The O'Connor Knights are set to make their return to Canberra's top NPL league after a 12-year hiatus, scraping in by the narrowest of margins but the club could not be happier.
The side took out the NPL2 competition, by two points, before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. ANU FC were only two points behind the Knights, with four games in the 2021 season yet to be played.
The promotion decision, however, was not driven by the ladder position, it was decided by a points per matches played method, which the Knights took out.
Knights technical director and assistant coach Aleks Trninic said head coach Miro Trinic had a vision - made possible by the president and committees support - to get the side into the NPL in 2021.
However, COVID-19 delayed the vision and pushed it into 2022.
"The whole club is buzzing, especially the players, the coaching staff, the committee, our loyal sponsors ... and all of our youth and junior players, because this obviously provides a clear pathway for all of them to the top tier. Everyone's really, really, really ecstatic and happy," he said.
"We would have liked to play out the season, but we feel the promotion was deserved because we played ANU twice throughout the year, we beat them 2-1 in the FFA Cup, we beat them 1-0 in the season, we conceded eight goals in 16 games, we had nine clean sheets. We went on a 13-game unbeaten run, and we only lost one game to a 93rd-minute bomb, a screamer from long range."
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Capital Football is yet to confirm publicly who will be relegated across the NPL and NPLY but it is expected to be announced in coming weeks.
The association surveyed NPL and NPLY clubs during the lockdown, and the majority who responded supported the points per matches played system to determine relegation/promotion.
Relegation/promotion was abandoned in 2020 due to the shortened season at the hands of COVID, but CF reiterated this season was "different" with 16-18 of 21 rounds being played, amounting to between 76 and 86 per cent of matches completed.
Interstate organisations, such as Football NSW and Football Victoria, have abandoned relegation and promotion for 2021. In the NSW NPL, the first 17 of 22 rounds were able to be played (about 77 per cent) and in the VIC NPL, they played 18 out of 26 rounds (about 69 per cent).
The Knights share their fields with Canberra Olympic FC, who are already in the NPL, and Trninic confirmed the sides would alternate weekends with Olympic to make the shared location work.
"We have a really good mix of players that all ended up staying with us, despite the attempts of NPL1 clubs. They're a really tight bunch of players that fight for one another on the field, and they're friends off the field. It's a good vibe around the club," he said.
"Our number one aim next season is not to get relegated. We have retained a large chunk of our squad ... but we're a small community based club, we were under no illusions thinking we would waltz into the NPL1 and be competing for trophies."
In the NPLY competition, where relegation and promotion is based on a club points system across each teams 18s, 16s, 14s and 13s age groups, Radford College is due to be promoted into the NPLY1.