It’s that time of year again, pre-season friendlies have been happening up and down the country this past weekend, the annual Bath 8s tournament has taken place with Spencer beating Sheffield Steelers in the final and everyone is heading out to the garage to see what state they left their kit in after last season. That can only mean one thing, its time for the new lacrosse season to begin and Pioneer Lacrosse will be keeping you up to date with the entire goings on in the Northern and Southern leagues as normal. With this first instalment being the NEMLA Premier Division pre-season predictions/run down.
First of all before any predictions are made some big changes have happened in the Northern Leagues (http://englishlacrosse.leaguerepublic.com/l/fg/1_810270409.html) with another restructure that seems to have been aimed at ensuring all teams play the same amount of games. Last season was extremely competitive in the top half of all the divisions, however the bottom half of the leagues struggled against the higher placed teams causing some one sided score lines. Also the lower leagues struggled for consistent games with teams often conceding due to lack of players. Therefore a conference system has been devised, whilst this is going to cause some early season mismatches, the likes of last season’s league champions Cheadle coming up against Sheffield University in their first game of the season is undoubtedly a David versus Goliath type match up, but should mean the second half of the league system should bring some really interesting encounters and close fought games.
At Pioneer Lacrosse big changes have happened too, first of all you might have noticed that our name has changed! We have rebranded and split up our services to make it easier for you to access relevant products and information. Pioneer Lacrosse is now our lacrosse equipment website and news platform for all things lacrosse. Whilst Pioneer Sports and Pioneer Workwear will focus on clothing that we can provide for sports teams and work places.
Back to the predictions then! With the Premier Division being split into 2 conferences we will be predicting the positions of the conferences, with the top 3 of each conference going into a league for the second half of the season whilst the bottom 3 of conference B and 4 of conference A also join into a league. Once all the conference games have been completed we will then do a further set of predictions for the second half of the season.
Premier Division – Conference A
The Premier Division conference A sees the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th placed teams from last year’s Premiership, joining the 3rd and 6th placed teams from last season’s Championship 1.
Cheadle and Poynton are the standout teams in Conference A, Cheadle went last season undefeated in the league, losing only in the final of the flags to Poynton so expect these two teams to be in the 1st and 2nd spots.
Poynton have had a strong summer of recruitment again, Sam Russell’s Lacrosse the Pond Company bringing in some talented D1 athlete’s as well as a transfer from Hampstead for current England International midfielder Will Hardy to bolster their attacking options.
Cheadle have not been as active as in previous seasons in the transfer window, but have not lost any of last season’s winning team and will be looking to bring the consistency of performances that they produced last season into the start of this league campaign.
A strong performance from Brooklands last season meant they finished 5th in the league and they will be targeting a top 3 finish to ensure they are included with the big hitters in the second half of season. Whilst you would imagine they will have too much talent, on top of another year’s experience for a very young side, the likes of Mellor and Rochdale will be looking to push and challenge for the last spot in the conference.
Realistically Cheadle and Poynton look too strong on paper to be beaten by the chasing pack, therefore it will be the games against each other that Brooklands, Mellor and Rochdale will look to win in order to grab that coveted 3rd place.
Joining the top division are Sheffield University and Boardman and Eccles, both will be aware of the daunting task ahead of them but will be willing to challenge the top teams in the North of England from last season.
Sheffield University seem to be struggling in recent years, large scale graduations of key players has left them bereft of the quality players they used to attract. Now reliant on new players to the game adapting quickly and proving they can compete at higher levels, they will be hoping to keep scores down and test themselves against some teams with vastly greater experience and skill sets.
Boardman and Eccles however have the experience in their squad if not the legs that they once possessed. A solid core of players should mean some really competitive games for them against last season’s Premiership strugglers, but it would be unrealistic to expect anything higher than 4th or 5th place.
Premier Division – Conference B
Conference B sees the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th placed teams from last year’s Premiership joining Norbury who finished 5th in Championship 1 last year.
Similar to conference A the top 2 in this group seem to speak for themselves. Stockport and Heaton Mersey would be the favourites to fill the top 2 spots, in what order though will prove interesting, they shared the spoils in their league fixtures last season and the early season game should prove a great watch.
Stockport’s stalwart goalie Ben McAllister has hung up his stick and A team goalkeeper from last season Sam Ives will step in between the pipes for the Cale Green 1st Team. Apart from that no other transfers in or out have been heard about at Stockport, expect them to be as strong as ever.
Heaton Mersey will welcome back Jak Wawrzyniak into their squad after his time in America, the England International will bring experience and athleticism to the defence. Whilst no other transfers have emerged they have retained last year’s team and will want to mount a title and cup challenge this year after falling short last season.
Chasing the top 2 will be Timperley, after finishing 6th in last season’s premiership (albeit if they had played their final outstanding game they would have leapfrogged Brooklands to 5th place) Timperley will hope to wrap up third place in the division, guaranteeing them a shot at the league title in the second half of the year. Welcoming 2 Irish national team players, Taylor Wallace and Brendan Farrell, Timperley look to be gathering a strong team and will be aiming to disrupt the top 2 in conference B and then push up the table after the conferences merge.
Behind the top 3 are WACS, Steelers and Norbury. Sheffield managed to avoid the bottom 2 positions thanks to their home form producing 4 of their 5 wins. But they will have to improve on this if they have any hopes of challenging for the top 3 positions. Tough away games against Norbury and Timperley to start the season could leave them disheartened and looking towards the second half of the season early on.
WACS have again lost members of their first team to other clubs, notably the loss of Chris Leeming to Timperley, and will likely struggle against Mersey, Stockport and Timperley. They will hope to have some entertaining and close encounters against Sheffield and Norbury but could well be looking for more even fixtures after the conferences merge.
Norbury are another team that are likely to struggle against top opposition, home games will be their strength and they will look forward to hosting Steelers and Timperley on their home turf. However with more away games then home in the first half of the season it could be a struggle until the second half of the year for a Norbury team who have not played in the top flight for a number of years now.
Good luck to everyone for the forthcoming season, and check back in January for the preview of the second half of the season!