Murwillumbah Football Club’s senior coaching director Jim Spark (left) with club president Jason Dittmar.
Murwillumbah Football Club’s senior coaching director Jim Spark (left) with club president Jason Dittmar. Blainey Woodham

Rising stars key to revival

MURWILLUMBAH Football Club’s new senior coaching director admits the club’s return to Gold Coast Soccer first division will be a challenge, but has backed some maturing juniors to take the club to a higher level.

Murwillumbah came third in a solid, yet unremarkable season in second division last year, but has made the decision to move up a grade to accommodate the club’s talented juniors who are now ready to play senior football.

The move comes at an exciting time for the club as it welcomes upgrades to its home grounds.

New lighting has been installed at Queens Park while Jim Devine Field has been irrigated, making it one of the best surfaces in the Tweed Valley.

Jim Spark has taken the reins of senior coaching director, after filling the junior role for a number of years, and has liked what he has seen.

There have been trials against Football Far North Coast premier league sides Lismore Thistles (2-2 draw) and Pottsville Panthers (4-1 loss) in recent weeks.

“It is a pretty positive start to the year and I feel as though we might finish higher up on the table than I originally thought, but we have still got a lot of work to do with our very young side,” Spark said.

Murwillumbah was without three of its key defensive players against Pottsville, including its first and second choice goal-keepers.

But Spark said Sam Reynolds and Blake Gilmore both played well and Stephen Morgan scored an impressive 40m goal from a free kick.

The club’s senior squad will be finalised this week and Spark said it would feature about 10 players under the age of 18 who had come through the club’s junior development program.

“We have been training particularly well and are about to name our squad for the year – it will be finalised this week,” he said on Wednesday.

“It will be based around talented youth and experienced players.”

Spark has had a senior coaching role with Maitland soccer in the past before he moved to Murwillumbah just over a decade ago.

Club president Jason Dittmar said the club’s depth was improving each year, following the merger of the Murwillumbah Services and Saints to form the Murwillumbah Football Club two years ago.

The club’s women’s team won the Gold Coast Soccer second division premiership last year and will move up to first division.

Dittmar hoped the club could produce two senior women’s teams this year.

Murwillumbah also has a burgeoning number of juniors in every age group and Dittmar said the club had 60% of its competitive teams make the finals last year.

Dittmar is excited the club is fielding a first division side, but won’t burden it with expectation.

“We are not looking for the title of premier in our first year,” he said. “But the competitiveness of our club is increasing each year due to the depth we have.”

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