Strikers’ Talisman brings down curtain against Magpies Crusaders

Aug 23, 2018 by

The Cleveland Showgrounds on Saturday night is the unlikely setting for the end of an era in the history of the Brisbane Strikers when Strikers take on Mackay’s Magpies Crusaders in the last round of the 2018 season.

The “end of an era” tag is often reserved for a scenario in which a number of key players from a successful squad move on.  This might yet be the case for Strikers as a potentially tricky off-season looms, but one thing they know for certain is that centre half Greig Henslee will play his last game for the club on Saturday.

Henslee, 36, has confirmed the Magpies Crusaders fixture – moved away from Strikers’ home ground at Perry Park to the Showgrounds – will be his last for the club he has graced since 2015. And that, in the context of what has been achieved by Strikers’ senior team since Henslee’s arrival, is a big deal.

When Henslee came to Perry Park the Brisbane Strikers were NPL Queensland’s “almost” team – one that seemed capable of challenging for the premiership only to fall well short in the two previous years of the competition.

Its Achilles heel had been its defending. Strikers simply leaked too many goals. Then came three years with Henslee at the centre of its back line. Those three years saw the club win two NPL Queensland premierships while falling short of a third only on goals differential as Strikers boasted one of the meanest defences in the league.

Henslee was not a one-man band in achieving that. But no Strikers supporter would be in any doubt that the desperation, competitive drive, organization and leadership he brought to their team’s back line were indispensable ingredients.

Henslee said that fatherhood, the relentless grind of travelling from his Sunshine Coast home to Brisbane for training and games, his business commitments, wear and tear on his body and a belief that he should stand aside in favour of younger players had all been factors in his decision to make the Magpies Crusaders game his last.

“I think it’s probably been one season too many for me,” Henslee said on Wednesday.

“It’s obviously been a disappointing year on the field, on a personal front and a collective front, but I think that with the type of character that I am, I didn’t really have it in me to call it a day last year. I always felt like I could go one more – and that was certainly the case at the end of last season.

“But as disappointing as it has been this season, it has certainly given me closure moving forward that the decision is right for myself to hang up the boots.

“I’ve got a busy lifestyle on the Sunshine Coast and it’s been a big year for me – and not just on a football level.

“If I had it my way I’d sign another four-year contract and play until I’m forty. But unfortunately you have to be honest with yourself – in a physical sense, in terms of my body, but also on the mental side and in spending time at home with my family and doing the right thing in terms of time committed to my own business.  It’s one-hundred percent the right time for me.”

Henslee said he felt blessed to have played some of his best football since being recruited to Strikers in 2015.

“At 32 years old it really was a big decision for me at that time,” he said.

“I couldn’t have been more proud to be part of four great years with the club. I’ve played in some really fun games over the period, won a few medals and participated in the FFA Cup and scored some goals.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to the club for doing everything that they could to get the best out of me at the tail end of my career.”

While disappointed to have missed out on NPL Queensland finals football this year, Henslee said he and the rest of the Strikers’ squad were still in a positive frame of mind coming into the game against Magpies Crusaders.

They will need to be if they are to finish the season in style.

“They’re a really good side,” Henslee said of Strikers’ opponents, who are first season debutants in the league and could yet finish as high as ninth with a win. In the reverse fixture this season, played in Mackay, Strikers ran out 5-1 winners with a late flurry of goals.

“I think when we played them that night we could tell that they were certainly not relegation material,” Henslee said.

“Certainly, from the midfield going forward they were a real handful and I think they’ve proven a handful to a number of teams this year. That night when we played them they were at the wrong end of the table but you could just sense that they had more than enough in them that they were going to pull themselves out of trouble.

“And true enough, they’ve managed to have enough consistency in their games that they were able to pull away from the bottom pack.

“You can tell that with the fan structure and with the coaching staff and the players that they have, that this was just a consolidation year for them. I’m sure that with that consolidation under their belts they will push on next year and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they push on to the top eight clubs.”

Henslee said that fans who venture out to the Cleveland Showgrounds on Saturday should see an entertaining game with the emphasis on attack.  While attacking football is in Strikers’ DNA, Henslee said Magpies Crusaders have a similar mindset.

“I think all their games have been exciting,” he said.

“Defensively they might have struggled at times, but going forward they’ve got more than enough potency to bring a game to any side.

“So I’m sure that Saturday will be an exciting game. I’m sure they’d like to finish the season on a high and likewise for us.

“We’ve had a disappointing year but we’re still professional enough that it’s important for us, as players and as a club, and in order to build for next year, to get as many points on the board as we can.”

NPL Queensland Round 26: Brisbane Strikers v Magpies Crusaders United, Cleveland Showgrounds, Saturday 25 August. Kick-off at 6.00 pm.

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