The planets have aligned nicely for Cairns FC to shed a four-season bogy that has haunted the state’s northernmost club in the FFA Cup.
Previously playing as Far North Queensland Heat before the name change to Cairns FC, the team from the tropics has made it through to the FFA Cup Round of 32 every year since the national club competition’s inception in 2014.
But that is as far as the northerners have gone, bowing out at the same stage every time.
Once again Cairns are into the last 32 clubs – after a crazy series of qualifiers – and this time it seems they have perhaps their best chance of making the Round of 16.
Cairns drew NPL Western Australia club Armadale for the Round of 32 fixture at Barlow Park next Wednesday, 1 August.
Armadale have been tasked with handling one of the longest football trips in the land – a plane flight of 3,442 kilometres, second only to the 3,628 kilometres from Perth to the Gold Coast for the Western Knights for a Round of 32 fixture last year.
Excitement is building in the far north as coach Danny Greystone counts down to the Cup tie, which will be a new experience for the Englishman originally from Macclesfield.
“Obviously I’m very happy to be here and it’s a great draw for us,” Greystone said.
“But I’ve done a bit of research into Armadale and they’re a very good team.
“You always want to get a taste of some sort of national competition in Australia and the FFA Cup is how it’s done now.”
Greystone is in his first season as Cairns FC coach after a decade playing and coaching in South Australia.
In 2017, he took South Adelaide Panthers into the NPL South Australia before taking up a challenge with Cairns.
“I’d coached in Adelaide for 10 years and pretty much achieved what I could there, so it was time for a career change,” he said.
“I came to Australia for travel about 16 years ago and started playing in South Australia – and I never went home.”
Star striker Josh Taylor can also feel the buzz of the Cup starting to build.
“Everyone up here is excited and ready to test ourselves against clubs from around the nation,” Taylor said.
Unlike the Cairns team as a unit, Taylor has experienced the ride of getting through the Cup Round of 32 and into the Round of 16.
He did that in 2014 when he was playing for Brisbane Strikers. The Strikers beat Broadmeadow 2-1 away before bowing out with a 0-1 loss away to Adelaide City.
Taylor was also with the Strikers for the Round of 32 in 2015 when they lost 4-3 at home to Victorian club Hume City.
How Cairns managed to be at the Round of 32 stage of the Cup is a story in itself.
Taylor described the preliminary run as crazy after some unbelievable results.
In the fifth round against Southside Comets, Cairns was 2-0 down in the 90th minute, and managed two goals in as many minutes before scoring a 4-3 win in extra time.
Cairns then beat North Queensland United before playing Magpies Crusaders in Mackay for a place in the Round of 32.
Down 3-0 at half time, Cairns went on the rampage and hit five goals in 15 minutes of the second half to win 5-3.
Words: Terry Wilson
Image: Roze Gallo