WINNERS: Coffs City United Lions coaches Glen Williams with his assistant Luca Paolacci.
WINNERS: Coffs City United Lions coaches Glen Williams with his assistant Luca Paolacci.

Wily Williams stays mum to keep Lions on path to glory

IF WE learned anything from the inaugural CPL season this year, it's that no result is a foregone conclusion.

So it should come as no surprise that with the Coffs Harbour City Lions' season on the line, coach Glen Williams kept a potentially explosive piece of information from his charges - they were suddenly in the box seat to win the championship.

With the Lions sitting two points behind ladder-leaders Port Saints, they needed to win their game against Northern Storm and hope Port United could pull off an unlikely smash and grab against their local rivals.

And at half time, the dream was becoming a reality.

"I had to keep it quiet because I had a halftime progress score from Port Macquarie (United were leading 1 - 0) and I wanted them to play their own game and not worry about another result," Williams said.

"It was a bit of a shock - I wasn't expecting Port Saints to be beaten, they are a strong team,"

With the close nature of the competition proving each side was capable of taking points from their opponents - no matter where they sat on the ladder - Williams' decision proved a shrewd one.

The Lions won the match 3 - 1 and in doing so experienced a finish more akin to that of European football competitions like the Premier League, having to wait some minutes for official confirmation of their success.

"It was very different relying on, and listening to another result and hoping it goes your way - that's a situation we haven't been in before," Williams said.

"It was a strange feeling at the end of the game but after we found out (the result) it was celebration as normal."

It has been an excellent season for the Lions, as both first and reserve grade sides finishing on top of the pile, the latter going undefeated across the nine games.

And the "outstanding" success will have the club faithful dreaming of a new "golden period", something which has been just beyond reach for the last few years.

"Yeah it has been a while since we have done that (won both grades)," he said.

"We pride ourselves on winning titles and there was probably a golden period when we were doing that and it is great to be back there again.

"I think it says a lot about our players and (squad) depth because I didn't put the same team on the park any two weeks in a row.

"And it says a lot about how we trained and prepared as well. And while we had couple of results there that we weren't pleased about at the end of the day we came through."

The fresh format had also contributed to their success Williams added, making the side hungrier to prove themselves against new opposition.

That intensity flowed onto the training pitch too, creating a healthy competition and perhaps contributing to the stellar year of Caleb Lokpo.

The winger has really stepped up to become one of the players of the season, not just for the Lions but across the competition and Williams singled Lokpo and Nick Mallet out for a little individual praise.

Caleb Lokpo rinses the Port defence to set up Coffs City's second goal during their first round Coastal Premier League match Photo: Tim Jarrett
Caleb Lokpo rinses the Port defence to set up Coffs City's second goal during their first round Coastal Premier League match Photo: Tim Jarrett

"I hate picking individuals but Caleb Lokpo has had an outstanding year," he said.

"He has really improved from a few years of going through the motions. I'd hate to be marking him, he would give me nightmares.

"And our captain for the last few weeks, Nick Mallett, has stood out. He is a quality player and I don't think he realises how good he is."

While the CPL enters a new phase - a two-conference system brought on by new NSW health directives - Williams says the side are still focused and excited to playing out the season.

Despite the shifting rules causing the fledgling CPL to make a number of changes on the go, he said the administration had handled it well and still ensured the competition was a success.

"I think that word unprecedented has been used a lot since covid but I will use it again. The administrators have done a pretty good job under the circumstances because week to week things would change," he said.

"I think it has been a great concept. It was Mike Parson's brainchild a couple of years ago and I think it has been good - hopefully the competition will continue."