Maitland Magpies go into their first game of the season away to Charlestown City Blues with a new coach and added depth.
Former Macqaurie Football Academy technical director Phil Dando, a former New Zealand international who played for KB United in the Australian national league, takes the helm on Sunday.
Magpies assistant coach Reece Thompson said the club was excited about having Dando on board.
“He is an experienced football person who brings a lot of knowledge to the game. He will be running game day and our training sessions along with myself and Matt Thompson,” Thompson said.
“It means Thommo will be able to concentrate more on playing.”
Thompson said he believed growing depth and experience in the young squad would provide the key improvement this season.
“I think it comes with experience. We went well last year and were only a goal away from making the grand final. We don’t have to tweak too much, but what we have added in is another midfielder in Andrew Pawiak, another attacker in Josh Dutton-Black and then you’ve got the experience of Shane Sherrif coming in.
“Those three players are certainly going to add a lot.
“But the most important thing for the club this year is the amount of depth we’ve got.
“Tommy Duggan and Adam Duggan are two of the young guys coming through who will have big roles.
“We were pretty solid in defence, we were worried when we lost Heffernan but Shane Sherrif comes in as a like for like replacement. He has got plenty of experience and we’ve got guys like Zac Hill, Liam Thornton and our captain Reece Thompson who have been there for a well. Sam Rossi has also stepped up really well.”
Bears a work in progress: Piggott
Weston Bears coach Steve Piggott said there were good signs from Sunday’s draw against Macquarie City, but the game also exposed deficiencies in his young squad who face power side Broadmeadow at Magic Park on Saturday night.
“We were in the game and probably gifted a couple of chances by poor defending, one from the goalkeeper and one from a couple of backs. They made us pay for those chances,” Piggott said.
“But we came back both times from being down a goal. That in itself is pleasing for a young team.
“We need to take more of the opportunities we created. We hit the bar and the post and had two headers from six metres out. While we are creating chances the onus is on us to score the goals.
“If that was Broadmeadows, Edgeworth or Hamilton they would have taken those chances. That’s the difference of being in the mix or back with the also-rans.
“We’ve only got a few players who have played 20 or 30 games in the NPL, we are going to take some time to get that craft and culture.”
Kick off at Magic Park on Saturday is 6.30pm.