IF there was any doubts regarding the relative strength of North Coast Football compared to other round ball competitions in the north of the state, surely they have been put to rest now.
The local teams dominated proceedings at BCU International Stadium on Saturday in the opening round of the Northern NSW Solo Cup.
Of the seven NCF teams which entered the competition, five had victories over rivals from outside the local zone.
Four of those victories were extremely comfortable proving the gulf in standard which exists between the local football Premier League and those from other regions.
Even the two teams that did lose on Saturday, Coffs Coast Tigers and Urunga, can consider themselves unlucky after losing by the barest of margins.
“Years of hard work from a lot of people is really starting to pay off in this area,” North Coast Football operations manager Bob Harris proudly said.
“There’s been a big commitment to the game in the area and we’re starting to see the benefits of that as both standard of play and coaching has been raised.
“This improved strength in the game is reflected in the increased playing numbers that North Coast Football is enjoying in 2011.”
The two results that show this season’s Premier League competition could be the most even in many years were the strong victories enjoyed by Sawtell and Northern Storm.
Both clubs have spent the summer working toward being more professional and the new attitude paid dividends on Saturday.
The Storm played all over Club Taree to easily win 4-0 while Sawtell overcame Goonellabah 4-2 in what Harris said amounted to a bit of an upset.
“I was talking to my counterpart from Far North Coast Football and he told me that Goonellabah would go well as they were one of the top teams in the northern competition,” Harris said.
“For Sawtell to come out after spending a good summer with new coach Leo Baumgartner and get that result over a team that is rated quite highly in its own region is a tremendous result.”
While the Scorpions, Storm and Westlawn Tigers showed genuine improvement on Saturday, the two most-fancied teams in 2011showed just how far the bar has been set if anyone has aspirations of premiership glory.
Both Coffs United and Maclean showed that they’re two teams still capable of scoring plenty of goals after recording massive wins.
The Lions cruised to a 9-1 win over Port United to show the reigning premiers are on the prowl for back-to-back titles this year while Maclean walked all over Tuncurry Forster to win 5-1.
The five clubs that claimed wins on the weekend have now progressed through to the second round which is being played on May 7.
SOLO CUP RESULTS
Coffs United 9 def Port United 1
Maclean 5 def Tuncurry Forster 1
Northern Storm 4 def Club Taree 0
Sawtell 4 def Goonellabah 2
Westlawn Tigers 1 def Kempsey Saints 0
Byron Bay Rams 2 def Coffs Coast Tigers 1
Lismore Workers 1 def Urunga 0
Macleay Valley Rangers 5 def South Armidale 2
North’s United 5 def Old Bar Barbarians 1