The Newcastle Dodgeball League Season 12 draw was officially released this week, with the season kicking off on Thursday, February 28 at Oakdale Arena. The season will begin, as always, with Hamilton facing Waratah in the Founders Derby.
The opening round will also see Season 11 minor premiers Shortland face off against Bar Beach in the first clash of the season, while Kotara will welcome new organisation Glendale to the league in the other early clash. Defending champions Belmont, who claimed their first title to complete their fairytale run after five seasons in the competition, will look to kick-start their title defence against Raymond Terrace.
The Newcastle Dodgeball League Season 12 play-offs will begin on June 6, when quarter-final matches will be played. The Season 12 Grand Final is scheduled for Thursday, June 20.
The league will also again celebrate its official Women in Dodgeball round in the twelfth season of the competition, with the commemorative fixtures to be held on Round 8, April 18.
The competition's Pride Round will be held in Round 10, on May 2.
The league will also be hosting a preseason matchday on Thursday, February 21, with fixtures for the trial games to be released closer to the date. All eight NDL teams are expected to attend.
KEY FEATURES OF THE NDL SEASON 12 DRAW
After an agonising end to a shining Season 10 campaign, Belmont have recovered and gone beyond their best ever finish, knocking off long-reigning champions Hamilton to lift the Newcastle Dodgeball League trophy after an 8-6 victory in the eleventh grand final.
For the Beavers, the rough road to championship glory wasn't an easy one, but the marked improvement of the team from their first days in the competition to their crowning glory has been a story for the league's history books.
When Belmont first joined the league in the seventh season, there were little expectations on the organisation - forced to contend with a Hamilton outfit that had just secured its first trophy since the league's foundation, as well as perennial powerhouses Waratah and Cooks Hill at the top of the tabled, the Beavers struggled to find their footing in their first outing.
After a wooden spoon finish for the team, and just a single victory to their name, their opening season was passed off as a learning experience for the new side, and things were expected to improve heading into the eight season.
Although the team avoided last place, another season sans-finals stun for the team that had proven they were eager for better things, and a return to the cellar in Season 9 proved one disappointment too many for the team in blue and gold.
Recruiting in the off-season, and taking advantage of the league's move from the Newcastle venue to Oakdale Arena, Belmont had their best ever season, leap-frogging a plummeting Cooks Hill squad to claim third place, before they knocked Waratah out in the semi-finals to book their ticket to their first ever grand final appearance.
Facing off against the juggernaut that was the Stags - a team searching for their five consecutive championship at this point - Belmont fell just short of the final hurdle as a 4-all scoreline at half time stretched out to an 11-6 victory for Hamilton.
It may not have been the disappointment of a wooden spoon, or a finals-less season, but the five-set defeat proved to be the turning point in Belmont's rise.
Heading into the eleventh season, and the Beavers' fifth in the competition, the organisation changed the way they played. While Hamilton had shown their fast-paced dodgeball was a winning algorithm for success, Belmont adopted a style similar to former champions Warners Bay and Waratah, and the controlled gameplay for the Beavers proved a major success.
From there, the rest became history - a fourth place finish sent Belmont to the quarter finals, where they swept aside Raymond Terrace, before a vital 7-6 upset over first placed Shortland put them back into the grand final against Hamilton.
Although they had been in a similar position in Season 10, the Belmont outfit that stepped onto the court against the Stags had improved in every way, and their controlled pace shone early as they clocked up a three-set lead heading into the half break against the reigning champions.
The Beavers opened with their trademark tempo game to collect three crucial set wins on the bounce early in the clash, before Hamilton were able to grab one back in another timed set, and two more into the pockets of the eventual victors before the break ended up being the catalyst for the Beavers' victory.
The second chance saw the pace switch, as Hamilton returned to their counter-attacking formation, but the four sets to three second half - falling in favour of the Stags - just simply wasn't enough as Belmont held off the potential comeback to secure their two-set triumph, 8-6.
The thrilling victory also marks the first time since the founding season that the championship was decided by less than five set points - Hamilton were on the wrong end of a 10-8 scoreline that saw Stockton lift the inaugural NDL trophy.
Now, for the first time since joining the league in Season 7, Belmont sit atop the throne, and will enter the twelfth season of the competition as reigning champions.
Season 10 closed out with Hamilton taking a 10-4 victory over Belmont in the grand final, pulling away from a 4-all half-time scoreline to dominate the second half and lift the trophy for a record fifth time in the Newcastle Dodgeball League.
Now, despite finishing in fourth place during the regular season, the Beavers have a second chance at redemption when they come face to face with their finalist rivals next Thursday evening, an opportunity they earned by upsetting first seed Shortland in a come-from-behind 7-6 victory in the semi-finals.
It was a tight contest in the first clash of the final four on Thursday evening, as the Scotchies climbed to an early lead against Belmont, but in the end experience won out for the team in blue and gold, as they recovered a slow first half to claim a handful of set wins on the bounce and move just a single set ahead in the final round of the contest.
