As Riverside Olympic pushes towards a berth in the NPL Tasmania next year, the club it has modelled its arrival on have been forced to take a backwards step.
Devonport City has been the shining bright light for the Tasmanian game that has included clinching NPL titles in 2016 and also this year.
But the Strikers conceded the Northern Championship to Riverside in a thrilling last-round clash on Saturday.
The 2-1 historic win at Windsor Park was Olympic’s first championship success since winning last in 1999.
Club president Stuart McCarron said pinching the title from Devonport validated the club’s stance to accept a spot in the expanded NPL competition to join the likes of its role model.
“Some forty-odd years ago when we first started at Windsor Park, we looked to model ourselves on Devonport to produce the same sort of thing that they have been doing,” he said.
“They have such a great junior program that is always full of their kids as well or from the North West coast.
“We want to try and develop kids that want to play for our club from six years old until they’re 60.”
But the final win for the players was special against a Strikers lineup with enough depth good enough to get a game at most of the other seven current NPL clubs.
Riverside were trailing 1-0 at half-time with their title hopes nervously on the line.
The home side needed only a win to surpass Devonport at the top of the table.
But Taylor Neilson equalised after the break with his fifth goal – and arguably most important – for the year to keep the side’s championship hopes intact.
Devonport’s desperation to save a second caused calls for a penalty over claims of a handball.
A cool-headed Trent Mitchell stepped up to net his 14th goal this season to put Riverside one goal up inside the last 10 minutes towards victory.
The day turned out to be extra special for the club as Riverside’s reserves also won the Northern Championship 1 competition.
McCarron said the future was encouraging after the women’s side finished the championship second and under-18s in third as well.
The revival at Windsor Park has coincided with new start-of-the-art clubrooms and improved facilities at the Riverside’s spiritual home.
“There’s only two players that didn’t start when they were six years old,” he said.
“They are all, except for those two, our kids that have a great belief and have got better as they have got older.
“But the side is still really young – the side’s average is probably only 19.
“That’s one of the reasons why we decided to make that extra step to go up into the state [NPL] league.
“We wanted to give them that pathway to keep developing. That’s the main thing why we need to make that next step.”
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