In-form Brisbane Strikers midfielder Jake McLean has reacted with excitement to the news that his team will play his former club, Flight Centres Brisbane Premier League outfit Rochedale Rovers, at Underwood Park in a Brisbane Zone Preliminary Round 5 Westfield FFA Cup qualifier in a little over two weeks’ time.
McLean (pictured in recent action against SWQ Thunder) spent several seasons at Rochedale Rovers prior to commencing his PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues career. He said yesterday he was looking forward to returning to his former home ground in the must-win scenario provided by Cup football.
“I love playing against my old teams”, said McLean when asked his reaction to the news that Strikers had been drawn away to the Rovers.
“There’s not too many faces at Rochedale that I remember from when I was there, but it’s always good going to a ground that you’re pretty familiar with and you’ve played a lot of games at and have some good memories of.
“I was excited when I found out we’d been drawn against them. We played them in pre-season and it was a good game, so it’s exciting to ‘verse’ them again and hopefully we can get the job done and move on in the Cup”.
Strikers and Rovers share a lot of interpersonal connections. The two clubs’ respective coaching staff have a good working relationship and Rovers coach Scott MacNicol is a former Strikers player himself, having turned out with distinction alongside Strikers legend Chay Hews in the midfield in Strikers’ QSL days.
Similarly, when Hews finished his one-year coaching stint at Strikers he went to Rovers to continue playing. Also, current Strikers players Greg Cheshire, Darren Gray and Sam Ball are all former Rovers players while Rovers’ youngster Tom Ross was in Strikers’ senior squad while playing mostly for their Under-20s last year.
McLean said he had not yet spoken to Cheshire, Gray or Ball about the Cup draw. But he had no doubts they would welcome the fixture as much as him.
“I’ll speak to them tomorrow night in training and see what they’re thinking,” he said. “I’m sure Greg will be excited, because he was only there last year. He knows most of their boys so it will be good for him to go back there and hopefully get a win”.
Strikers and Rovers have had similar starts to their 2017 seasons in their respective leagues. While Strikers are currently third in their competition with a 4-1-2 win-draw-loss ratio, while Rovers are fourth in the BPL with a 3-2-2 record.
Despite playing in different leagues, the two clubs have become almost traditional pre-season adversaries, with Strikers having won the most recent of these encounters 2-0 at Underwood Park in February – when McLean netted one of the goals.
McLean said that game had further whetted his appetite for the Cup qualifier.
“They were a good, hard-working team and played some good football. They didn’t stop for the entire ninety minutes,” McLean said.
“I expect it will be very tough. Everyone always lifts for FFA Cup games so it will definitely be a competitive game. But I’m confident that we’re definitely good enough to get the job done and go far in the FFA Cup this year”.
Strikers will be looking to qualify for a fourth successive Westfield FFA Cup campaign through the Brisbane Zone qualifiers. They have twice reached the Round of 16 in the national phase, where they were beaten by Adelaide City in 2014 and Hyundai A-League club Melbourne City FC last year.
The Rovers v Strikers clash will take place on a day and time on the first weekend of May to be confirmed.
The full Brisbane Zone Preliminary Round 5 draw is:
• Rochedale Rovers (FCPL) v Brisbane Strikers (PS4NPL)
• Souths United (FCPL) v Holland Park Hawks (FCPL)
• Albany Creek Excelsior (FCPL) v Moreton Bay United (PS4NPL)
• Southside Eagles (CL1) v Grange Thistle (FCPL)
• Western Pride (PS4NPL) v Olympic FC (PS4NPL)
• Brisbane Knights (CL1) v Peninsula Power (FCPL)
• Brisbane City (PS4NPL) v Logan Lightning (FCPL)
• UQFC (CL1) v Redlands United (PS4NPL)
Photo: Michele Pitman