At the start of the NPL-WA season it is fair to say that Subiaco were the most disliked club in the competition. Having come last on the league table in 2016 they were facing relegation, but due to the competition’s management at Football West not following their own rules, found that they could challenge their relegation. A challenge that they subsequently won and which resulted in the NPL-WA being expanded by two extra teams.
Subiaco had a target on their backs from the minute the season kicked off; even though the expansion of the league led to all of the clubs not having to pay fees for the 2017 season due to the extra cost of the having four more fixtures.
It is a credit to them that in 2017 the club was not in another relegation dogfight.
When the NPL-WA was created Subiaco was the only club outside of the old State Premier League to be admitted into the new competition. That too upset many. With one of the criteria being that all NPL clubs had to have strong Junior set ups from which to develop players, Subiaco were in a very strong position, as for years they had a very strong Junior set-up.
Also at the time of applying for entry to the NPL clubs were asked to tick whether they were applying to be a part of the 2014 NPL competition or for inclusion in three years time. Many believed that this would mean that there would be no relegation from the NPL-WA for three years. Accordingly some clubs had a three year plan in which to grow and become stronger. It would appear that Subiaco was one of them.
In the first season of the NPL-WA the bottom three clubs at the end of the season were Perth Glory, Subiaco and Armadale; the bottom- placed Armadale recording just one win to the other clubs four.
In 2015 Subiaco finished ninth, ECU Joondalup tenth and Perth Glory and Armadale in the bottom two places. This time Armadale had four victories and Glory and ECU five.
In 2016 as stated Subiaco came last with five wins and Armadale and Perth Glory were in the two places above them with six wins.
It is worth assuming that the management at Subiaco had a three year plan in place, because in 2017 they finished nowhere near the relegation spots. The club finished 8th on the league table with 11 wins. When one considers that they had only achieved 14 wins in the previous three seasons this was a huge turnaround.
Armadale climbed out of the bottom three with seven wins, while Perth Glory remained locked in the relegation battle. They managed five wins, the same as Balcatta while last placed Mandurah City managed just three.
Perth Glory it should be noted is at a disadvantage as they play predominantly an under age side, and therefore have a higher turnover of players each year. Yet somehow they are able to play players on A-League contracts in this team. This is a contentious issue as this season we were advised that the Perth Glory NPL club is seperate from the A-League club; yet plays in the same colours wears the same badge and is coached by Perth Glory staff. According to FIFA and the AFC this means that any player on an A-League contract must be released from that contract to play in the NPL. A proper loan agreement must be put in place. If this has not happened then the club is guilty of playing a player registered with another club, and the results could be voided.
However back to Subiaco, credit must be given to those involved with the club to have achieved what they did under more pressure than ever before. Remarkably at the half-way stage in the season they were sitting second last on ten points with three wins. Mandurah were below them on six points and one win. Above them Balcatta and Perth Glory both on eleven points and with three wins each.
In the second half of the season Subiaco won eight of their remaining 13 games. Only Perth, Inglewood United and eventual Champions Bayswater City achieved more wins in that period.
Their fellow cellar dwellers at the bottom of the table at the halfway point managed just two wins apiece. Which highlights an incredible turnaround by Subiaco.
Was this down to good planning or good coaching? Was this the way the club had always envisaged their progress over a three year period?
Armadale too improved on previous seasons and they too can claim that they had a long term plan for steady improvement. However had the league still been twelve teams they would have once again been in the bottom three. They won four games in the first half of the season and just three in the second half, so there was no steady improvement as seen by Subiaco.
There will undoubtedly be many who still feel Subiaco should not be playing in the top flight of Western Australian football, but when you look at the results they would say otherwise. The big question though is can they build on that in 2018.