FOUR Northern Inland Football Premier League sides will kick off their 2014 football seasons in Armidale, Kempsey and Junction Hill tomorrow.
The State Cup, Northern NSW Football’s state-wide knockout competition, begins this weekend across the Northern Pool with first round matches across the region.
Armidale’s Phil Wheaton Oval will host a double-header tomorrow, with Orara Valley and Sawtell Scorpions playing the first game (1.30pm) while the home team North Armidale United tackles the Northern Storm Thunder from 3pm.
Northern Inland Football PL champion Tamworth FC tackles the Port Saints FC in Kempsey from 2pm tomorow while the Inverell Joeys and East Armidale United are part of a big three- game opening round at Junction Hill (near Grafton).
Boambee Bombers and Maclean FC play the first game, Inverell Joeys tackle Ballina in the second game at Barnier Park, Junction Hill (1.30pm) and East Armidale play Westlawn Tigers in the third game starting at 3pm.
In 2013, North Coast’s Urunga FC became the first regional team to win the NSWF State Cup and it plays Tuncurry Forster FC at Nambucca Heads from 2pm tomorrow.
Now in its fifth year, the success of the State Cup continues to grow, NNSWF operations manager Alan Nisbet said.
“In 2014, clubs from all divisions will once again be given the opportunity to test their ability in the cauldron of a knockout competition whilst competing for a prize purse totalling $10,000,” Nisbet said.
“The State Cup is also a qualifying tournament for the FFA Cup, in which the NNSWF State Cup finalists will participate from 2014 onwards.
‘This year we have 78 clubs participating in the 2014 State Cup.
“This is an excellent turnout from clubs across northern NSW and reflects the keenness of clubs to participate in a competition of this nature.
“The willingness of regional clubs in particular to take the opportunity to compete against metropolitan-based clubs showcases the depth of talent in regional areas which was evident in last year’s final when Urunga FC defeated Newcastle-based State League side Edgeworth FC.”
The Northern Pool will comprise club teams from Football Mid North Coast, North Coast Football, Northern Inland Football and Football Far North Coast.
From these club teams, the last remaining four will participate in the finals series, representing the Northern Pool on June21-22 in Coffs Harbour.
A state knockout was first held in 1984 and encompassed only the southern corner of northern NSW, along with Sydney and Central Coast teams. The first northern NSW side to win the competition was Hamilton Athletic in 1887.
In 2010 the inaugural State Cup however represented the first statewide knockout competition to encompass all of northern NSW’s seven member zones.