NORTHERN NSW Football will look to build on the concept of a rivalry round to open the National Premier League season after some success in making it part of the 2015 draw.
The second NNSWF NPL season will kick off on Friday, April 10 when Edgeworth take on fellow Lake Macquarie area club Charlestown at Jack McLaughlan Oval from 8.30pm. As well as a local derby of sorts, the game will be a rematch of their elimination final this year in which Charlestown prevailed 2-1.
Defending major premiers Lambton Jaffas play reigning minor premiers Newcastle Jets Youth the following day at Edden Oval from 2.45pm. The Jaffas have recruited several former Jets in their two years in the top division, including ex-Newcastle captain and 2014 grand final man of the match Jobe Wheelhouse.
On Sunday, April 12, the biggest rivalry in the premier competition – Broadmeadow versus Hamilton, the Macedonians against the Greeks – will headline the first round at Magic Park at 2.45pm.
South Cardiff will host promoted Maitland at Ulinga Park and Adamstown welcome Weston at Adamstown Oval on the Sunday at 2.45pm to complete the round.
An obvious match to feature in the rivalry round was between coalfields clubs Weston and Maitland, two groups which have already clashed over recruitment at senior and junior level.
NNSWF senior club and referee development manager Gary Fisher said the governing body tried its hardest to make the match a reality in round one but problems with youth fixtures and ground availability forced a rethink.
Despite the setback, Fisher said NNSWF was interested in making the rivalry round part of its promotions for the premier competitions.
‘‘I’m keen to do that and do rounds where we feature historic clubs playing each other, like West Wallsend and Wallsend this year in first division,’’ Fisher said.
‘‘We will also look to feature charities in a couple of rounds, like we have in recent years.’’
The main change to the league’s draw from last season is the return of a four-team, home-and-away semi-final series. Last used in 2011, the format replaces the five-team system.
Fisher said the switch was made partly because of the decision to not include the Jets Youth in the finals series, which meant only nine of the 10 clubs could qualify for the play-offs.
‘‘We’re trying to make it consistent across the leagues as well,’’ Fisher said.
‘‘It also gives every club involved one home game and the chance to profit from that.
‘‘If you finished fifth in a five-team finals, you could never host a finals game.’’
The 2015 draw also includes night games in the early rounds. As well as opening night, Edgeworth will host Friday night games against Broadmeadow on April 24 and Maitland on May 1.
Hamilton host Edgeworth in the other night game, in round two on Saturday, April 18.