Narrabri FC scored their first win of the year in round five of the Namoi Soccer League campaign on Saturday and the side’s assistant coach Ben Stride is thrilled with the way they are progressing and the positive attitude among the group.

They travelled to Cook Oval in Wee Waa for the fixture where they outscored hosts Wee Waa United FC 5-1 to earn their first points of the year.

Stride opened the scoring in the first half before Wee Waa equalised almost immediately and the two sides went into the break locked at 1-all. Cooper Butler put the visitors back in front early in the second half, and then Kaleb Teer scored either side of Stride’s second as Narrabri FC earned a 5-1 victory and returned home with the three points.

It was their first win of the season after they went down 13-0 and 12-0 in their first two games following an opening-round bye. Their round four game was then washed out.

It has been a year of change for the club’s local competition team, with the majority of players from previous seasons stepping up to play for Namoi United’s teams in the Northern Inland Premier League competition.

Club veterans Stride and James Stuart are still a part of the Narrabri FC team, but the other 16 players on the side’s roster have either debuted or are still preparing to debut for the club in 2024.

One of those players is Steph Stride, who has taken on the role of coach this year. Her husband Ben is a club stalwart who has played more than 50 games for Narrabri FC, has been a committee member for several years and coached the reserve grade team to the 2022 season’s grand final. He is the assistant coach this year and runs the weekly training sessions.

He told The Courier he is enjoying coaching this new group of players whose attitudes towards the game make it a great environment to be a part of.

“This team is a very positive team, so it’s very enjoyable to coach,” Stride said.

“Coaching them makes soccer very enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve played in such a positive team for quite a number of years now. They take instructions well, they’re motivated and keen, and they don’t dwell on the negatives. It’s very refreshing.

“The first two games we went down by a fair few goals, but they were very positive about it. Just happy to play, happy to get out there and turn up the next week.

“After the win on Saturday, there was a pep in their step. You couldn’t wipe the smiles off their face. They were very excited.

“We are improving in little bits. In the first match, there was no one to pass the ball to, so we’ve been working on moving into open space to receive the ball. You don’t think of it as a big thing, but it’s really making a positive difference.

“We’ve also changed our formation, which has helped too.

“Everyone is getting better and you can see the improvement among the team in relation to controlling the ball, passing the ball and movement off the ball.

“I think the guys are improving on all fronts.”

Stride said that he and the Narrabri FC committee were pleased to have a team in the competition this year after it seemed for so much of the off-season and pre-season that they would not have the numbers after so many players made the jump into the NIPL team and several players chose not to play again. The coach and assistant coach, as well as Stuart, Paula Ryan, and Narrabri Junior Soccer president Danny Laws put their heads together and worked hard to assemble a team to ensure the club is still represented in the competition following so many years of success since it began in 2017.

“It’s a good competition this year,” Stride said.

“The Elevens and one of the Moree teams (Moree Blue) are both going to be very competitive teams. They’ll be fighting for the first position.

“We are in contention to make the finals and I think that we’re in a good position where we’re not competitive against those two top teams at the moment, but by the end of the season, we could be.

“We have a lot of younger players, so we’ll improve as the year goes on. I’m pretty happy with where we’re sitting at the moment.”

Stride thought that Wee Waa United played much better than the scoreline suggested on Saturday.

“The scoreline didn’t reflect how good Wee Waa played,” Stride said.

“We scored the first goal, and they countered with a goal almost straight away, just minutes later.

“It was a pretty even match about 10 minutes into the second half, but when Cooper scored our second goal, that’s when the floodgates opened up and a few more goals came in.

“The scoreline doesn’t match the game. It’s a massive win for morale for our side but it wasn’t a massive win as in we ran away with it. It was still very competitive.”

The other match in round five on Saturday was won by Moree Blue, who defeated Moree Yellow 2-0 in the local derby at the Moree Services Club field to extend their winning streak to three games and move to first on the ladder. The Moree outfit are locked on nine points alongside Narrabri Eleven FC after the Elevens sat out with the bye in round five.

The Elevens are ranked second on for and against difference but they are undefeated following three wins from as many games so far. Moree Yellow and Narrabri FC are third and fourth on three points each, and Wee Waa are last with no points.

This Saturday’s round six games will both be played in Moree as Moree Blue take on Narrabri Elevens in a top-of-the-table contest and Moree Yellow challenge Wee Waa. Narrabri FC have the bye.

To order photos from this page click here