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Next crop sown on global stage

DREAM: Every Newcastle wax head will follow Ryan Callinan’s wild ride on the WCT this year. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.FOR Hunter sports fans 2015 will be forever remembered as theregion’s darkest year. Both sporting flagships, the Knights and Jets, collected wooden spoons. Expect both clubs to make progress in 2016, but it will be some of the region’s emerging sportspeople that will trulymake the Hunter proud.
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NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Another year and another big white hope at halfback to fill the massive shoes of Andrew Johns. Can Trent Hodkinson bethe man to finally provide Camelot with a dependable general? The NSW Origin halfbackwill certainly provide a steadying influence and greater direction, but he will lack the space he previously enjoyed from the Canterbury forward pack.New coach Nathan Brown will make some improvements and uncover a rookie gem or two, but finals football will remain beyond the Knights once again as injuries expose their depth. On the ownership front, Wests will continue to balk at buying the Knights, leaving the financial management in the hands of the NRL for a second full season.

KEY: The Knights’ success will hinge on Nathan Brown and Trent Hodkinson. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

NEWCASTLE JETS

Much like lastyear uncertainty surrounds the future ownership of the Jets. Football Federation Australia are eagerly seeking a new owner and expect a buyer to be eventually found during the off-season. However, intypical Jets fashion, the purchase will be anythingbutsmooth sailing. On the recruitment front the FFA will provide the clubwith greater stability by allowing coach Scott Miller to sign several new players to long-term deals. For the sixth straight season the Jets will narrowly miss the A-League semi-finals, but will continue to be competitive in the second-half of the campaign.

SURFING

Ryan Callinan will become a giant-killer on surfing’s elite stage when he joins the World Championship Tour. The Merewether goofy-footer will endure a busy schedule on the WQS and WCT, and as a lowly-ranked seed, will require several upsets against the likes of world championAdriano De Souza and Mick Fanning to progress past the opening heats. Expect Callinan toqualify for at least one quarter orsemi-final and maintain his position on the WCT tour. On the local front, the mission to uncover a home-grown Surfest men’s champion will continue and the biggest challenge will be Merewether’s flat-liningswell.

BASKETBALL

Former Newcastle Hunters junior Ben Simmons will shrug off the “next big thing” tag and become a genuine superstar when he is the No.1 pick in June’s NBA Draft. ThePhiladelphia 76erswill likely sign theLouisiana State University forward, whoESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla described as being at the same level asMagic Johnson or LeBron James at 19. By the year’s end kids from Broadmeadow to Phillycould be wearing 76ers shirts emblazoned with “Simmons.”

WANTED MAN: Ben Simmons will end the year a genuine NBA star.

REAL NRL

The biggest battles will be played off the field this year as the Newcastle Rugby League continues its quest for a sustainable future.The National Rugby League will again dismiss any overtures to help fund the competition, leaving Newcastle LeagueCEO Matt Harris and his board in a desperate position to uncover additional revenue streams. Lakes United should build on their grand final victory, by claiming the minor premiership and reaching a consecutive decider. Macquarie and Western Suburbs will threaten the Seagulls’ dominance.

NHRU

Hamilton and Wanderers ran a two-horse race in 2015 and the crystal ball is predicting more of the same. One of the most intriguing sub-plots will be Tim Chidgey’s return from health problems to coach Lake Macquarie, who spent the majority of last season out of the competition due to player shortages. Chidgey’s previous success at Waratahs and Southern Beaches should ensurethe Roos’ survivalin the top flight.

NORTHERN NSW NPL

Never has the Northern NSW National Premier League featured so much former A-League talent. The long awaited return of former A-League golden boot and premiership winner, Daniel McBreen, to defending champions Edgeworth will be fascinating.The Eagles have lost captain Luke Walker andattacking midfielder Keanu Moore, but even at38McBreen will ensure they challenge for another title. However, the Lambton Jaffas will deliver the season’s biggest coup when they sign former Johnny Warren Medalist and Jets talisman Joel Griffiths.

CRICKET

Denman-raised Sydney Sixersspinner Riley Ayre will wait until December to become the Hunter’s first male cricketer to debut in the Big Bash League after going agonisingly close this summer. Wallsend’s Jason Sangha will score a century for Australia in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh to further cement his credentials in the eyes of national talent scouts. In Newcastle district cricket, Merewether win a fifth consecutive two-day title and their senior players Simon Moore, Mark Cameron and Troy Goodwin hold off their retirement plans to chase Hamilton’s record six straight premierships from the 1950s.

GOLF

Following a bleak 2015 for Hunter golfers, the next generation will begin to flourish. Charlestown’s Blake Windred, free of high school commitments, will step up his tournament programto work towards becomingthe Hunter’s next leading professional. The 18-year-old will win his first senior state amateur crown earlynext summer. James Nitties will fight his way back onto the US web老域名出售 Tour in a mid-season reshuffleafter producing several early top-10 finishes. Charlestown’sJake Higginbottom shouldcast off a disappointing year and regain his Asian tour card through qualifying schoolbefore hebreaks into the increasingly lucrative China PGA.

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