Maitland FC coach Mick Bolch expects tough Bears in local derby

Three teams in semi-finals, two teams in grand finals and at least one title.

Those are the ambitious goals as well as a spot in the FFA Cup final 32 set by Maitland FC president Ray Watkins, albeit tongue in cheek, for new coach Mick Bolch and his staff to deliver in 2018.

Watkins lofty plans for the coming Northern NSW National Premier League season came at the Magpies senior team launch at East Maitland Bowling Club last Friday night a week ahead of their season opener at Cook Square Park in the local derby against Weston Bears on Saturday night.

However, given the Magpies performance over the past two years the predictions may not be so far off the mark.

Maitland’s first grade team made the finals in 2016 and a tough catch-up schedule and injuries meant they narrowly missed last year’s semi-finals.

The club’s 20s team won the 2017 grand final against minor premiers Hamilton Olympic and the 18s were sixth only five points outside the top four.

On top of that Maitland’s first grade team fell to Edgeworth Eagles in one of two qualifying matches for the FFA Cup final 32.

However, Bolch’s main focus is on Saturday night against the Bears who beat a full-strength Edgeworth on their way to winning five straight games to claiming the Heritage Cup on the weekend.

He will hand the match-night duties to his support staff on Saturday night as he serves the second match of a two-game ban for abusing a referee, which carried over from last season.

Bolch said he didn’t like to make predictions about a season, but admitted he would be disappointed if the Magpies first grade and 20s team did not make the semi-finals.

“The 18s are going through a rebuilding phase and will struggle to finish in the top four. As for predictions about the FFA Cup that is so reliant on the draw that it’s not even worth considering.

“I don’t like to put targets on wanting to have so many points at various stages of the season or anything really beyond what is immediately in front of us.

“I like to keep the team’s focus on our next opponent and how we can collect the three points.”

Bolch said Weston had recruited well and the addition of experienced trio Kew Jaliens, Nathan Morris and Josh Maguire added real stability and direction to a young squad.

Inheriting a squad blessed with plenty of speed and attacking flair, Bolch has strengthened the Magpies defensive structures and personnel with the addition of Grant Brown, Marcus Duncan, Alex Read and twins Matthew and Andrew Swan.

Matthew Swan is the only player unavailable. Kick off in the main game is at 7pm.