Slice of Cheese

How the Glenorchy Knights won the NPL title

Written by Dan Thurley

This time last weekend, the Tasmanian football community were preparing for a blockbuster round of action in which the Glenorchy Knights and Devonport Strikers both had high hopes of being crowned champions at the final whistle.

As it was, Glenorchy would hoist the trophy thanks to a Lucas Hill header, while Ben Hamlett crushed Devonport dreams at Lightwood. In what was a memorable year for the Knights, they overcame injuries, player transfers, and many a parked bus to get to where they now stand at the pinnacle of Tasmanian football. This is a look back at how it all unfolded over the course of 2021.

Saturday 20th March – Round 1 – Glenorchy Knights 1-0 Olympia Warriors

Photo: Solstice Digital

The Glenorchy Knights named one of the league’s most star-studded line-ups in round 1 with new signings Nick Mearns, Lucas Hill, Eli Luttmer and Adam Gorrie joining the likes of Joffrey Nkoso, Alex Walter and Nick Naden in the starting eleven.

Facing a new-look Olympia Warriors side, the Knights were heavily favoured for a blow-out win but it took a lone Alex Walter goal in the 72nd minute to edge them towards an opening day victory, with coach James Sherman emphasizing the need for better game management in weeks to come.

Top three after round 1:

  1. South Hobart – 3pts
  2. Kingborough Lions – 3pts
  3. Glenorchy Knights – 3pts

Saturday 27th March – Round 2 – Glenorchy Knights 3-1 Clarence Zebras

While Nick Naden’s double and the Knights’ victory over the Clarence Zebras provided few surprises, it was the Devonport Strikers’ loss to South Hobart that raised some eyebrows. Not only did it point out some potential weaknesses in the 2021 Strikers after losing their first game at home since 2019, but it was the game in which South Hobart staked their claim as title contenders by sitting first after two rounds.

Top three after round 2:

  1. South Hobart – 6pt
  2. Kingborough Lions – 6pts
  3. Glenorchy Knights – 6pts

Saturday 8th May – Round 6 – Glenorchy Knights 3-1 Riverside Olympic

A lot changed for the Knights between rounds 5 and 6. After five goals in his four appearances, 2020 Golden Boot winner Alex Walter had played his final game before transferring to NPL Victoria’s Hume City, while Adam Gorrie suffered a season ending knee injury at Lightwood Park in the Lakoseljac Cup. James Sherman’s hand was forced into making some changes to his trusted eleven up until this point, and Eduardo Castaneda, Nick Mearns and Joffrey Nkoso were on the scoresheet as the Knights continued to go point for point with the ladder-leading South Hobart.

Top three after round 6:

  1. South Hobart – 13pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 13pts
  3. Kingborough Lions – 12pts

Saturday 22nd May – Round 8 – Glenorchy Knights 9-2 Clarence Zebras

Photo: Solstice Digital

After losing Joffrey Nkoso to Pascoe Vale, the Knights welcomed Austin Yost from the Olympia Warriors who made his debut in a stunning victory over the Clarence Zebras. He scored two goals to put his name on the scoresheet alongside Eli Luttmer, Nick Mearns, Cade Smith, Nick Naden and Connor Schmidt as the Knights reminded the league that they still had plenty of goal scorers among their ranks, while they climbed onto the top of the ladder for the first time.

Top three after round 8:

  1. Glenorchy Knights – 19pts
  2. South Hobart – 16pts
  3. Devonport Strikers – 16pts

Saturday 3rd July – Round 12 – Glenorchy Knights 1-1 South Hobart

Photo: Solstice Digital

After an extended spell on the sideline, Jack Bowman returned from his injury in time for the Lakoseljac Cup final that the Knights lost in a dramatic penalty shootout, to none other than the Devonport Strikers.

