambton was unable to get the win last weekend in the HMRI Charity Shield, being defeated 1-3 by Broadmeadow Magic, with injuries heavily affecting their side.  

But coach David Tanchevski is not concerned by his side potentially having a slow start to the season, knowing that once everyone is back fit and ready, they can beat any team.

New signings Jimmy Oates, Sean Pratt, Matthew Buettner and Matt Cahill are set to boost the Jaffas even further. But injuries to the new recruits will mean that some of them may not feature until at least the first few rounds of the season. 

No matter where they fell on the table last season, the two sides will be eager to take three points away from their first hit out of the competition.  

Charlestown Azzurri FC v New Lambton FC 
Lisle Carr Oval, Sunday 2:30pm 

This weekend's opening round will wrap up with a fierce battle between Charlestown Azzurri and New Lambton on Sunday afternoon. 

Azzurri finished second on the table last year and was run down at the final hurdle of the season missing out on the grand final due to injuries and suspensions. 

But James Pascoe’s side will be hungry to start the season with three points and begin writing the wrongs of the end of last year. 

This season, Azzurri looks to have strengthened their depth, recruiting multiple young guns including Cameron Joice and Kieran Hayes from America, Ty Cousins, Lachlan Hilton, Dylan Newbold and Jarryd Sutherland. 

New Lambton will be looking for something to prove after finishing 11th on the table at the end of the 2023 season. 

Shane Pryce has taken on the role of head coach and has recruited a strong assortment of players including experienced defender Josh Piddington, Charlie Kelly, Shayne Van As, Cameron Howard, Hugh Browne and Oscar Ward. 

The Golden Eagles will also have extra motivation to fight this season, with the reintroduction of relegation into the competition.

But Pryce will hope that bulking up his side with top new recruits will assist them in going head-to-head with a strong Azzurri outfit on Sunday.