NPL Northern NSW Grand Final Preview
Edgeworth Eagles FC v Broadmeadow Magic FC
Saturday 8 September 2018, 6:00 pm
McDonald Jones Stadium
Round 14: Edgeworth 0 Broadmeadow 0
Where they finished:
Edgeworth 1st (46), Broadmeadow 2nd (35)
Past three starts:
Edgeworth – won Lambton 3-2 (h), drew Lambton 1-1 (a), won Valentine 0-1 (a)
Magic – lost Maitland 1-0 (h), won Maitland 1-3 (a), lost Maitland 2-0 (a)
Best Result in NNSW Premier Grand Finals:
Winners – 5 (1978, 2003, 2010, 2016)
Winners – 6 (2004, 2005, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013)
It was a thrill-a-minute semi-finals series which saw something special unfold at Edgeworth late in extra-time, while the ten men of Magic triumphed to earn their spot back in the big dance.
The perennial premiers and competition yardstick, Edgeworth, are in their fourth successive Grand Final and looking for their third premiership-championship double in four years.
After missing out in heartbreaking circumstances, on penalties in last year’s semi-final clash with Edgeworth, Broadmeadow will be hungry to claim their seventh championship in club history.
Looking at the record between these two clubs so far this season, it’s Edgeworth who has a slight advantage. They won their round 3 clash 3-2 and drew 0-0 in round 14.
Since Ruben Zadkovich took the helm at Magic at the beginning of 2017, he and Damian Zane have faced off six times. Magic has won just once, 2-1 in the second leg of their semi-final clash last season but went down eventually on penalties. Edgeworth has won three, and the two sides have drawn twice.
Magic flew under the radar for much of the opening stages of the regular season, with all the attention on the rampaging Charlestown and star-studded Lambton sides who were looking the goods.
Zadkovich’s side toiled and chipped away at improving elements of their game and led the competition as late on as round 15. It was a loss to Charlestown which knocked them off top spot, but they rallied and fought hard to finish in second place.
Their finals run was an interesting one also, as they crushed Maitland in the first half of the first leg with three away goals from which the Magpies never recovered. Despite a 1-0 defeat at home in the second leg, Magic went through 3-2 on aggregate.
One huge loss from the semifinals series is defensive stalwart Jon Griffiths, who was shown a straight red card for a last-man tackle in the second half of the second-leg tie with Maitland. It means he’ll miss the chance to help his club to a potential seventh Grand Final victory as well as play at McDonald Jones Stadium.
There are players in the Magic team who do a lot of the hard work and tend to go fairly unnoticed. The likes of captain Josh Piddington and Luke Virgili in the backline, along with midfield workhorses Shane Paul and Justin Broadley will be key for Magic in this encounter.
With being the best-attacking side of the league, Zadkovich has seen possible options to squeeze into his front four with players in the likes of; James Virgili, Kale Bradbury, John Majurovski, Mitch Oxborrow, Cody Carroll, and Dino Fajkovic.
Two of those men, Virgili and Bradbury, have accounted for almost two-thirds of Broadmeadow’s goals this season. Virgili has scored 14 goals and Bradbury 16 and thus will attract most of the attention on Saturday night.
It would be dangerous to ignore the other outlets at Broadmeadow’s disposal. Majurovski has proved himself a perennial threat in the final third, and the likes of Oxborrow and Carroll have the potential to spark some ‘magic’.
At the beginning of the season, with more than half a dozen departures of key players and very little noise about recruitment most had written Edgeworth’s chances off.
With a team of youngsters and dependable club stalwarts though, under Damian Zane, the Eagles dug in and shocked the competition to win the league for a fourth successive season.
They didn’t just win the league: but walked it. They won by 11 points, the largest margin since the 1999 season and the equal-highest points tally amassed by Zane’s Edgeworth side in his four years at the helm.
If that was an extraordinary feat though, their run to the Grand Final was even more so. Down 2-1 on aggregate in the final minute of the second leg of their semifinal, a Josh Rose goal pushed the game to extra-time.
