The only thing more important than winning this weekend’s Heritage Cup for Weston Bears coach Steve Piggott is ensuring his team is fully fit for the following week’s opening round clash against the Maitland Magpies.
“As a coach every time I send a team I want them to win and I know the players feel the same, but the timing of the Heritage Cup could have been a bit better,” Piggott said.
“It’s a great hit-out and we get to play against at least two NPL opponents in Edgeworth and Lake Macquarie, but a week’s break to prepare for the opening game against Maitland would have been better.
“I thinks it’s a great competition which celebrates the history of the game but scheduling needs to be looked at next year.”
The Bears and Cessnock City are both expected to field their strongest line-ups at stages of the tournament which has been expanded to nine teams this year.
It’s also a great opportunity to give younger players experience with first grade sides.
The Bears kick off the Heritage Cup on Friday against Edgeworth Eagles in one of two fixtures at Rockwell Automation Park.
The Weston and Edgeworth clash at 6.30pm will be followed by Lake Macquarie City and New Lambton at 7.45pm.
The four teams in action on Friday and Dudley Redhead United are in Pool A of the Heritage Cup with Cessnock City joined by defending champions Adamstown Rosebud, Maryland Fletcher and Wallsend.
Pool A matches will be held at Rockwell Automation Park on Saturday, with the final pool games and the final between the winner of Pool A and Pool B at Jack McLaughlin Oval on Sunday.
Pool B matches will be at Adamstown Oval on Saturday and Turner Park in Cessnock on Sunday.
The Bears and Eagles met on Sunday with Edgeworth winning 3-2 in wet and windy conditions after leading 2-0 at half-time.
“I think both teams have things to work on, but I was pleased that we were able to get the two goals to equal things up in the second half,” Piggott said.
“We had a few chances after that but they managed to get the winner with about 15 minutes to go.
“It was a fairly fast game despite the conditions and really gave the guys fitness a real work out.”
The loss was the first by the Bears in the preparation for the 2018 season, with four victories in trials prior to that.
“There were some encouraging signs up forward and we look like signing another striker in Liam O’Reilly from the Jets Youth team,” Piggott said. “He was at Edgeworth last year but had a knee injury for most of the year.
“He is on the comeback trail and has trained with us for the past 10 weeks.”
“He still has a bit of recovery to finalise but if we sign him he will be another option up forward we’re we’ve strengthened things.”
O’Reilly will be joined by Jackson Burston, Regan Lundy and exciting Belmont Swansea striker Tega Adjeke, who was the leading scorer in the NEW FM League One competition last season.
Piggott said experience recruits former Dutch international and Newcastle Jets captain Kew Jaliens, returning Bear Nathan Morris and well-travelled midfielder Josh Maguire had been a great influence at the club.
“The younger players have really fed off not only their experience but enthusiasm on the track,” he said.
“They have really set the standards around the club and everyone is benefiting from it.
“I think it would be unrealistic to expect them to play every game this season and we will have to manage their load, but we have already seen the benefit of recruiting them.”
- 6.30pm Weston v Edgeworth
- 11.15am Cessnock City v Wallsend
- 5.15pm Cessnock City v Adamstown Rosebud
- 10am Weston v New Lambton
- 4:15pm Weston v Lake Macquarie City
- 11:15am Cessnock City v Maryland Fletcher
Sunday, Jack McLaughlan
- 11:15am Weston v Dudley Redhead
- 4.15pm Final