NNSW NPL: Top four taking no risks heading into final round

Hamilton coach Michael Bolch believes Broadmeadow would rather play his side than Edgeworth in the semi-finals.

CLOSE CALL: Broadmeadow midfielder Shane Paul, right, has a tussle with Hamilton's Daniel Bird in May. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

CLOSE CALL: Broadmeadow midfielder Shane Paul, right, has a tussle with Hamilton's Daniel Bird in May. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Most teams would rather avoid the two-time defending premiers.

Broadmeadow coach Ruben Zadkovich, though, said he doesn’t care who Magic play in the two-leg grand final qualifiers.

What they do agree on is that it’s not worth risking semi-final suspensions heading into their final-round clash at Darling Street Oval on Saturday night (6pm).

With a win, second-placed Hamilton (40 points, +20 goals) will force Edgeworth (42, +28) to gain a result on Sunday against struggling Lake Macquarie at Jack McLaughlan Oval to secure the premiership.

Broadmeadow (36, + 11) will finish fourth and play the premiers in the semis if third-placed Lambton Jaffas (36, + 19) defeat the Newcastle Jets Youth at Edden Oval (2.30pm) on Saturday. However, if the Jaffas don’t win, Broadmeadow can move into third with a win over Hamilton, then take on the second-placed side.

Out of all that, chances are the top four will stay in their positions, meaning semi-finals of Edgeworth versus Broadmeadow and Hamilton against Jaffas.

And no side will risk losing players for those games.

Zadkovich confirmed Jon Griffiths and Shane Paul, who face two-week bans if given another yellow card, will not play against Olympic, while Peter Haynes (illness) and others were in doubt.

“We’ve also got two or three who have been carrying injuries lately because we’ve needed them to play, but I don’t think I’ll do that tomorrow,” Zadkovich said.  

“We’ll be putting out a pretty makeshift team tomorrow because there’s not too much riding on it.

“In an ideal world, with no card trouble, I’d like to put out my strongest team and just try and steamroll straight  through them like we have been and keep up that momentum, but it would silly to gamble now with so much at stake.”

As for who he would rather face in the finals, Zadkovich said: “I actually don’t care, they are all good teams.

“The way I see it, you’ve got to be good enough to beat anyone. We haven’t beaten Edgeworth this year and if we get them home and away, that’s probably our best chance of putting one over them.

“If we don’t draw them, they’ll probably get through anyway and we’ll have to play them in the grand final. If we’re going to win something, we’re probably going to have to beat the best anyway.”

Bolch said Andrew Swan and Tom Davies, who face one-game bans if booked, will not play, but Rhys Cooper returns to the bench with a broken nose from his futsal tour of China with the Newcastle Titans.

Olympic, and Magic, have lost only once in the second round, and Bolch was keen for his side to continue their roll into the finals.

“It will all come down to the Jaffas game,” Bolch said.

“If they drop points to the Jets and Magic win, they’ll play us instead of Edgy, which I’m sure they’d prefer.

“I think most teams would prefer not to play Edgeworth over two legs. If Jaffas win, I think [Magic] will put the cue in the rack and rest up for the semis.”

Jaffas coach James Pascoe said his side had no card issues and were focused on boosting confidence after last week’s 2-1 loss to Maitland, and not on their finishing position.

“The only way we can approach it, and we said it before the Maitland game as well, that our last month has been inconsistent from a points point of view, in comparison to what we did at the start of the year,” Pascoe said.

“The performances haven’t been horrible but we just haven’t quite done enough across 90 minutes to really deserve much more than we’ve got.

“Our focus has to be on, for our own self-belief and confidence, just putting in a good performance and getting a result.”

​Edgeworth will be expected to cruise past Lake Macquarie, who have conceded 13 unanswered goals in their past three games, and claim a premiership hat-trick.

Coach Damian Zane was understandably confident, especially after his side came through unscathed from a trial game against Western Sydney Wanderers on Wednesday night.

“The boys are in a bit of a mode at the moment and I just can’t see anyone taking it from them now,” Zane said.

Zane said Ayden Brice, who will cop a one-game suspension if booked, would not play if the premiership was sealed before Sunday.

“If we have to win Sunday, I’ll be playing Bricey,” he said.

“He might miss one game, but the premiership is on the line and you’re not resting guys. We can still win a semi-final without Ayden Brice hopefully, it would still be a big loss, but if the premiership is there to win, you can’t hold back.”

He said Josh Evans, Dylan Holz, Dom Bizzarri and Daniel McBreen, who missed the Wanderers game, would return regardless. 

Elsewhere on Sunday, Maitland host ninth-placed Adamstown and Valentine travel to wooden spooners Weston.

Meanwhile, departing Lake Macquarie coach Anthony Richards will be an assistant to Zadkovich next year at Magic.

Broadmeadow also appointed former Jets Youth assistant Paul Gomez this week as under 20s coach.

Lake Macquarie had announced Gomez as an assistant to incoming coach Nick Webb last month.

In other news, Lake Macquarie’s Blake Green and Jaffas striker Pat Brown are tipped to return to Hamilton next season.