SHOW OF STRENGTH: Western Pride players, coaches and support staff had banded together to help the Ipswich club avoid NPL relegation. They were denied on Saturday night.
SHOW OF STRENGTH: Western Pride players, coaches and support staff had banded together to help the Ipswich club avoid NPL relegation. They were denied on Saturday night.

Cruel irony in way our NPL team was kicked out

OPINION

WATCHING helplessly as Western Pride were relegated from the National Premier Leagues Queensland competition was as painful as it gets in Ipswich sport.

Having seen for years how much work was done behind the scenes to secure Pride's 2013 state league entry enhances the torment.

All I could think of was how unfair it was for true blue Ipswich football supporters like Pat Boyle, Gary Wilkins, Darryl Christensen, Kym Wickstein and Todd Hunt.

They were a major part of Pride's backbone along with tireless contributors like Darryl and Charmain Kitching, and other loyal families and fans.

However this year was always going to be an uphill battle after Ipswich's first NPL club lost half its well-established players in a dramatic pre-season.

It's easy to blame disloyalty, coaching issues or time to move on as reasons for the mass exodus. The truth is Pride had a terrific youth team that had its heart ripped out too soon.

Full credit to incoming coach Terry Kirkham for picking up the pieces and trying to charter a new course.

From being a youth coach to suddenly having to oversee major recruiting after little or no pre-season was tough on Terry. He did his best, finally assembling a team that fell just one point short of remaining in the 2020 NPL.

Had Pride drawn with Easts earlier in the season instead of losing 1-0, the outcome could have been different.

Had Pride salvaged a point against Olympic instead of a late 3-2 defeat, they could still be in next year's NPL. The same was on offer in Pride's 3-2 loss to Gold Coast Knights.

But in a sport where millimetres can determine a goal being scored or conceded, Pride had all the misfortune this season.

What is most painful is that the team staying up, the Magpies Crusaders, conceded 104 goals this season. Pride gave up 69 goals from their 28 matches.

On Saturday night it went right down to the wire in two nerve-wracking contests.

After holding the powerful Strikers team to a 1-1 draw at Perry Park, Pride had to wait while an understrength Brisbane Roar Youth team tried to beat the Crusaders at Bundamba. The Roar "kids'' couldn't.

It was ironic Pride's last-ditch hopes were shattered at the Knights home ground. Unless something extraordinary happens in the off-season, Pride will join the Knights in next year's Queensland Premier League.