NPL grand final: Broadmeadow skipper driven for rematch with Eagles

After watching on in bitter frustration at the 2016 grand final, Broadmeadow captain Josh Piddington admits to having “extra drive” for the rematch with Edgeworth on Saturday night.

And the tough-as-teak defender was not letting a ruptured AC joint stop him from a chance at revenge in the Northern NSW NPL decider at McDonald Jones Stadium.

GRAND STAGE: Edgeworth skipper Josh Evans and Broadmeadow counterpart Josh Piddington with the NNSW NPL silverware at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

GRAND STAGE: Edgeworth skipper Josh Evans and Broadmeadow counterpart Josh Piddington with the NNSW NPL silverware at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Piddington will line up in a seventh top division NNSW grand final hoping to maintain his perfect record in championship games at Magic. The club’s only grand final loss in his career was in 2016 when the Eagles won 2-1 at Magic Park. He missed the match with medial ligament damage in his knee. This time, fellow defender Jon Griffiths is out after picking up a red card last week.

“I definitely have a bit of my own interest coming out, wanting to get something back in this match, particularly with the result not going our way in 2016,” Piddington said. “It’s just a little bit of extra drive, but it’s also given me the chance to talk to Jon and help him get his head around it. Let him know it’s going to be all right and there’ll be another chance.”

Almost 32, Piddington was also savouring his chance to play at McDonald Jones Stadium, which hosted the grand final for the first time last season. His only other experience playing on the pitch was “a couple of seven-a-side games with the Newcastle United junior teams”.

“The enormity of this game for me, especially at the back-end of my career ... there may not be another chance to be on this ground and play in front of such a big crowd,” he said. 

Adding to his motivation is the rivalry between Broadmeadow and Edgeworth, which has grown since the 2016 decider. Intense clashes, including a semi-final win on penalties last year for Edgeworth, a financial dispute and complaints against each other about off-field issues have increased tensions.

“There is a bit of a rivalry there, whether it’s between players, the clubs, committees and supporters,” Piddington said. “It’s a couple of heavyweights fighting it out for the title. But the chance to play in a grand final, no matter who you’re playing, everyone will be up for it.”

Piddington hurt his shoulder against Bentleigh in the FFA Cup two weeks ago but has battled through.

“I’m getting older and injuries probably tend to hurt more,” he smiled. “But lower body-wise, I’m moving well and I can put up with the shoulder for one more game.”

Eagles captain Josh Evans said there was a “healthy rivalry” between the clubs.

“Broadmeadow has always been a rival of Edgeworth’s. It’s been heated for years and it will probably be for years to come,” Evans said. “We love playing them and we’re always up for a challenge.”

I think it’s just one of those things. If you can keep moving, you keep moving. It’s a grand final, the last game and you worry about getting fixed up afterwards.

Like last year, the Eagles survived a thrilling semi-final to make the decider. This time they beat Lambton Jaffas 3-2 with two late extra-time goals. Evans said they had learned from the experience of 2017, which ended with an extra-time loss to Jaffas in the grand final. The loss came after two grand finals wins for Edgeworth, who have secured the past four regular-season premierships.

“Last year we had big semi-finals and emotions were high,” Evans said.

“I think this year it’s about calming the guys down. We haven’t won anything yet, we’ve got a goal in mind and that’s winning the grand final, and hopefully we can do it this year.”

Broadmeadow, the league’s leading attacking side, have improved their defence this season to sit behind only Edgeworth.

“It was definitely a focus to rein in the goals conceded and they way we were conceding,” Piddington said.

“There were a few leaky results at the end of the year but it could be attributed to a number of things, like the importance of the game and our position on the table.

“But we’ve definitely tightened things up this year under Ruben and his methods, and what is expected by us.

“They are obviously still a bit more consistent with what they do and how they do it. 

“That last 15 minutes of games has been critical for them in a lot of wins, so we’ll make sure we’re on our toes for that and play a full 90 minutes.

“Jon is a massive loss. He’s been one of the most consistent and better players in our side for a number of years, but Ruben has molded some of the younger guys who could come in, so it shouldn’t change too much of what we do.”