Clubs History: Croatia & Western Suburbs to Prospect Knights FC

Prospect Knights FC, is a football (soccer) club formed from the merger of Western Suburbs and Launceston Croatia Soccer Clubs, which represents Prospect Vale and the wider Launceston community in the Tasmanian Northern Premier League. The club also fields a women’s team, Under 18s as well as teams in all junior divisions. Prospect Knights FC play all their home games at the Prospect Park Sports Complex, off Harley Parade in Prospect, a western suburb of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. The club has also competed at the annual Australian & New Zealand Croatian Tournament on several occasions, including the 34th tournament in Geelong in 2008 and the 35th held in Adelaide in 2009.

The clubs official playing strip is a combination of red, white and blue (Red tops, White shorts and Royal Blue socks) with the away/clash strip being a black version of home strip (Black tops, White shorts and Royal Blue, Black or White socks).

Launceston Croatia Soccer Club was founded in 1959 by Croatian migrants to Launceston. The club played in the lower Northern Tasmanian leagues until 1964 when the club went into recess. The club was reformed in 1970. The club was promoted to the states top league, the Tasmanian Northern Premier League, the following season. The clubs first stint in the league (1971-1977) was one marked by poor on field performances, with the club finishing in the bottom three each season. The 1978 season saw the Tasmanian Premier League go from a two conference system to a one state wide league. As a consequence the club was relegated to Division 1.

The club returned to the Premier League in 1982 with a return to the two conference system, but was relegated after finishing last. The clubs third stint in the Premier League (1985-1987) proved to be the clubs most successful. The club finished in the top 5 each season. In 1986 the club also won the Bohemian Cup, defeating Hobart Olympia 3-2.

In 1988 the Premier League again became a one league system, once more the club found itself relegated to Division 1.

In 1997 Soccer Australia (The governing body at the time, replaced by FFA in 2003) made the ruling that ethnic affiliations (club names) should be ended by Australian football clubs. As a result Launceston Croatia became known as Western Knights following a merger at the start of the 97’ season with fellow Premier League club Western Suburbs Soccer Club. Many players over the years had played for both Croatia and Suburbs, among them dual Rothmans Medal winner 1979-80 (playing for Glenorchy Croatia) Brian Davidson and George Dale winner (playing for Western Suburbs) Peter Brookes.

Western Suburbs (founded in 1980), themselves had some success during their 16 year history, including winning Devonports Night Series title and several Under 17s, 19s, Divisional, Reserves and Womens League and State titles. Like Croatia, Suburbs endured their own promotion and relegations from the Premier League to Division 1, dependent upon the combination of the clubs on field performances, end of season league positions and what league structure Soccer Tasmania were putting in place from one season to the next.

Western Suburbs spent its first 10 years utilising the soccer and sports ground facilities at Prospect High School for home games and training. In 1990 the club began the clubrooms development at Prospect Park, Harley Parade the home of Prospect Knights FC. Following the merger of the two clubs, home games and training were split between Ogilvy Park and Harley Parade for the first season, whilst further developments were made at Harley Parade to include new clubroom and bar facilities in the late nineties. The current clubrooms complex which was completed in 2008 incorporates 4 change rooms (2 home, 2 away), medical room, referees change room, 2 kiosks/kitchens and a large bar and function room which over looks and runs parallel with the main playing pitch.

The Prospect Knights FC logo reflects the club colours of the two former clubs, with the red, white and blue from Launceston Croatia and the gold and red from Western Suburbs gold, red and green. The club logo also incorporates the current clubs establishment year, that of the merger in 1997 as well as the establishment dates of the two former clubs being 1959 for Croatia and 1980 for Suburbs respectively.

From 1997 to 2000 the club had mixed results in all leagues. The Under 17’s and Reserves sides had some strong performances to have them amongst the top sides in their respective leagues, while there was another league title for the clubs Division 1 Mens team in 1998 and one of the clubs two Womens teams (Western Knights Gold) secured yet another league title in 1999.

In 2000 the Tasmanian Premier League reverted back to a two conference system. Once again Knights returned to the top flight of Tasmanian soccer, where it has remained till this day. In this the clubs fourth stint in the Premier League the club has had mixed results with until the 2006 season (2000 finished 8th out of 11, 2001 9th out of 10, 2002 7th out of 10, 2003 6th out of 9, 2004 7th and 2005 9th) the clubs best finish in the Premier League was 4th. The Under 17s and Reserves teams continued to be in the top half of their respective leagues with the Under 17’s consistently amongst the title contenders, finally securing another league title and the Mano Cup in the 2006.

In 2007 the club officialy changed its name from Western Knights to Prospect Knights FC. On the field the Premier League side had mixed fortunes throughout the season and finished 7th.

