Amateur side Gwelup Croatia were knocked out of the FFA Cup in the seventh round but it hasn’t stopped the ambitious Western Australian club from thinking big.
Based in suburban Perth, Gwelup is targeting promotion to the National Premier League after starring in the preliminary rounds of the FFA Cup.
The club navigated its way to one game short of the Round of 32 – eventually knocked out by a single goal in a 4-3 thriller with NPL outfit Perth Soccer Club.
Former Perth Glory midfielder Steven McGarry plays for the club and says they have big plans for the future.
“The club is looking to get promoted to State League Division I,” McGarry told FourFourTwo.
“We’re top of the league at the moment. Unfortunately for some reason this year there’s no promotion from State League Division II for amateurs, that’s opening up next year. We’ve beaten higher teams up in the Cup.
“The club is very, very ambitious. They’ve got a president and an owner who’s fantastic. He’s so enthusiastic about the club and the community.
“They’re putting structures in place to have a junior set-up as well so they definitely want to move forward from the Sunday leagues.”
Gwelup Croatia was founded in 1988 and currently plays in the Consolidated Energy Amateur League, two levels below the NPL. McGarry got involved with the outfit after hanging up his boots in the A-League with the Glory last year.
“I coach with the Glory’s NPL side on Saturdays,” he said, “so it was my decision to get back playing again and Gwelup’s only five minutes down the road from me.
“It was just a great opportunity for me to play in something I’m so passionate about.
“To come so close to getting in the round of 32, it would have been fantastic, and would have been a fantastic story. It was really great to be involved.
“There’s guys here (at Gwelup) for different reasons. There’s guys work Saturdays so they play Sundays. There’s some guys with good pedigree but for some reason or not they’ve found themselves playing Sunday amateurs.
“I think a lot of them come down because the atmosphere of the club is fantastic. We’ve assembled a pretty reasonable squad. It’s not a walk in the park by any means at that level.”
Gwelup pushed Perth SC all the way in the Cup, with only a goal from Reece Vittiglia nine minutes from the end proving to be the difference.
“It was an absolutely fantastic game, a cracking game,” McGarry said.
“Perth are probably one of the biggest clubs in Western Australia and for a Sunday amateur team to make it that far… for 30 minutes in the second half we had them on the ropes but unfortunately from our point of view we lost to a late goal, even though we were on top of them for most of the second half.
“They had a man sent off so it was an interesting game. They struggled to get the ball out due to the conditions.Don’t get me wrong, they still had chances and they’ve still got great players.
“They always looked dangerous and our goalkeeper made some great saves as well. All in all it was such a brilliant story for Gwelup to get there in the first place. And the game itself was a brilliant advert for WA and the entertainment value was superb.”
McGarry missed out playing in the FFA Cup with the Glory last year but the Scotsman is a supporter of the new competition.
“I think the FFA Cup just brings a different dynamic to the whole league and it gives teams from the lower divisions and the NPL a spotlight to go and showcase their skill,” he said.
“So from that point of view it’s great. In the dressing room after the game there were a lot of devastated guys, after coming so close. But after a while you could see when the coaches spoke and the president came in, everybody was proud to be involved in the run.
“I’m sure it’s something the club will remember for a long time. We’ve probably put a mark down, I’m not sure many people would have heard of Gwelup Croatia. I’d never heard of Gwelup Croatia until I joined them basically.
“Everyone knows who they are now and, who knows, in say four years Gwelup could be an NPL club.”