They went behind again in extra-time but again pulled level through Dom Bizzarri. A Jose Atayde goal in the 121st minute sealed Edgeworth’s place in this Grand Final showdown in absolutely incredible fashion.
Similar to Broadmeadow, the Eagles are blessed with a number of key men in the spine of their side which have been absolutely key to their success this season. Think captain Josh Evans, Pat Wheeler, and Dom Bizzarri who have been integral to what Edgeworth has done these past four years.
While not blessed with the depth in the final third which Magic, the Eagles record the best defensive side of the league. However, with the talents of players such as Tyson Jackson, Adam Cawley, Jamie Byrnes and Daniel McBreen, it’s not exactly a barebones Edgy squad.
It’s that spread of talent which has helped Edgeworth this season, and it’s hard to identify one key threat at the front end. Their top three scorers (Cawley, McBreen, and Byrnes) all have six goals each.
One of the big questions around this match for Edgeworth concerns Daniel McBreen: will he play? On international duty as assistant coach of Guam, McBreen will return to Australia on the morning of the decider.
Despite finishing in second place, Magic boasts the best goal difference in the league. They scored 44 goals at a rate of just over two a match, a league-high, and conceded just 20 for a goal difference of +24.
Edgeworth’s goal difference is slightly lower at +21, which is perhaps reflective of their slightly more defensive outlook. They scored 37 goals at a rate of just under two a match but conceded just 16 goals.
It’s a run of defence which seen Edgeworth keep an incredible nine clean sheets in their twenty league matches this season. In fact, Edgeworth has conceded three or more goals in a single match just twice this season: at Lambton in round one, and to Hamilton in the FFA Cup.
Contrast that with Broadmeadow’s attack, which has scored three or more goals in a single game on 12 occasions this season including the FFA Cup. Keeping all that in mind, it’s near impossible to see whether attack or defence will win out on Saturday.
A Grand Final win would put the icing on the cake for Broadmeadow, who have enjoyed success so far this season. They went the deepest into the FFA Cup they’d ever been before, where they lost to Bentleigh Greens in the round of 16.
For Edgeworth, it was the first time under Damian Zane that they’d failed to qualify for the competition’s Round of 32 after losing out to Hamilton 3-2 in the sixth round of qualifying.
There will be a distinct Hyundai A-League flavour in this decider, also. Edgeworth’s Daniel McBreen and Josh Rose both enjoyed stellar careers in the country’s top division.
Magic’s crop of former Hyundai A-League players is considerably younger though, with James Virgili and Mitch Oxborrow both having spent time playing for various clubs in the competition.
What will be the difference between these two sides? It’s tough to say. You look at the goals Broadmeadow has scored and the frequency with which they’ve whacked in three or more, and contrast that with the fact Edgeworth has only conceded that many on two occasions.
Look at the depth of talent Magic has across the front third and the speed they possess, and contrast that with the incredibly solid Edgeworth defence and the speed of players like Sam Maxwell in the backline.
There’s also the mental aspect for Edgeworth, who go into this one as favourites and as a side who has won two of the last three Grand Finals: one of those against Magic, back in 2016.
It makes a case for the Edgeworth side having some big game experience but then look at Magic who has played in every finals series bar one in the past seven seasons and went deep into the FFA Cup this season.
There is a reason which Edgeworth are slight favourites though, and it’s that perennial success and their ability to fight through adversity. If they can summon that inner strength and put their best foot forward on Saturday evening, it’s incredibly tough to look past them in this clash.
What the coaches said:
Damien Zane (Edgeworth)
“They’ve been good, it was actually a massive game and we put a bit of work into them on Tuesday. Told them to make sure, especially the younger guys, if there’s any soreness get it treated now. It’s their last chance, the game is on Saturday. They’ve been really energetic when we were on our way to winning the premiership we looked a bit flat and I didn’t know how we’d go but we had the week against Valentine to recharge, and since then we look energetic again. I think we’re ready.
