Launceston City coach Roger Hardwicke has heaped praise on his club and players for their attitude and commitment to a troubled NPL Tasmania campaign.
The club finished bottom of the statewide league, with just one win and a draw from 14 fixtures, before losing Sunday's Lakoseljac Cup semi-final 7-0 to Olympia, but Hardwicke said efforts on and off the Prospect Park pitch suggest grounds for optimism.
"The most pleasing aspect for me in the last two to three weeks has been the attitude at training - the chatter and intensity," said Hardwicke, who took over at the start of the year.
"That's a credit to the players and their attitude and willingness to keep battling on.
"I would also acknowledge the work of the club and board because without them there probably wouldn't have been a season and the club deserves a pat on the back for providing the players the opportunity to play."
Reflecting on a shortened season which failed to maintain the highs of an early Lakoseljac Cup victory over eventual champions Devonport, Hardwicke predicted some off-season changes in personnel but a positive future.
"I always thought it would take more than one year to get us on track but we have shown when we do play well we are a force. We are the only team that beat Devonport all year but are sitting on the bottom of the table so it shows how close the league is and that any team can beat any other.
"It's been disappointing from a results perspective, but with regards to where we were at the start of the season to where we are now, we've come a long way. We are playing much better football and realise at some point it will transfer into results on the pitch.
"Our defensive play has come on in leaps and bounds and there is a lot of optimism there and frustration that we have not done ourselves justice in regards to points and position on the table.
"We have plenty of gifted footballers but need all those intangibles that often make the difference and there is no substitute for hard work and the guys have bought into what we are trying to do."
Hardwicke hopes to continue in the role albeit without English compatriots Rob Gerrard, whose two goals defeated Devonport back in July, and captain and leading scorer Sam Ridgard, who are likely to return home.
"I feel it was always a two-to-three year process so am already looking at planning for next year.
"Rob's visa is up. Sam is assessing his options but probably going to travel. I don't think he will be back next year but I've been delighted with the goals and leadership he has provided.
"We'd really want everyone to stay but lives, jobs and other things change and we're not a fully pro competition. If players move on, we wish them all the best and who knows who might turn up next year and want to play. It's the nature of the beast."
Hardwicke hopes midfield engine Gedi Krusa will be back from a frustrating foot injury next season to rejoin a squad with plenty of potential.
"A fair few players have really come on this year.
"Matty Oh has turned himself into a great defender, as has Jarrod Linger who is one of the best full-backs running around in the league at the moment.
"Mason Gardner has probably played half the season in the NPL which as an 18-19-year-old is excellent.
"(Keeper) Dan Nash has done superbly well when he has come in for Lachy Clark.
"Nick Thorne has been asked to fill a slightly different role and really come on and pushed himself to become better and, as a coach, that's what you want from your players.
"You expect your big names to perform well, but these other players that have stepped up is almost more pleasing."
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City's inconsistency was summed up by a late season sequence which saw them lose three home games, then beat Riverside in the derby, lose 4-0 to Olympia, give champions Devonport a scare before losing 2-0 to Clarence.
"The key thing is to put in 90 minute performances," said the coach.
"In the five minutes we don't play well, we let ourselves down so we've just got to be more consistent."
This was perfectly demonstrated by Sunday's Lakoseljac Cup semi-final when City conceded four goals in nine second-half minutes.