Strikers Keen For Finals Battle As South Hobart Clash Draws Near

Sep 15, 2017 by

Brisbane Strikers midfielder Jake McLean says there is an air of excitement among his team mates as they prepare to fly south tomorrow to take on Tasmania’s South Hobart FC in Sunday’s Elimination Final of the PlayStation ® 4 NPL Finals Series.

The game pitches the Tasmanian and Queensland PlayStation 4 NPL Premiers into a winner-takes-all scenario for the right to play the following weekend in a semi-final, and the dual Brisbane Strikers Players’ Player of the Year said Strikers could hardly wait to try to go one better than they did last year, when they were beaten at the semi-final stage.

“I think everyone is pretty excited about the possibilities of going a bit further in this, because last year we won the first game then lost to Sydney United 58,” McLean (pictured) said today.

“So everyone is pretty excited about the possibility of being the winners and, I guess, being the unofficial best non A-League team in the country. It would be a big honour to win that.”

Strikers have played two games behind closed doors since their PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland semi-final loss to Moreton Bay United three weeks ago. In those they lost 1-0 to Moreton Bay United before beating newly-crowned PlayStation 4 NPL Queensland Champions Western Pride 3-1.

According to McLean little should be read into those scorelines, but they were useful exercises for his team.

“They were just friendly games to keep the legs ticking over, but I think they served us well and kept us sharp and everyone’s feeling really good going into the weekend,” he said.

McLean also said the South Hobart clash presents an excellent opportunity for Strikers to erase the bitter memory of the Queensland semi-final loss to Moreton Bay.

“We were all pretty disappointed with how it went, especially after winning the league and being on such a high,” McLean said.

“It’s been disappointing to lose the way we did. We didn’t play as good as we know we can and we sort of let ourselves down there. But with the NPL finals, it’s a good way to bounce back and get another competitive game in so we can recover that loss we had.

“We’ve been training hard every day, keeping the standards as high as possible. Sometimes you can slip towards the end of the year, but we’ve been keeping the intensity high and the boys are definitely looking forward to the game.”

Queensland football fans who know little about South Hobart FC or Tasmanian football in general might be inclined to expect a comfortable win for Strikers, given the relative size of the two states and their playing populations.

But if so they might be in for a surprise. South Hobart FC have one of the longest club pedigrees in Australia, having been formed in 1910. They have been Tasmanian champions eighteen times and, even against that backdrop, are in the midst of a golden era for the club.

Since the PlayStation 4 NPL Tasmania was formed in 2013, South Hobart have been Tasmanian champions four times. They made it all the way to the Grand Final of the PlayStation 4 NPL Finals in 2013, losing the decider 2-0 to Sydney United 58 FC. They suffered only two defeats in winning the Tasmanian title for the fourth time this year and wrapped up the premiership with three rounds to spare.

They are coming off the back of a rampaging 7-0 victory over local rivals Olympia FC Warriors in the local League Cup Final last weekend and, if local reports are anything to go by, they will enter the Elimination Final against Strikers brimming with confidence.

McLean said that, while he and the rest of the Strikers’ players had seen little or nothing of South Hobart in action, Strikers senior coach Owen Baker and technical director David Large had been studying video footage of them and had briefed the players to expect a tough match.

“But I’m pretty confident that our team will be able to handle it,” he said. “We’ve got a quality team back to front, so I can’t imagine they will be better than us, the way we are going.

Confidence is one thing. Expecting a comfortable ride, however, is quite another and McLean is not falling for that.

“All Cup games are a lot more intense,” he said. “There’s a lot to play for but I’m definitely confident we can get the job done.

“I’m excited. It’s always good to play against a team you’ve never played against, in a different setting, so it would be good to go down to Tasmania and put on a good showing”.

McLean said the players’ sense of anticipation had only been amplified by the knowledge that the game will be live streamed and by photographs distributed on social media today of the lush playing surface the teams can expect at South Horbart’s D’Arcy Street home ground.

For a Strikers team accustomed over the back end of a dry Queensland winter to hard and sometimes bobbly playing surfaces, D’Arcy Street looks an inviting prospect.

“The pitch looks amazing. It’s going to be nice to play on a pitch like that. Hopefully the rain stays away so we can have a good footballing game,” McLean said.

“And with the game being in Tassie not many family and friends can go, so it’s always good to have your friends and family be able to watch you live on TV and just take part in the game.

“I think everyone will be up for it, knowing that there’s a few more eyes watching us”.

Kick-off in Hobart on Sunday will be at 12.30 pm. Fans are reminded that the live stream provided by Tasmania’s “Slice of Cheese” crew will be shown on a large-screen TV in the Perry Park Social Club.

Photo: Albert Perez

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