Inner-city rivals Adamstown and Merewether have both enjoyed undefeated starts to their 2020 campaigns. Image via Valentine Sports Photography.

Northern NSW Football’s Women’s Premier League will restart with a scintillating top of the table clash between arch-rivals Adamstown and Merewether on July 12, the regional governing body confirmed to media late last week.

The WPL had scribed just two rounds in the books for the 2020 season before the nation-wide lockdown slammed on the breaks. The news came after Football Federation Australia declared they would “play on” despite the COVID-19 outbreak. That decision was reversed less than 24 hours later, and all NNSWF competitions were put on hiatus.

The season restart also brings with it a slightly altered format for the remainder of the season. Instead of all WPL clubs playing each other three times, this has been reduced to a home-and-away season for the 2020 league campaign.

The premiership will then conclude following the 14 rounds — two of which have already been played — before the league splits into a top-four playoff format, to be held over the following three weeks. NNSWF locked in those changes on May 29.

The Women’s Premier League has been suspended since mid-March due to the nation-wide lockdown.

Most clubs had already played both their opening fixtures, though a few were left without their full double-weekends under their belts due to heavy storms in the opening two rounds of the competition.

Adamstown started their 2020 season off with a bang, defeating Thornton 4–1 and edging the defending champions New Lambton 2–1 the following round. The Rosebud had finished sixth the campaign before, missing out on playoffs.

Local inner-city rivals Merewether had enjoyed a similar undefeated start to their new run in the Premier League. They had held the champions to a 3–3 draw at No.2 Sportsground, before edging defeating Newcastle Olympic by a goal at Darling Street.

On the other end of the table, 2020 debutants Broadmeadow Magic, who were returning to the women’s top-flight competition for the first time in more than half a decade, have not yet had a chance to play Premier League football this year.

The titanic Hunter club was supposed to begin their return with a battle against Warners Bay, but that match was delayed due to inclement weather. The club’s second WPL fixture, against Thornton, was put on ice due to a player undergoing a COVID-19 test.

Magic is now set to finally begin a new chapter in the Women’s Premier League when the club welcomes New Lambton to Magic Park at 3pm on July 12. The top-table clash between Adamstown and Merewether also headlines the round.

Elsewhere, Warners Bay (fourth, 3 points) will host Newcastle (third, 3 points) at John Street at a similar time in the opening round. Thornton (seventh) will celebrate the restart with the two-hour northern journey to face Mid Coast (eighth) in Taree.

David Eland said everyone at Northern NSW Football is ecstatic to have premier football returning to the Hunter.

For Northern NSW Football, who have been in a holding pattern since the nation-wide COVID-19 closures were first announced, it’s nothing but “great news,” Northern’s chief executive officer David Eland said.

“These competitions are the showpieces for the game in our region,” Eland said of the official restart confirmation dates released on June 19.

“We understand how tough all our Northern-based premier clubs are doing it during this period and we appreciate their patience, understanding, and consultation as we worked towards getting back on the park.

“It is a real positive that our premier competitions now have a start date and we look forward to a great season ahead.”

The NSW Government has also announced restrictions to be eased from July 1 that will allow crowds of up to 500 people to attend outdoor facilities, like the sporting grounds all clubs host matches at each weekend in the Premier League.

“If this is the case, it will relieve some further financial pressure from premier clubs for season 2020 – we are currently investigating systems which may be able to aid clubs to allow spectators,” Eland confirmed.