THREE Northern Inland Football (NIF) sides are preraing for State Youth League finals this week and another has already claimed a podium finish.
The final regular season matches were played on Sunday and confirmed that the NIF North U16 girls, the NIF North U13s and the NIF South U15s will all get a shot at the playoffs this Sunday at Port Macquarie.
The NIF North U16 girls were second in the minor premiership and will play the third-placed Mid North Coast Jaguars in the semis.
The NIF South girls didn’t make the top four but they did finish the season on a high with a 5-nil win over MNC Predators on Sunday in Tamworth.
Prior to the girls’ semi-final the NIF South U15s will take on the North Coast Galaxy.
Northern Inland South finished fourth in that division.
“We started off the season well,” NIF South U15s coach Gavin Thompson said.
“We had a bit of a rough patch in the middle but towards the end we’ve played well.
“We’ve got one boy from Edgeroi near Narrabri and one from Coonabarabran but the rest are from Tamworth.
“They’ve all put the hard work in at training and they all want to go over there and win this weekend.”
The Galaxy, from the Coffs Harbour area, finished on top of the competition and will be hard to beat.
But that doesn’t rule out an upset.
“They gave us a belting when we played them in Tamworth, 4-nil, but I don’t think we could ever play that badly again,” Thompson said.
“When we played them at Coffs we had a 3-all draw and should have won it, so we’re not without a chance of winning.”
The Northern Inland North 15s finished sixth in an eight-team league but the NIF North 13s did better.
They kick off the finals day on Sunday after a 3-nil win over North Coast Dynamos at Grafton cemented a place in the top four.
They now face the home side, the Mid North Coast Predators.
The Port Macquarie side finished first so it will be another upset if the Northern Inland side can get to the final.
Northern Inland South finished fifth in the 13s division after losing its last game to the Predators on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the NIF South U12s don’t get to play finals because the youngest age group is a first past the post league, so their clash with the Mid North Coast Predators on Sunday in Tamworth was their last game of the season.
The local boys only had to win it to finish second or even first in the competition but the 1-all result meant it had to settle for third.
“We needed to win and for North Coast to lose to finish top,” coach Scott Taylor said.
“But because we got the draw we actually finished third.
“But as I said to the kids, we only lost two games all year and it was probably only the draws that cost us top spot.
“It was still a good season.”
Northern Inland totally dominated the first half, with almost all of the play down MNC’s end.
But for all that possession and field position, Northern Inland only came up with one goal.
A number of missed opportunities gave the visitors heart and they took advantage in the second half.
“It was a missed opportunity,” Taylor said.
“We let them back into it in the second half so we had to put them away when we had the chance.
“We probably had six or seven chances.
“I think we gave them a lift and they got back into the game and an error at the back gave them an equaliser.”
Northern Inland North finished fifth in the under 12s.
The Northern Inland North teams represent the New England area while the South teams are from the north west region.