Belmont's road to the semi-final saw them take on Raymond Terrace in the earlier quarter final, as the Raccoons again gunned for a final four position after making the finals for the first time in their organisation's history last season.
The Beavers weren't the team to let them pass however, as they confirmed their match against Shortland with a 10-4 victory, and rounded out that leg of the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, Kotara and Waratah entered the first round of finals as the sixth and third seeds respectively, but in the end the match couldn't have been much closer - the Cobras finished the clash with a 9-6 win, but their final three set wins split the 6-all tie heading into the final stretch of the match.
Up until that point, the Kings had been taking the perennial-finalists Waratah to the wire, answering blow for blow as they looked to become the first team to head into the semi-finals from the lowest seed.
Unfortunately, their fairytale finish wasn't to be, as the 'Tahs moved one with their three-set win to face off against their oldest rivals in the league - Hamilton.
Once again the Waratah-Hamilton rivalry lived up to the billing, as two of the oldest teams in the competition pushed each other to the limits in a game of two distinct halves.
The Stags cruised out to a dominant lead early in the first half, stretching their advantage to three sets by the half break, but Waratah refused to bow down to their biggest foes, even as they dropped to a 3-to-7 deficit early in the second stanza.
From there, the Cobras nearly completed their recovery to book a ticket to the grand final, claiming three sets on the bounce to bring the game to within just a single set point before the comeback was cut short by the final whistle.
Despite four teams falling in the playoffs so far, all four of the organisations had stellar runs in the elimination rounds - Kotara nearly upset third seed Waratah in what could have kick-started a miracle run to the final, before the Cobras bounced back to force their old rivals to the limits. The other side of the bracket saw similar high-quality dodgeball, as Belmont climbed from fourth seed back to the title decider with a strong outing against the ever-improving Raymond Terrace, before one of the closest matches the finals have ever seen went their way in the dying moments of the clash.
Now, in the final clash of Season 11, Belmont have the chance to end Hamilton's reign, and claim revenge for their second half defeat just one campaign ago, while the Stags are looking to confirm an untouchable dynasty atop the Newcastle Dodgeball League throne.
The last match of the season - the title final - will begin at 7.30pm next Thursday evening.
PRESEASON: Season 12's draw & key fixtures revealed (08/02/19)
PRESEASON: Rego now open for NDL Season 12. (01/02/18)
GF: Belmont edge out Hamilton in two-set grand final epic (16/11)
FINALS: Hamilton and Belmont set up grand final rematch (9/11)
RD14: Waratah down Belmont in heated one-set thriller (2/11)
RD13: Shortland oust Hamilton from first with one to go (26/10)
RD12: Belmont upset Hamilton to blow first place race open (19/10)
RD11: Shortland take second after thriller against Belmont (12/10/18)
RD10: Waratah tumble into fourth place after slow start (5/10/18)
RD9: Top four teams hold off finals-hopefuls (28/09/18)
RD8: Hamilton claim first as league celebrates Ladies Day (21/09/18)
RD7: Shortland and Kotara clash goes down to the wire (14/09/18)
RD6: Waratah keep close on Hamilton's heels (07/09/18)
RD5: Hamilton prevail in grand final rematch (30/08/18)
RD4: Belmont tumble into ladder mix with defeat (24/08/18)
RD3: Waratah cuts Shortland's undefeated streak short (17/08/18)
RD2: Shortland break Terrace to continue strong start (10/08/18)
RD1: Waratah open account against long-standing rivals (03/08/18)
PRESEASON: Season 11's draw & key fixtures revealed (19/07/18)
PRESEASON: Registrations now open for NDL Season 11. (13/07/18)
GF: Hamilton extend dynasty with fifth championship (06/07/18)
SF: Belmont punch ticket to season decider with comeback (29/06/18)
QF: Raymond Terrace scores maiden finals victory (22/06/18)
RD15: Waratah confirm second place, first week bye (15/06/18)
RD14: Waratah steady the ship with key three-set win (08/06/18)
RD13: Belmont ensures the Waratah slide continues (01/06/18)
RD12: Cooks Hill and Belmont remain level with draw (25/05/18)
RD11: Waratah lose sight of first place after defeat (18/05/18)
RD10: Raymond Terrace shock Cookers in sudden death (11/05/18)
RD9: Cookers drop 'Tahs to second with 6-5 slug-fest (04/05/18)
RD8: Hamilton take revenge in Battle of Oakdale (27/04/18)
RD7: Bailey best on field as 'Tahs in cruise-control (20/04/18)
RD6: Waratah break three-year hoodoo over old rivals (13/04/18)
RD5: Hamilton reclaim first place with 13-0 masterclass (06/04/18)
RD4: League's closest round sees 'Tahs take top spot (23/03/18)
RD3: Cooks Hill record first point with 5-5 draw (16/03/18)
RD2: Sudden-death deciders see Hamilton pip Belmont (09/03/18)
RD1: Waratah-Hamilton classic ends in 6-all draw (02/03/18)