BACK OF THE NET: Gunners chase silverware

Valentine’s clash with the Emerging Jets will double as a fundraiser for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation. Valentine players Cassidy Davis (left) and Toria Campbell (right) with the Emerging Jets’ Kobie Ferguson. Pic: Marina NeilSOUTH Cardiff coach Greg Asquith believes his players deserve to take something away from this season and tonight’s State Cup final against Broadmeadow looms as their best chance.

Sitting on 14 points from 14 rounds in the Northern NSW National Premier League, the Gunners are eight points out of the top five with four games to go and a mathematical chance only of making the finals.

Asquith agreed their hopes of silverware this season rested on tonight’s knockout final from 7pm at Magic Park, and the players would treat the occasion with that in mind.

“We’re worked really hard this year and not always had luck go our way,” Asquith said.

“They deserve to be playing for something. It’s nice to walk away from the season with something to show for it, and that’s what we’re trying to chase.”

Although Magic are only three points above South Cardiff on the NPL table, Broadmeadow coach Glen Chapman is taking a different mindset into the game.

He has not given up hope of his team winning a fourth consecutive league grand final, even though they are five points off the finals pace after a shattering 1-1 draw with South Cardiff on Sunday.

That followed 2-1, 3-0 and 2-0 losses to Weston, Jets Youth and Lambton Jaffas respectively.

“I only look at it from the point that we are competing in the State Cup. It has nothing to do with the NPL,” Chapman said.

“It’s a chance to win silverware and prizemoney, and that’s the only way I can treat things at the moment.

“When the weekend game comes . . . anything can happen in this competition.

“The truth is, we are running out of time. We know that.

“But we are just focused on tomorrow, and if we take the next step against Olympic on Sunday, you never know what can happen.”

Both coaches took positives out of the draw on Sunday, where Chris Berlin’s goal for Magic was cancelled out by Daniel Johnson’s converted penalty given away by Daniel Casciaroli.

Chapman said his players were “shattered” with the result but he was happy with their commitment.

“I thought first half we played really well considering the conditions,” Chapman said.

“And the boys gave it everything they had. I couldn’t have asked for any more.

“They dug deep, and you know they have when supporters are clapping and cheering them off the park, even they came away with a 1-1 draw.”

Asquith was pleased with his side’s work ethic and said they would need to repeat the dose to topple Magic tonight.

“I thought Magic were good on the weekend. It was the best I’ve seen them play this year,” he said.

“They have been very successful for a very long time and are the benchmark of the competition.

“I know they’re not sitting where they want to be at the moment, but they still have the players there to definitely make an impact.”

Magic welcome back Hakan Canli and Jon Griffiths from suspension for the final, which was postponed last Wednesday night after a power failure at Magic Park.

The Gunners, meanwhile, are sweating on the fitness of leading striker Jamie Byrnes, who lasted only 30 minutes on Sunday due to a corked thigh.

WESTON Bears hero Nathan Morris has a two-vote lead in the player of the year race heading into the final four rounds of the inaugural Northern NSW National Premier League.

After his late winner in a 3-2 win over Edgeworth on Sunday, Morris has 15 points in the count, which is judged on three-two-one voting from referees after each game and now goes in camera.

Despite missing four matches through a quadriceps injury, Morris has scored five goals and leads voting from Jets Youth midfielder Reece Papas and Weston’s Connor Evans, who have 13 points through 14 rounds.

Bears coach Steve Piggott said Morris’s effort had been outstanding given his trials this season.

As well as the quadriceps injury, Morris, who turns 28 next week, has switched from midfield to central defence mid-season.

Piggott said Morris had handled his recovery from injury and positional move like a professional.

“We had a problem playing out from the back, which is something we are trying to get the players to buy into, but we just couldn’t get it right,” he said.

“We chatted about moving him back there, and even though it’s not his favourite position, he has put all the energy and enthusiasm needed into it and he’s been an overwhelming success there,” Piggott said. “His tackling has been good and his talking and ability to organise the defence has been exceptional.”

Jets Youth flyer Brandon Lundy is fourth in voting on 12 points.

WESTON will celebrate their Bradmanesque feat in top-flight Northern NSW football at a dinner on August 9.

The Bears are playing their 50th consecutive season of top-division football in the region, a streak which is twice as long as the next best club’s.

Edgeworth have kept their place in the competition since 1990, while fellow heavyweights Hamilton (1992) and Broadmeadow (1995) are also long-term members of the leading competition.

The Bears, who have been in the competition since 1964, will mark the achievement at Weston Workers Club with a dinner, which will feature the announcement of their 50 Seasons team, raffles, guest speakers and auctions. Tickets are $30 from Weston Workers Club or the football club. For more information, contact Shane Johnson on 0412 512 722.

■ Skipper Blake Thompson came to the rescue again for Maitland to keep the Magpies on pace with Valentine in the promotion battle before their crucial clash in two weeks.

Thompson scored with a header midway through the second half to get the Magpies out of jail in a 1-0 away win over Thornton on Sunday.

The three points kept them level at the top with Valentine, who increased their goal difference advantage to 12 with a 7-0 drubbing of West Wallsend at Johnston Park.

Singleton beat Cessnock 6-5 and Belmont-Swansea defeated Toronto-Awaba 5-0.

■ The Emerging Jets under 12s team will serve as Newcastle’s Asian Cup ambassadors while competing in the Saitama International Junior Football Tournament this month.

The side leave on Saturday for Japan, where they will compete in the annual under-12 international tournament.

They were farewelled yesterday by Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy, who gave them gifts and Asian Cup invitations from the city to pass on to the Tokyo and Saitama governors.

The squad is: Isaac Quinn, Kellan Barry, Matthew Burton, Nicholas Curran, Alex Hilton, Ethan Kulupach, Dean Larson, Nicholas Martinelli, Adam Mlinaric, Sascha Montefiore, Dylan Newbold, Jack Simmons, Riley Tydd, Bailey Wells, Lachlan Bayliss and Joshua Gardner.