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HCCAFL: Saints ready to rip in after lengthy spell on sidelines

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After a prolonged stint on the sidelines, the Maitland Saints are ready to kick-start their 2022 Hunter Central Coast AFL (HCCAFL) campaign this weekend.

Following the competition’s COVID-enforced shutdown in 2021, and the opening round bye this season, it’s been a long time between drinks for the Ben Stewart/Dustin Spriggs-coached outfit.

But, finally, the Black Diamond Cup lads will venture to Rose Point Park on Saturday 9 April to lock horns with “derby” rivals Singleton Roosters.

“The boys are keen to get on the field,” Stewart said.

“Our firsts had last weekend off while the reserves were unfortunately washed out.

“So, everyone’s chomping at the bit, ready to go.

“It’s probably been about eight or nine months since we’ve had a kick.

“The comp was abandoned at the end of June, early July, so we’ve endured a long break.

“It’s now time to play.”

Ironically, that lay-off could ultimately work in the Saints’ favour, thanks to a full-on pre-season.

“It’s been good,” Stewart admitted.

“We were lucky to secure a ground at Lochinvar, instead of Max McMahon Oval, which gets flooded a fair bit.

“We’ve enjoyed a decent run until a couple of weeks ago when the rain hit.

“However, every club is in the same boat [at the moment].

“Thankfully, it’s one of the first years – since I started coaching here the past few seasons – that we haven’t lost many key players.

“In fact, we’ve picked up more.

“We might have lost one or two but gained five or six in our top 22, which is awesome.

“Our captains and leadership group are still here, too.

“They’re all in their mid-20s now, and we’ve got the teenagers pushing up competing for spots, so that’s exactly what you want.”

Maitland’s opponents Singleton suffered a massive defeat, 14.21.105 to 3.3.21, at the hands of the Warners Bay Bulldogs less than seven days ago.

But, Stewart isn’t reading anything into that result.

“They’re always good on their home ground; they always have been,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“It can be a bit boggy and muddy down there – and the Roosters love it that way.

“I think we’re in for a good tough contest.

“We came into grade [Black Diamond Cup] four years ago, the same time as Singleton.

“That’s after contesting a couple of grand finals in 2016 and 2017.

“So, there’s a fierce rivalry between the clubs.

“The Roosters play an inside game, it’s their strength.

“They utilise it every week, it works for them, so we’re expecting the same thing tomorrow.

“However, we’re keen to start 2022 with a win.

“We haven’t done that [in our first round] in my seasons of coaching yet.

“I’d be happy to break that drought.”

Stewart also holds high hopes for the Saints in 2022.

“I think we’ll go quite well,” he said.

“We’re definitely aiming for finals.

“Yep, we’re using the “F” word,” he added with a laugh.

“I won’t say it too much to the boys – but that’s our goal this year.

“We’ve been slowly building in the past.

“We have good patches and then drop off for a bit.

“We need to stop that and play more consistently for six-to-eight weeks at a time.

“That’s what Dustin and I are looking for.

“Terrigal Avoca is the team to beat, then I believe there’ll be a mix of four or five sides beneath them.

“Hopefully, we can be among that bunch.”

In other fixtures, the Newcastle City Blues meet the Killarney Vale Bombers at Feighan Oval, the Terrigal Avoca Panthers take on the Bulldogs at Hylton Moore Oval, and the Cardiff Hawks receive the bye.

In the Black Diamond Cup Women’s division, the Newcastle City goes head-to-head with Killarney Vale, Terrigal Avoca plays Warners Bay, Maitland tackles Singleton and the Wyong Lakes Magpies face the Cardiff Hawks at Northlakes Oval.

2022 Hunter Central Coast AFL

Black Diamond Cup Men’s

Round one:

  • Warners Bay Bulldogs 14.21.105 d Singleton Roosters 3.3.21
  • Cardiff Hawks 11.13.79 d Newcastle City Blues 7.19.61
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers – postponed
  • Bye: Maitland Saints

Round two draw (Saturday 9 April):

  • Newcastle City Blues v Killarney Vale Bombers (Feighan Oval)
  • Maitland Saints v Singleton Roosters (Rose Point Park)
  • Terrigal Avoca Panthers v Warners Bay Bulldogs (Hylton Moore Oval)
  • Bye: Cardiff Hawks

Black Diamond Cup Women’s

Round one:

  • Newcastle City Blues 11.9.75 d Cardiff Hawks 1.4.10
  • Singleton Roosters 14.11.95 d Warners Bay Bulldogs 2.3.15
  • Killarney Vale Bombers v Terrigal Avoca Panthers – postponed
  • Wyong Lakes Magpies v Maitland Saints – postponed

Round two draw (Saturday 9 April):

  • Newcastle City Blues v Killarney Vale Bombers (Feighan Oval)
  • Terrigal Avoca Panthers v Warners Bay Bulldogs (Hylton Moore Oval)
  • Wyong Lakes Magpies v Cardiff Hawks (Northlakes Oval)
  • Maitland Saints v Singleton Roosters (Rose Point Park)

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