The devastating cup defeated was followed by a slip up against the Olympia Warriors as they drew 2-2 in round 10, and the Strikers started to smell blood in the water while closing the gap at the top of the table. The Knights bounced back with a 5-0 victory over Riverside Olympic in round 11, but then followed it up with another draw, thanks to an equaliser from Josh Divin that controversially arrived very late into stoppage time against South Hobart.

While the Knights dropped points for the second time in three weeks, the Strikers extended their winning streak to six games with a convincing 3-0 win over the nine-man Olympia Warriors, and claimed top spot on the table for the first time, albeit having played an extra fixture.

Top three after round 12:

  1. Devonport Strikers – 28pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 27pts
  3. South Hobart – 25pts

Saturday 10th July – Round 13 – Devonport Strikers 4-0 Glenorchy Knights

Photo: Solstice Digital

Round 13 saw the Knights suffer their only defeat of the season, and it came at the hands of the Strikers who extended their lead at the top of the table to four points. The Strikers produced one of their performances of the season while putting four goals past the Knights, who up until that point had only conceded ten in the previous eleven games.

Top three after round 13:

  1. Devonport Strikers – 31pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 27pts
  3. South Hobart – 25pts

Saturday 7th August – Round 17 – Glenorchy Knights 1-1 Devonport Strikers

After earning a slender 1-0 victory over Launceston City in their catch-up game the week before, the Knights were still second by a single point heading into their second meeting with Devonport.

In what was a markedly improved performance they came home from Valley Road with a point thanks to a Connor Schmidt header that cancelled out Charles Bidwell’s earlier goal, but the Strikers remained in first-place. All eyes had started to turn to the third and final meeting between the two – a rescheduled round 4 clash set for the penultimate game week that had the potential to be the title decider.

Top three after round 17:

  1. Devonport Strikers – 38pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 37pts
  3. South Hobart – 31pts

Saturday 21st August – Round 19 – Glenorchy Knights 0-0 Olympia Warriors

Photo: Solstice Digital

The Olympia Warriors had put a major dent in South Hobart’s pursuit for the title in a 3-1 victory in round 16, and they visited KGV aiming to do the same to the Glenorchy Knights.

A solid defensive performance from Rob Clarke’s men combined with an Eli Luttmer penalty miss in the 22nd minute saw the scores locked at 0-0 at the final whistle. It appeared that the Knights would rue the day, as the Strikers took a three-point lead into the final three games.

“It was in our hands with a win, and it’s not now,” James Sherman said afterwards.

Top three after round 19:

  1. Devonport Strikers – 44pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 41pts
  3. South Hobart – 37pts

Saturday 4th September – Round 4 (Rescheduled) – Glenorchy Knights 1-0 Devonport Strikers

Photo: Solstice Digital

The equation was simple: if the Strikers won, they would take the NPL Tasmania title back to Devonport for the fourth straight year.

Nick Mearns and the Glenorchy Knights had other ideas.

A physical encounter was decided by Nick Mearns’ 13th goal of the season, and the Knights were once again level on points, although goal difference had them sitting in second place.

Top three after round 4 (rescheduled):

  1. Devonport Strikers – 47pts
  2. Glenorchy Knights – 47pts
  3. South Hobart 40pts

Saturday 11th September – Round 21 – Glenorchy Knights 1-0 Launceston City

Once again, the Strikers required a win in their clash with the Kingborough Lions. If they managed to do so, the Knights would have needed to outscore them by six goals or more in their fixture with Launceston City, but as the half-time whistle blew at KGV with scores locked at 0-0, that did not look like happening.

As fate would have it, the Strikers were locked in their own 1-1 deadlock at half time at Lightwood Park. Shortly after the second half resumed, the Knights found what would be a winner via Lucas Hill’s head, putting the pressure on the Strikers to score again. Not only were they held, but Ben Hamlett’s winner meant James Sherman and his Glenorchy Knights could celebrate at full-time, with their title-clinching victory confirmed.

Top three after round 21:

  1. Glenorchy Knights – 50pts
  2. Devonport Strikers – 47pts
  3. South Hobart – 40pts