There were high expectations of a huge weekend of sport, but few could have expected just how many twists and turns it has delivered. And there's more to come.
Soccer made its debut at a packed Maitland Sportsground, the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs beat Maitland Pickers to secure a spot in the semi-finals, the Maitland Blacks suffered a late penalty loss in their qualifying final and the Royal Federal Hotel finished in the Maitland A-grade netball top four with a two-goal win against Maitland Carpet Court.
But there’s more to come with the Maitland Magpies to face Broadmeadow Magic in the first leg of their Northern NSW NPL semi-final this afternoon and the Pickers and Bulldogs both sweating on the Cessnock Goannas beating Central Newcastle today to give them a double chance and home final respectively.
Even the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt was sidelined into support act role as the Maitland Sportsground welcomed soccer for the first time in front of a huge crowd as the Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners played out a draw.
Bolt’s appearance was the cream on top of a celebration of greater things to come at this fantastic facility.
The drama was delivered further afield as the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs secured their spot in the finals with a memorable 17-10 win against the Maitland Pickers at a packed Kurri Kurri Sportsground.
Tears were flowing at The Graveyard as the Bulldogs not only earned their spot in the semi-finals but denied the Pickers the minor premiership.
In yet another twist in an amazingly close Newcastle RL season, both sets of fans find themselves barracking for a Cessnock Goannas victory against Central Newcastle at St John Oval today.
A Goannas win will deliver the Bulldogs fourth spot and a home elimination final against Central. The Pickers will finish third and get the double chance against South Newcastle in the qualifying final.
If Central win the Pickers will host the Bulldogs in an elimination final at the Maitland Sportsground.
The Maitland Blacks came agonisingly close to advancing straight to the major semi-final with a 29-31 loss to Merewether Carlton at Newcastle No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
A Pat Batey runaway intercept try had given the Blacks a one-point lead, but with just 90 seconds to play the Greens were awarded a controversial penalty for Maitland being off-side.
They converted the penalty and consigned Maitland to three sudden-death finals if they are to claim the club’s first premiership in 19 years.
But forget about heartbreak, Blacks co-coach Ryan McCormack said the loss only added to the fire in Maitland’s belly to go all the way, especially after knowing they had only just loss with a sub-par performance.
The composition of the Maitland netball A-grade top four came down the final game in the final round and Branxton team Royal Federal Hotel prevailed with a thrilling 44-42 win against Maitland Carpet Court.
Minor premiers Hills Solicitors had the weekend off courtesy of a forfeit by Hinton Hotel and The George Tavern showed ominous form with a 72-30 win against MPBC with the Grayson sisters Karlee and Kelly-Ann both in action for The George.
Soccer puts the exclamation mark on a super weekend, with the Maitland Magpies hosting Broadmeadow Magic in the first leg of their two-leg semi-final.
A victory at Cooks Square Park will put Maitland in the driving seat to advance to the NPL grand final.
The Magpies under-20s have one foot in the season decider with a 3-0 win against Newcastle Jets on Saturday. The young Magpies are pushing for an historic minor-major premiership after winning last year’s major premiership.
- More photos and full reports to come.