UNSW FC won the 2023 Football New South Wales League Two Men’s competition following their 1-0 away victory over Inner West Hawks FC in Round 29 – their goal was accomplished, and their sights are set on a new challenge next season.
UNSW FC set out a target to win the league and they accomplished just that with one match remaining.
Head Coach Gabe Knowles banded his together to create a title-winning team; however, Knowles explained that the nerves were evident in the final month of the season, with the finish line in sight.
“There have been some games, thinking about Gladesville [Ryde Magic] and Western Rage where they scored with all their chances, basically.
“[Our team] showed their character and their quality; they still stuck five past both of those teams and obviously with the Rage, we left that very late.
“But again, that is the result of pressure and them following their processes and their structure and getting their rewards for their patience.”
Speaking on the pressure of being top of the league for 22 of the 28 rounds leading into their title-winning match, Knowles knew the extra pressure teams were pushing on his squad.
“Every game has been tough for us since we have been on top because everybody wants to beat the team on top.
“So, I think the players have shown great character and that is to their credit to keep turning up week after week with that pressure and that target on their back being the top team.
“Again, just really proud of them for their efforts.”
Knowles spoke about how their work in pre-season was not only on their ability and their game-plan, but also on the mentality to tackle the challenges of the league was also a great achievement in itself.
“We did a lot of work on that in pre-season, on the mentality piece, that we did not want to be here at the end of the season in second or third, that was not going to be good enough for us.
“We set them some ongoing tasks… we talked that through and that was very deliberate from our end, and I think it showed; they are very tough, mentally, that team.”
The task for UNSW FC was to win the league; they set that goal from the beginning of the season.
“Nothing else was going to do for us – that was the goal that we had said.
“It has been a tough few years with COVID, that made it really hard for everybody to really dial in and go all out for a big target like that, without a carrot of promotion at the end of it.
“But that was our goal; we had been waiting for this, some longer than others here at the club; building for this and being able to achieve this and to get the club promoted.”
Knowles was immensely proud of his side, especially given the quality of the other teams in the competition and those they had to overcome to become Premiers this season.
“There is an A-League academy side in our competition who train full-time; we all have full-time jobs; we are all professionals in our outside jobs on the coaching staff.
“The boys are working, they have university, they are achieving in other parts of their life to a high level and that is part of why we bring them here… why we want to help them to be better young men.’
Next season will be a completely different challenge for UNSW FC playing in the League One Men’s competition amongst clubs steeped in history and Knowles is excited for the challenge ahead.
“There are some big clubs in that league, so we will work hard in the off-season, as we always do – we will give it a go.”
By Football New South Wales League Two Men’s Reporter, Dylan Costa @_dylancosta