In 2008 the club had success with the Premier League Reserves winning the league title, in the process going the entire season undeafeted. The Premier League and Under 18 teams were also title contenders at stages throughout the 08′ season. The Premier League side equalling the clubs best finish of 4th and the Under 18’s winning the Northern Youth Cup final. The club also competed at the 34th Australian & New Zealand Croatian Tournament in Geelong. Playing in Division 2 in a group that contained Dalmacija Sydney, Glenroy Split, St Albans Dinamo and Melbourne Tornado Zadar finishing with one win, a draw and two loses from our four group matches. Southern counterparts Glenorchy Knights were pooled in the opposite side of the draw.

2009 season saw the Premier League side secure the clubs best Premier League regular season finish of third place, in doing so, recording a memorable double over Devonport for the first time in many years. In the Statewide finals series a 4-2 defeat to Tilford Zebras saw them knocked out at the quarterfinal stage. The Premier League Reserves finished the season strongly after a poor start to their title defence, to eventually finish sixth, whilst the Under 18’s had a great season, winning both the pre season Steve Hudson Youth Cup and Under 18’s League tiles. The club again competed at the annual Australian & New Zealand Croatian Soccer Tournament. The 35th annual event was hosted by Adelaide Croatia Raiders. Matches were against HNK Edensor Park from Sydney, Melbourne Tornado Zadar (2008 Tournament Div 2 Champions), Adelaide Croatia Vukovi and Western Australian side Gwelup Croatia. The club recording two wins and two loses from our four group matches, missing the quarter finals on goal difference. Once again our southern brothers Glenorchy Knights were at the tournament playing on the opposite side of the draw. The eventual Div 2 Champions were 2010 hosts NK Auckland Croatia. The overall Tournament Div 1 Champions were hosts Adelaide Croatia Raiders, with Fremantle Croatia winning the womens.

2010 was an up and down season for the club across all divisions, with good performances and results mixed in with the not so good. The Premier League side had a season in which consistency was one issue effecting results: players overseas, work commitments, injuries, etc. all having an impact on the consistency of the playing squad from week to week, the team eventually finishing the season in 5th. The Premier League Reserves had a similar season to that of the seniors. For a large part of the season it looked as though they may repeat the success of 2008, this was not to be and they eventually finished in 4th, six points behind league winners Devonport. The 2010 Under 18s was pretty much a complete new squad from the 2009 League Winners, a young group with a growing team ethic improving the longer the season went, eventually finishing the season only 6 points behind the league winners, Burnie United, with their final league position of 6th in a tight league. The Div 1 team had a season of varying player numbers and finished in mid table, 5th. The clubs womens team had a long campaign to eventually finish the season in 12th.

2011 has seen the Premier League side have its best season in the clubs history. Firstly coming Runners up to South Hobart in the Pre-season Steve Hudson cup, and then going through the season with just two defeats to secure the clubs first ever Premier League title in 52 years, before bowing out of the Statewide Finals at the quarter final round to New Town. Along with this the Premier League Reserves came second to Devonport who were the only side to defeat them all season. The Under 18s had a mixed season of good performances against the top teams, including two 0-0 draws against second placed Rangers and not being able to put other teams away when leading early in games, this hurt them and their final position of 7th was not possibly a true reflection of how they performed during the season. The womens team battled hard all season, memorably scoring against the much fancied Launceston City side and scoring a draw in their final match against Devonport to eventually finish in 10th.

To cap off a fantastic season for the club, the clubs Premier League Captain Mark Baker became the first player from the club since Peter Brookes (Western Suburbs) in the mid 80’s to win the Premier Leagues prestigious best & fairest award the George Dale Medal.

2012 saw the Premier League side loose several players from the 2011 Championship team through work commitments, moving interstate/overseas or injury. For the first third of the season they were still in the mix for a repeat of 2011. As the season progress though a series of results meant that a top 4 spot was the final ladder position. In the Statewide Finals series Quarter Final the Club was drawn against southern premiers South Hobart. Traveling down to Hobart they eventually went down 7-0 to end a long season. The Premier League Reserves had a season which introduced some of the Clubs under 18s to a higher level and this along with injuries and work commitments of other players meant that there was not the consistency of last years Runners-up side, eventually finishing 8th. The under 18s was a young side that was improving as the season progressed with several players during the season playing at higher levels in either seniors or reserves. The under 18s ended the season 9th. The Women’s team were big improvers in 2012 winning 7 games and finishing the season mid table in 7th position.

2013 The story of 2013 was rain, rain, rain and more rain as the season was dramatically effected by the conditions. So much so that 6 home games needed to be rescheduled, moved or not played at all. The Premier League side managed through all the inconvenience to finish 4th, whilst the Reserves were mid-table. The Under 18s battled hard and showed steady improvement throughout the season, unlucky not to get some scalps along the way. The Women’s team had a season of improvements with wins and losses again a season effected be rain.