The PS4 NPL Tasmania 2016 season was one of the most exciting since the introduction of the State-wide league in 2013 and for the third year in a row there was a new league champion.
Devonport City won the 2016 league and cup double and made Tasmanian football history by reaching the Round of 16 in the FFA Cup.
Devonport won the league title on the final day of the league season with a 4-1 away win over the reigning champions Olympia Warriors at Warrior Park.
The title was further confirmation that the dominance of South Hobart was over.
The all-conquering South Hobart had won seven league titles in succession before losing the 2015 title to Olympia Warriors. With Devonport’s success this season, it means there have been three different champions in the past three years, which can only be good for the game.
The keys to Devonport’s success were new coach Peter Savill, the former Leeds United player, Canadian goalkeeper Niko Gianstopoulos, Canadian defender Joe Zupo, and striker Brayden Mann, who returned to the club from South Hobart.
A solid defence was critical. Devonport conceded only 10 goals in 21 games, which was by far the best performance in the competition.
They ground out wins through a direct and no-nonsense style of play which may have disappointed the purists, but it ultimately provided them with success.
The finished 8 points ahead of second-placed Hobart Zebras and 10 ahead of South Hobart.
Devonport achieved the league and cup double as they defeated arch rivals South Hobart 1-0 in the Milan Lakoseljac Trophy Final to earn a place in the FFA Cup.
Their success galvanised the whole of Tasmania’s North-West Coast behind the team and the sport of football and capacity crowds attended Devonport’s home FFA Cup ties, despite atrocious weather on both occasions.
Devonport beat Northern New South Wales outfit Lampton Jaffas 1-0 at Valley Road before a sell-out crowd, despite torrential rain which made play extremely difficult.
That meant a home Round-of-16 clash against Victoria’s Bentleigh Greens at Valley Road. Again, the weather gods were in angry mood and the rain pelted down throughout the match.
Devonport had hardly a chance, while their goalkeeper Giantsopoulos again proved to be superhuman. He kept his side in the game, which went to extra-time. But, Giantsopoulos suffered a shoulder injury just before the end of the regulation 90 minutes and had to be replaced.
That was the opportunity Bentleigh were hoping for and they scored the only goal of the game early in extra-time to end Devonport’s run in the competition. They had done better than any other Tasmanian team ever against interstate opponents and could hold their heads high.
The fillip Devonport’s success provided to football on the North-West Coast, and indeed, to Tasmania as a whole, cannot be overstated. The North-West Coasters love their sport and they warmed to football.
Devonport have since lost their Canadians Giantsopoulos (to Broadmeadow Magic in NNSW) and Zupo (returned to Canada), as well as coach Savill, who has joined Hobart Zebras.
They have signed a new coach in Chris Gallo from Manly United of the NSW NPL, and two new Canadians in goalkeeper Matt Zaikos and midfielder Raphael Reynolds.
Michael Holden has also returned after a stint with Melbourne Victory’s Youth side.
It will be interesting to see if they can retain their title in 2017.
Devonport’s run in the NPL Finals series ended in disappointment when they lost 6-1 to Perth SC in Perth.
PS4 NPL Tasmania League (As at 20 August 2016)
TEAM………………… P W D L F A Pts
Devonport City……… 21 19 1 1 61 10 58
Hobart Zebras………. 21 16 2 3 61 26 50
South Hobart……….. 21 15 3 3 86 20 48
Olympia Warriors…… 21 9 0 12 51 49 27
Launceston City…….. 21 7 2 12 24 58 23
Kingborough Lions…. 21 6 3 12 34 53 21
Clarence United…….. 21 3 2 16 23 71 11
Northern Rangers……. 21 1 3 17 20 75 6