Strikers Hungry For More As Semi-Final Looms

Aug 24, 2017 by

Defender Greig Henslee says the Brisbane Strikers have their minds firmly focused on winning more silverware as they prepare to host Moreton Bay United Jets for Saturday’s PlayStation ® 4 NPL Queensland semi-final.

Henslee skippered Strikers to their premiership-clinching 2-1 win over Brisbane Olympic last Sunday in the absence of regular captain Michael Angus, who was used off the bench.

But the centre half said becoming the first men’s team to win back-to-back PS4 NPL Queensland premierships had not sated his team’s appetite for success. Instead, he said it was merely the springboard for what they still want to achieve in 2017.

“The celebrations were actually rather subdued,” said Henslee of the aftermath of Sunday’s win.

“The job is only half done. We set our goals at the start of the season and, as a bare minimum, that was to take out the premiership. So all we’ve achieved, at this moment in time, is our minimum goal.

“So now we can dust ourselves off and prepare ourselves for this weekend for the semi-final and, if we get the job done, we can go on and try to take the grand final and then celebrate”.

Henslee said Strikers coach Sean Lane had given his players Monday night off, but that training had resumed on Tuesday with its usual intensity.

“There wasn’t too much said about the weekend,” he said. “It was very much business resumed. There weren’t any lackadaisical people out there, it was straight back into the swing of it. It was an intense session in full preparation for Moreton Bay this weekend.”

That doesn’t spell good news for a Jets team who played 120 minutes of football only to lose 1-0 to Gold Coast City in a Round of 16 Westfield FFA Cup tie on Wednesday night.

But Henslee hosed down any expectations by Strikers supporters that their semi-final opponents would be unable to back up from those exertions on Saturday.

“I think Moreton Bay have got enough in their stocks to be able to back up – the reason being that they’ve had no travel,” Henslee said.

“They played Gold Coast City on Saturday night and Wednesday night, which are obviously difficult games, but they’ve both been home games and I’d certainly back those players to be able to back up and grind their way through a semi-final. I don’t think Wednesday night will have any bearing on the outcome”.

Strikers have won both of this season’s games against Moreton Bay, by scorelines of 4-0 at Perry Park and 1-0 at Wolter Park. They are also unbeaten at Perry Park this season.

Henslee acknowledged that on this basis Strikers have every reason to be confident about their semi-final prospects.

“I don’t think there’s a game that we don’t feel confident in, really, especially at home,” he said.

“We’ve obviously worked hard to get ourselves in this position to have the home tie and we’ve got a good record against them in the league over the years.

“So we are one hundred percent confident that we can go and get the job done on the weekend”.

Henslee said Jets’ modus operandi on the pitch had changed this season and that they now represented a different kind of challenge to seasons past. Top scorer Riley Campbell, with 17 goals, has achieved a similar return to that of former Jets stalwart Royce Brownlie, but is a different kind of player requiring a different kind of service.

“Previously they’ve had Royce up front, where it was long balls into him and the midfield sort of joined the play from there,” Henslee said. “But they’ve now got a few quick boys up top – a quick ‘nine’ who likes threaded balls through the middle, and they’ve got decent wingers as well.

“But if we can go out there and get on the ball and control the game it’s immaterial as to how other teams come up against us. Obviously Moreton Bay have threats – they’ve had a good season and qualified through the Brisbane section for the FFA Cup and found themselves in the finals. They’re obviously a handy side.

“But based on how we train leading up to matches, it’s never about the opposition. It’s always about us – and how we can do it and how we can control the game. It’s never about what they have and that will be no different this weekend when we come up against Moreton Bay”.

The only time the two teams have met in the PS4 NPL finals series was in the Grand Final of 2015, when Moreton Bay triumphed 2-1 at Wolter Park.

But Henslee, who was in the beaten Strikers’ line-up, said that slice of history and Strikers’ record in recent finals series would be the last thing on the minds of he and his teammates on Sunday.

“What happened even two years ago is immaterial as to what we are doing now,” Henslee said.

“I think it’s fair to say Kevin A’Herne-Evans came in in 2015, played that season out with what he had and made a whole heap of changes from then on, and what’s happened since then has been a very different story.

“A lot of what’s been said about semi-finals and grand finals, and whatever it is about the Brisbane Strikers – it doesn’t have any bearing on us as players because, even from the Grand Final of 2015, there’s only three of us who were there anyway,” (Henslee, Angus and Sam Knight).

Henslee said Strikers could scarcely be in better shape going into the finals series.

“We’re in quite an unusual situation. We’ve actually gone through our sticky period, probably four or five weeks ago when we had a bit of a crisis,” he said.

“We had suspensions looming – Sam Knight missed out, Jake McLean missed out, I missed out, Michael Angus missed out, Michael Lee had to go home for personal reasons, ‘Peanut’ (Ryan Palmer) was injured – and we did go through that rough spell.

“We ground our way through it, and obviously we’ve lost Greg Cheshire through an ACL which doesn’t help at this moment in time. But we’re now all suspension-free, we’re all injury-free, we’ve all got games under our belts and we’re all nice and fresh going into the finals, which is actually a really unique situation.

“If you look around the rest of the league I think you find that they’re really grinding their way through these games. They’re all playing injured, they’re all looking a bit tired and we’re looking really fresh and we’ve got real competition for places all the way through the squad”.

The winner of Saturday’s game will qualify for the Grand Final to be played a week later against the winners of the other semi-final between Gold Coast City and Western Pride, which also takes place on Saturday night.

Should Strikers come out on top over Jets, as the team that finished top of the league ladder they will have earned hosting rights for the Grand Final.

PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Semi-Final: Brisbane Strikers FC v Moreton Bay United FC, Saturday, 28 August, Perry Park at 6.00 pm.

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