North Launceston Eagles set to re-enter the Northern Championship soccer

POISED: Club figurehead Ben Radbone readies Abdul Abdelrasoul, Jackson Radbone, Shinash Tumzghi and Brady Cowley with junior president Joe Crawford. Pictures: Scott Gelston
POISED: Club figurehead Ben Radbone readies Abdul Abdelrasoul, Jackson Radbone, Shinash Tumzghi and Brady Cowley with junior president Joe Crawford. Pictures: Scott Gelston

A diverse group of former refugees will re-form an old side in the Northern Championship after more than two decades in the wilderness.

North Launceston Eagles will be revived on the back of an intake of players from Bhutan, Nepal and Sudan.  

Club steering committee spokesperson Ben Radbone has confirmed that Football Federation Tasmania rostered North Launceston into this year’s Northern Championship and under-18s. 

A long-term plan is to also add a championship 1 and women’s side into the mix. 

“Just not in year one,” Radbone said. “But FFT is very keen for us to do this at a pace that’s sustainable. They don’t want to over extend it and have a false start.”

The club’s name has continued to play out in the Northern Tasmanian Junior Soccer Association in the absence of its senior teams.

But the Eagles promise to bring the most multicultural side to the championship

“On our side of the river in the northern suburbs, the social economics of our area have always played a big factor in the club – that’s not going to change a whole lot,” Radbone said. 

“We’ve one thing that has become more obvious: it’s an incredibly cultural group.

“The current senior playing group are 10 per cent of local players, but the vast majority of players are the Nepalese community, the Bhutanese community and North African communities.”

Radbone said the biggest complication was travel.

Many immigrant families don’t have the means of a car and walk from Mowbray to Invermay for games.

“They [players] are all very self-sufficient and very independent,” Radbone said.

“So it is quite exciting, but quite a challenging process and that’s why we’re hoping that we get it all right.”

New Eagles coach Des Baker, who joined from a stint at Northern Rangers, has not approached rival players.

Radbone said the latest championship side was conscious of not straining the resources of its competitors.

“We have not approached players directly at all,” he said. “But a lot of our old players have moved on to other clubs in years passed and they have put pressure on us to re-form for them.

“So we have had players asking that they would like to be playing for NLE and would like to be back at the old club where they started.”

EAGLES ROCK: North Launceston look to its championship future.

EAGLES ROCK: North Launceston look to its championship future.

But Radbone was very concerned the junior club has fed the other four Launceston-based clubs since the once White Eagles dissolved.

That has motivated North Launceston to “create better pathways” so players were not starved of opportunities.

“We have always found that we were one of the smaller clubs in the NTJSA, but we’ve punched above our weight in terms of the players that we’ve produced over the years,” Radbone said.

“But we have not always provided a pathway for them, so at some point in their ages the kids have started looking towards other clubs.”

North Launceston is still working over ground issues on the eve of the season.

The club are in discussions to secure Faulkner Park at Launceston Church Grammar School on game days and to train full-time at the UTAS Newnham campus.

The NTJSA has been forced to step in to provide temporary pitches for preseason.

“We’re very keen to see what’s going on over the next few years around Launceston in terms of new ground development,” Radbone said.