Lets take a look at the 2002 Challenge Cup season. Yes this may be a " bandwagon season" with lots of new faces. Anyway we've still managed to have a provincial league consisting of six teams. The format for the Challenge Cup schedule remains the same as last season with the exception of the Labour Day tournament which is scheduled to be played on the Burin Peninsula.
Now let's take a glimpse at Coach's Corner forecast for 2002.
The St. Lawrence Laurentians will be taken to task while trying to win their 8th consecutive Provincial Challenge Cup title in 2002.
Rudy Norman, league MVP in 2001, and superstar Richard Kelly should lead the Laurentians attack and score a number of highlight goals this season. Midfielders Paul Slaney, Harry Kelly, Chris Caines, Paul Slaney (Jerome), and Andrew Perrott show a combination of skill, creativity and hard work.
The Laurentian defence has always been their parade horse, but there may be problems in 2002. Bob Spearns and Scott Bishop aren't getting any younger. Clinton Edwards, along with Blair Aylward, will be pressured. All-Star goalie Keith Jackman and his understudy Pat Byrne will get the opportunity to test their skills.
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: The Laurentians are certainly early season favourites but over the course of time the law of averages may work against them. The repercussions from the uncertainties which surrounded the ongoing coaching saga, since Jack Simms contested Junior Edwards for the head coaching position in 2002, remains to be seen.
Laurentians players Richard Kelly, Andrew Perrott, Clinton Edwards and Paul Slaney (Jerome) are at an age "now" where they must become 90 minute players. The remaining young players must begin development and this can only be done by these kids receiving some playing time.
St. John's Feildians
Young goal keeper Matthew Prim certainly adds a very strong dimension to this squad. Matthew has the ability to win a game by himself. The addition of Craig Edwards, combined with veteran Tom Dunderdale, and P.J. Power, solidifies the defence unit. Former Canada Games players Steve Croft and Chris Roche are very capable of contributing to the team. Midfielders Ian Osmond, Jamie Carew, and newcomer Patrick Edwards will give the Feildians skill and speed in the midfield position. Strikers Gus Richards and Canada Games star forward Matthew Wilkins will keep all fullbacks alert.
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: Coach Jim Hamlyn hopes that possibly a fourth opportunity to coach in a Challenge Cup final may be successful. I feel that this team does have the talent to compete in the Labour Day Weekend Final provided they keep focused.
Head Coach Paul Reddy will take the Red and Gold back to respectability. I expect this team to be the leagues "Most Improved Team" in 2002.
The additions of brothers Jeremy and striker Jay Babstock will give Cross some added size . Jay's shot will help to increase the team's goal scoring. Midfielders Shane Antle, Trent McClellen and DelRizzo can demonstrate great skills and lateral vision. In order for these individuals to be considered the teams forte, they will have to contribute offensively. The defensive unit which is comprised of veteran Sean Connolly and Chad Parsons can lead this team provided they play within their limitations. Mark Fleming always carries a strong work ethic to his game and there will be ample opportunity for Mike Reddy and Damien Dyke to contribute. I expect goalkeeper Andrew Sears to make a move forward.
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: This team has basically the same roster as it did for the past number of seasons. I anticipate head coach Paul Reddy will show the value of what a coach with a positive attitude can do for a team. Goal scoring may be a major concern. In 2001 Holy Cross scored a mere 8 goals. I have been informed that former St. Lawrence Laurentians Randy Turpin has attended a number of practises with Holy Cross. Should Randy decide on putting on the red jersey, this could be Randy's opportunity to show that he can be an offensive threat in this league. After all, Holy Cross's 2002 squad still appears to be weak offensively..
Tier 2 - Mount Pearl, Corner Brook & Marystown
"Mount Pearl's got potential!!" It's same old story I've been hearing for years. If an award were granted for underachieving in Newfoundland soccer, Mount Pearl would have won the "Underachievers of the Decade Award" in the 90's. Now for the past two seasons, Mount Pearl have maintained a strong strangle - hold and would be the forerunner for this award again in the 2000's. This youthful team does have great ball control and possession from their own 18 yard line to their opponents 18 yard line.
But yet again, the end result is they might not be able to put the ball in the net !! Mount Pearl will have to try and improve upon their 2001 lowly goal production. This will be a major problem for coach Walt Mavin. Mount Pearl doesn't have a star forward that is considered a constant threat against the opposition. Defensively, Mount Pearl will continue to struggle, although at times centre back, John Acreman is impressive. Newcomer goalkeeper John Douglas will have the opportunity to display his talents. Their record of having scored only 12 goals in 2001, while allowing a total of 26 goals against can attest to my suggestion that they better get to work on both ends of the field in 2002.
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: Question - Who is in awe of Mount Pearl? Answer - Mount Pearl. This team shows no leadership! For the last number of seasons I'm sick and tired of hearing about Mount Pearl's potential. It's high time for this team to show up or button up!!!!
Corner Brook Western United
After an extended absence Corner Brook returned to Provincial Challenge Cup competition three years ago. In 1999 they missed the second round by one point. In 2000 they moved forward by advancing into the second round. In 2001 after the completion of round one, Corner Brook were assigned to Tier1 by the virtue of placing in one of the top three places in the standings.
During the Labour Day Weekend Championship Tournament, this team alarmed their opponents. Both St. Lawrence and Feildians were more than fortunate to advance pass this team. Corner Brook deserves respect.
Their two new young goalkeepers Steve Vardy and Matthew Quigley will definitely suffer growing pains. On defence their fullbacks Mark Sweetapple , Gary Matthews, Colin Lynch, and Ryan Durnford will be pressed. In midfield Todd Warren, Chris Griffin, Corey Mosher, and Mark Fitzpatrick will have to be very strong at both ends of the field. The return of Kevin LaSaga combined with Steve White and Chris Grant must add offence..
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: Corner Brook's loss of their number one goaltender will hurt. For the past three seasons Corner Brook generally started very slow and I don't expect any different this season. If head coach Shelly Drover-Warren's sticks to her controversial decision not to dress Clar Bennett, Corey Rideout, Mark Fitzpatrick, Bruce Miller, and Craig Peddle during their first week-end of play against Mount Pearl, this may be a judgment that Newfoundland's first Challenge Cup female coach lives to regret..
I expect Marystown to struggle because I feel that defensively they are very weak. A combination of the loss of Craig Edwards, and the disappointment of goaltender Scott Edwards, who for the past two seasons has been trying to regain the All-Star form that he displayed in 1999, is a big obstacle for coach Vince Pickett to handle. Twin brothers David and Darrell Steward haven't advanced into any form of stardom after appearing to be very strong prospects. Jeff Warren and Shannon Brushett are certainly a bright spot but their greatest task could be controlling United forward Jeremy Taylor. Dion Durdle and Graham Moulton better get set for a long season. Newcomers Justin Mayo, Ian Brenton , Mike Douglas, Josh Moulton , Mike Douglas and Howie Drake will live and learn.
COACHES CORNER FORECAST: The 2002 season will allow coaches the opportunity to bring their so-called expertise and knowledge to their respective club and perform their magic. Coach Vince Pickett is one of them. I also understand that NLSA's "Coach of the Year" in 1999 and Marystown United's ex-coach Mel Stacey will be "viewing" 2002 from a different angle.
Gord Dunphy is a former Challenge Cup all-star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians (1990's) and National Challenge Cup Bronze medallist - 1999. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org--