NNSW NPL preview: Maitland old boys back to crash Magpies’ party with high-flying Lake Macquarie

HIGH-FLYER: Lake Macquarie goalkeeper Benn Kelly in full flight to make a save against Charlestown at Lisle Carr Oval in the round three 1-1 draw. The Roosters are third on 11 points and with a game in hand over leaders Lambton Jaffas (14). Picture: Jonathan CarrollTHERE’Sno doubt a win at Cooks Square Park on Maitland’s old boys’ day would mean plenty to goalkeeper Benn Kelly and his fellow former Magpies at Lake Macquarie.
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Even if he won’t exactly say so.

Kelly, a Magpies junior, helped Maitland gain long-awaitedpromotion in 2014 to the Northern NSW National Premier League and played all 18 games the following year.

However, Kelly split with the club, who brought in coach Steve Piggott and added former Mariners keeper Matt Trott,in the 2016 pre-season. He joined Weston, who finished last then appointed Piggott for 2017.

Kelly linked with former Maitland coach Anthony Richards this year at promoted Lakes, who also added Justin Broadley – anotherex-Magpies skipper to leave Cooks Square Park in early 2016.

The pair, and other former Maitland playersSteve Rospigliosi, Corey Fletcher and Matt Toohey, have helped the unsung Roosters climb to third on 11 points from six games heading into round eight this season.

Richards said Kelly, 32, who has had a crack at stand-up comedy,hasbeenfantastic for the Roosters on and off the park.

“I’ve seen Benn play for a lot of years and this is the best I’ve seen himplay,” Richards said.“He brings a bit of something different to the dressing room as well. A bit of vibe and he makes it exciting.He’s a bit of a lunatic, like most goalkeepers.”

But when asked what it was like to come up against his former club on Sunday, Kelly wasnot in a joking mood.

“No comment,” Kelly said before adding,“We’ll just go up there and do what we’ve got to do, and they will be there doing what they’ve got to do, and at the end of the day, it’s a game of footy and anyone can win.

“I’ve got a couple of really good mates up there still playing, BT [Blake Thompson], Ralphy [Ryan Broadley]and Jordo [Jordan Elphick], in particular.I’ve had a couple of phone callsfiring me up, and I’m firing them up, but that’s where I’ll leave it.”

The Roosters and second-placed Valentine have been the surprise packets of the early rounds this year and Kelly put down Lakes’success to a positive culture under Richards and assistant Danny Pryde.

“We haven’t got a squad of superstars,” he said.“I was the only player in the squad to have played NPL last year.We’re not the guys getting paid X-amount of dollars, but we get in there and we do our job.

“I didn’t expect, and no one expected us, to be where we are and I think mateship has beenthe main thing.I’ve never been at a club where everyone at training goes around to everyone and gives them a hug orslaps their hand. It’s a good feeling.”

Lakes, who are coming off the bye,have Toohey returning from injurybut Broadley (broken toe)remains out.In a stark contrast, Maitland will be playing their seventh game in 25 days. With seven players missing, they held out Weston 1-0 on Wednesday night to go to 10 points. Coach Phil Dando said Andrew Pawiak (groin) and Josh Dutton-Black (knee) were likely to be out again.

Also on Sunday, Weston are away against Hamilton and Adamstown host leaders Lambton Jaffas.On Saturday, Valentine play theJets Youth at Cahill Ovaland Charlestown travel to Edgeworth (7.30pm).

Meanwhile, Richards couldn’t help but have a dig at Maitland, who moved their old boys’ day to the Lakes clash.

“They don’t normally have it this time of year but I think they’ve gone that way because we’ve got more Maitland players than they have,” Richards said.

“Matt Thompson will select a good team for the weekend when we play them, so we’ll be up for a good game,” he added.

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