The best Australian clubs outside the A-League

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Though some people may forget it, Australia has a long and proud footballing history that exists outside the A-League.

These are the five best clubs that currently ply their trade outside the Australian top tier.

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  1. Brisbane Strikers

The consensus team to beat in NPL Queensland – though Lions FC are giving them a run for that title – Brisbane Strikers have one of the richest histories of any Queensland-based club.

Playing their home fixtures at the 5000-capacity Perry Park, the Bowen Hills-based Strikers boast arguably the most loyal following of any NPL QLD club and are consistently one of the league’s most competitive sides.

The two-time NPL QLD premiers are perhaps best-remembered for their four finals appearances in the National Soccer League, including their 1996/97 championship win over Sydney United in front of over 40 000 fans at Lang Park (now Suncorp Stadium).

Though they are still chasing an NPL QLD championship, the Strikers have made multiple deep runs into both the FFA Cup and NPL Finals series.

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  1. Wollongong Wolves

Another ex-NSL side now calling the NPL home, the Wollongong Wolves best years also came during their tenure in the old first tier.

Winning back-to-back NSL championships in 1999/2000 and 2000/01, the club’s most recent success came in winning the 2008 NSW Premier League title, joining the league following the NSL’s dissolution.

Though displaying inconsistent on-pitch performances during their NPL New South Wales tenure, Wolves had long been a favourite to gain an A-League licence in the upcoming league expansion.

Despite decent fan support, favourable geographical location and the commercial potential of their 23,750-capacity home Stadium, their expansion bid was recently rejected by the FFA.

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  1. Melbourne Knights

One of two Melbourne-based teams appearing on this list, Melbourne Knights have a significant place in Australian footballing history.

Founded in 1953 by Croatian immigrants in Melbourne’s West, the club’s ethnic ties have given it a supporter-base most Australian clubs could only dream of having.

Though generally fielding a competitive side, Knights have been unable to maintain the same level of competitive success in NPL Victoria as enjoyed by long-time rivals South Melbourne.

This shouldn’t detract from their off-pitch stability and their impressive youth development record however, producing talents like Mark Viduka, Danny Tiatto, Josip Simunic and Jason Culina.

They can also count current A-League players such as Ivan Franjic, Eugene Galekovic and Matthew Spiranovic as alumni.

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  1. Blacktown City

When it comes to winning, no NPL New South Wales sides can say they do it better than Blacktown City.

Tied with Sydney United 58 for most NSW state premierships (eight) and holding the record for most state grand finals wins (eight), Blacktown City sure have a few pieces of silverware tucked away in their clubhouse.

Making these statistics even more impressive is the fact all their trophies have only come in the last 30 years, with many of their rivals relying on championships from the 60s and 70s to make up the numbers.

The Seven Hills-based club plays out of the 7500-capacity Lily’s Football Stadium, and is one of only six teams to have knocked an A-League team out of the FFA Cup, defeating the Central Coast Mariners 3-2 in 2017’s Round of 32.

Notable alumni include Robbie Slater, Maty Ryan, Jason van Blerk, Charlie Yankos and Bernie Ibini.

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  1. South Melbourne

One of only two clubs to compete in every season of the NSL, South Melbourne are a club that need little introduction to most Australian football fans (if you don’t know the club, tweet something mean about them – their rabid fanbase will educate, and probably lynch you, very quickly).

Formed in 1959, Souths has significant ties to the Greek community in Melbourne.

The club’s highpoint came during their appearance in the 2000 FIFA Club World Cup.

Though losing all three of their group stage matches to Manchester United, Necaxa and Vasco De Gama, their appearance in the competition was a boon for the perception of Australian football at the time.

In Australia, Souths have one won four NSL grand finals, ten state premierships (between the old Victorian Premier League and NPL VIC) and one NPL VIC championship.

They’ll be hoping to bounce back soon from an unusual break in competitive form, finishing just tenth in the NPL VIC last season.

Honourable mentions: Marconi Stallions, Heidelberg United, Bentleigh Greens, APIA Leichhardt Tigers, Bonnyrigg White Eagles, Edgeworth Eagles, Lions FC.

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Ben Paynter
Ben Paynter
Loves Brisbane. Loves a pint. Loves a 'Kevin Muscat Bad Tackle' YouTube compilation.

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