Tuggeranong United return to the Men’s National Premier League (NPL) this weekend opening their season against Gungahlin United after winning the 2022 Capital Premier League and a strong preseason.
Tuggeranong couldn’t have had a better season in 2022, winning both the Capital League Premiership and Championship. Following a hard-fought Australia Cup Qualifying Round game earlier this month, against Canberra Olympic , Head Coach Mitch Stevens says the team is ready to compete in the NPL and bring back all that Tuggeranong have to offer the NPL.
A penalty seven minutes into additional time, knocked Tuggeranong out of the 2023 competition, but Stevens is still confident as Tuggeranong looked the likely winners for the best part of the game. The penalty gave Olympic a 2-1 win, with Luke Stevens scoring the goal for Tuggeranong.
Speaking on the loss to Olympic, Stevens was disappointed but remains confident for the upcoming season.
“We’ve had probably the best preseason, I’ve ever had,” Stevens said.
“I thought it showed tonight that the work we did was clear and hopefully we’ll transfer that week-in, week-out to good results.”
Some of that is attributed to the culture of Tuggeranong. Club President, Stan Mitchell works together with Stevens to ensure the first team demonstrates the respect of the game, found in all aspects of the club. Stevens says the club philosophy is engraved in the now NPL side.
“In the last two weeks now, we’ve had 100% attendance from every single player in the senior squad which says the players are enjoying it and want to be there,” he revealed.
“That discipline and enjoyment will hopefully then transfer to gameday so that you work hard and want to win and are competitive.”
Tuggeranong’s preparation for this weekend started long before March. Stevens says last season was a blessing in disguise. Tuggeranong used 2022 as an opportunity to rebuild and reflect, shown by scoring 76 goals, 35 more than the leagues average, and only suffering three loses.
Tuggeranong certainly found their rhythm in the Capital Premier League (the ACT’s second division) and Stevens will take that form into this weekend where the NPL’s 2022 premiership runners-up Gungahlin will test Tuggeranong. Stevens is looking forward to facing one of the NPL’s heavyweights.
“When you get promoted to the premier league you want to play Croatia and Gungahlin,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to it rather than thinking I’d rather be someone else.”
Tuggeranong has a squad full of talent and are a force ready for any team in the NPL so there is good reason for Stevens to be looking forward to these big matches. Stevens says he is using his six years of experience in the NPL to not get ahead of themselves.
“We have enough quality to push for top four with a little bit of luck, we’re fit, we’re strong, we’re super organised, there’s a lot to be excited about but first things first, we retain our position in the NPL,” he commented.
A coach who knows Canberra’s football scene better than most, Stevens has played or coached in Canberra’s top division, season after season. Retaining their position in the NPL is crucial for Tuggeranong United president, Stan Mitchell. Mitchell says that it’s important for youth players to have idols and goals to strive for.
“I think it’s critical that we provide an opportunity for players to understand they have a pathway in football,” the Tuggeranong President said.
Having the NPL players volunteer for the first rounds of the youth season helps young Tuggeranong players see this. It also helps ignite excitement for their NPL return this Sunday against Gungahlin.
You can catch their long-awaited return at Kambah 201 or watch live along with all other NPL games on BarTV Sports.
Words: Henry Ricketts