“We thought Will [Bower], he was battling with his ankle, but he came out on Tuesday and looked like there was nothing wrong with him! He’s been getting treatment and he’s fine, that’s the upside to being young, isn’t it? You recover from things quick. Dylan Holz has had a light week, he hasn’t been back long and to give 120 minutes was something special in my mind. His body was not ready for it, but he’s recovering well and he’ll have a run tonight and tomorrow. Injury-wise, we’re fine. Hopefully, it’s getting everyone right and recovered from last weekend and we should be right to go.
“For me, personally, and I think for the player’s who have been there, last year we didn’t have that hunger that we have had [this season]. With success, it becomes the norm and I think it wasn’t until after the Grand Final, a few weeks down the track, that players started hurting a bit more and thinking about the opportunity we’d missed. The new group, half a new group, that hunger is back there this week and for me personally, I know it is.
“Daniel McBreen will play a massive role. In the sheds with a youngish squad, he’s a bit of a larrikin who can definitely relax the younger players and get around to them, and that’s invaluable. To top it off, last two weeks the game was there for him to come on and make an impact. I think he’s going to do that, to be honest, I think what he can still do on the field for us is massive. There are two things: before the game and that last thirty minutes.
“Magic are great in attack, I think their strength is there but they’re all around a good team otherwise they wouldn’t be here. We expect them to have a good crack at us with the attack, James, Kale, Johnny Maj up the top with Mitch Oxborrow in behind them. There’s plenty of talent there and likewise, there’s plenty of talent and discipline in our defence so there’s going to be a big battle there. I think how we attack will have a big say on the result.
“Mark Wilson, ex-Newcastle breaker and ex-Edgeworth player has been drumming up support and I think we’ve got a really tight club out there. There won’t be many youth players who won’t be here with parents, we’re still a community-based team that gets the locals down to games. We’re expecting a big support that can hopefully get the boys home.”
Ruben Zadkovich (Magic)
“It was an interesting one, the home and away leg, I learnt a little bit from that and from last year as well. First leg we went in and we were pretty ‘let’s throw everything at them and catch them unaware’ and it worked. Going into the second leg was tricky in terms of you don’t want to defend the whole time and invite pressure, but you don’t want to go searching for the first goal and cop one. I think we were a little unlucky in the game, two penalties and a red card is not something you expect to face in a semi. Especially when the game wasn’t hostile.
“It’s nice to be here because I think we deserve it. I saw a few interesting comments from rival coaches saying you wouldn’t want to go into the finals off the back of two or three losses, but it’s a nice headache to have when you’re in the finals. My team showed quite clearly when they needed to when the tie started, away from home at Maitland, and it was 3-0 pretty quickly. We’ve given ourselves this opportunity now, it’s what we’ve been aiming for all year, the pinnacle, and now it’s here I’m confident we can do the job.
“Jon Griffiths being out is more a loss for Jonny Griff, I feel. We’ve got a great squad and the line up we put out on the weekend will still be very strong, he’s obviously a quality player and it’d be nice to have him but what I mean by that is I don’t think we’ll lose too much because we’ll still have someone of quality play. If anything, there’ll be a few guys who will take a bit of his slack. I’ve heard the comments of ‘let’s do it for Johnny, it’s not fair that he’s missing out.’ Sometimes a suspension to a good team man can pull the team together, and I think that’ll be the case.
“Let’s not undersell the fact that the squad that we had is quality. Luke Virgili and Josh Piddington, they’ve won Grand Finals. Shane Paul and Matt Hoole, 150 games. Guys that have been at the club for a long time and been successful with the club. It’s a good mix. We’ve achieved two big goals of ours: winning the Maso Cup for the first time, last 16 representing Northern NSW in the FFA Cup. We fell a bit short with the Premiership, but second is our highest finish since 2012/13 so it shows improvement there.
“James Virgili and Mitch Oxborrow have had around five weeks out, which is not ideal but they’re x-factor type players and they’re quality. You put them on this great pitch, the surface is perfect, you’ll see a really good showing from both of those guys. They’ll be lacking a little bit of that fitness, but grand finals aren’t won on fitness they’re won on heart, attitude, effort, leaving everything out there and you’ll see that from James and Mitch. That’s what you get from my boys, that’s why they’re my boys and I think they’re good enough to do the job. It’s just about execution on the night.”