Brisbane Strikers centre half Greig Henslee can scarcely contain his excitement forty-eight hours ahead of his team’s historic Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 tie with Hyundai A-League club Melbourne City at Perry Park.
The lynchpin of the Strikers’ back line is the man his team will rely on to shackle the considerable goalscoring threats of City stars Tim Cahill and Bruno Fornaroli in Wednesday’s match, which is Strikers’ first opportunity to play in the Cup’s national stage before a Brisbane audience.
But the 33-year-old Scotsman, who experienced similar pressures at the outset of his career with Arbroath FC when drawn against Glasgow Rangers in the third round of the Scottish Cup of 2002/03, is far from daunted by the task.
“I have been involved in a couple of games like this before, where you’re playing against one of the top teams in the country and it’s live on television,” Henslee said.
“The whole day is just filled with excitement and anticipation and the feeling that you get when you’re walking out on to the pitch, and you’ve got the full stadium and the cameras are there, and you’re playing against the top players in the country – it’s such a good feeling and I can’t wait for Wednesday.
“It’s been quite a long wait in between games – fourteen years – but the excitement is still the same. The buzz is there regardless of whether you are eighteen or thirty-three”.
The Sunshine Coast resident said the chance to play in a game of Wednesday’s magnitude made the hard graft of two years of travelling to Brisbane for training and games worthwhile.
“This is literally why you play football and this is why I drive down three times a week for three-hour round trips,” Henslee said.
“It’s just an opportunity to go out there and show my friends and family back home, who’ll be watching on TV, and I’m just really looking forward to it”.
Henslee said the “buzz” was shared by all of his teammates, who are almost salivating over the bonuses of Westfield FFA Cup and PS4 NPL finals football after wrapping up the PS4 NPL Queensland premiership.
“Since we clinched the premiership last week we had a chance to give a few of the boys a breather last Saturday in our last league game,” Henslee said.
“So I think we’re all feeling fit and healthy and we’re all ready for Wednesday night – there is a fantastic buzz around the dressing room.
“This is literally what the FFA Cup’s all about. This is exactly why it’s here. When you’re waiting for that draw to come out, to get the home tie and to get Melbourne City, who are one of the top A-League clubs in the country – and then the added bonus of Tim Cahill coming. This is absolutely everything that we could have hoped for”.
Henslee said he had not yet given much thought to City’s star-studded lineup and the practical issues around dealing with the likes of Fornaroli, Cahill, Luke Brattan and Neil Kilkenny.
But he said he was hoping a parochial home crowd could help lift his team and he was not ruling out another huge Cup upset.
“On the night there’s going to hopefully be a full stadium and we all know that the whole country likes an upset,” he said. “Unless you’re a Melbourne City fan I think most of the country will be backing the State league side so we really have nothing to lose when we go out there.
“Melbourne City are in their pre-season. They’re obviously a full-time professional club with top players in their side, but we know that they’re not (fully) fit. We’re fit. We’re absolutely ready to go and our dressing room’s great.
“We’re under no illusions that we’re not massive underdogs in this game but if you look at the two upsets that we had in the last round, where Redlands were one-down in the last minute and then they go on and get the winner late-on, and then Green Gully – same again.
“You can see a little bit of a trend there. We’ll be aiming just to keep ourselves in the game and then in the last fifteen or twenty minutes really get the ball down and push for that goal”.