DON’T try telling Edgeworth their time is up.
The Eagles start their campaign for a fourth consecutive Northern NSW NPL premiership against Lambton Jaffas on Saturday at Edden Oval (2.30pm) with a “bee in their bonnet”.
Edgeworth have lost Ayden Brice, Brody Taylor, Keanu Moore, Kieran Sanders and Keigo Moriyasu since last year’s grand final loss to Jaffas. Coming in are former Weston players Jamie Byrnes and Jacob Golding and ex-Jets Youth members Mitch Dobson and Tyson Jackson.
The 2017 departures, which also include Jaffas recruit Bren Hammel, have prompted many to predict an end to their title streak.
Eagles coach Damian Zane said talk of their fall from the top had motivated his side, especially the defenders, who have lost only Brice from their ranks.
“I think the biggest bee in their bonnet is all the press about that we’ve lost all our attacking players, and this and that,” Zane said. “We might have been a good team to watch, but the reason we won last year, it was our defence. We couldn’t score a goal to save ourselves early on last year, but it was our defence holding us together and getting those wins.”
Zane believed “the improvement of our players will compensate for the losses.”
“I just expect a lot from the boys,” he said. “I see the emergence of Adam Cawley now. I just think he’s going to have a good season and Tyson Jackson is a good pick-up and will do well for us.
“Until he picked up an injury, Dylan Holz was flying and I think he will be a better player this year. We’ll let him get forward more and he’s got goals in him. I expect him to cover Brody’s goals this year and I expect Adam to cover Kieran’s goals.
“Will Bower is a better player than he was last year, so I think he’ll score more. [Daniel McBreen] is in a better state physically and mentally. He’s probably looking at this as his last season and he wants to go out with a bang.
“We’re not going to sign players for the sake of it when we’ve got loyal boys coming through who know what’s expected,” he added. “Why would I sign an average first-grader from somewhere else with a bit of a name who wants inflated wages when we can build the next Brice or Taylor.”
Jaffas coach James Pascoe said his side would not be taking the Eagles lightly.
“I watched them two weekends ago against Weston and, for me, they probably still play just about the best brand of football in the competition in terms of how they use the football,” Pascoe said. “I think they will still win a hell of a lot more games than they’ll lose and anyone who writes them off is a fool.”
Pascoe said Luke Remington (ankle), Ridge Mapu (knee) and Jobe Wheelouse (ankle) would be out but Michael Sessions (ankle) and Michael Kantarovski (hamstring) should play against Edgeworth.
Also Saturday, the Jets Youth play Adamstown (2.30pm) and Maitland host Weston (7pm). On Sunday, Lake Macquarie welcome Broadmeadow (2.30pm) and Charlestown travel to Hamilton (6pm).
Charlestown coach David Tanchevski said star recruit Ljubo Milicevic was “ready to go” and the Blues, who feature former Hamilton stars Danny Ireland, Kane Goodchild and Scott Smith, would be full-strength against Olympic.
Hamilton coach Peter McGuinness said Stuart Musialik (hamstring) and Jacob Bailey (suspended) would be out.
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