It’s all about the magic of the FFA Cup and in the case of Gold Coast Knights coach Grae Piddick he seems to have the Midas touch in the national club competition.
There is something special about Piddick and his affair with the Cup – so special that people are asking if he has built up the best record of any non-Hyundai A-League coach in the state.
Piddick remains the only Queensland coach to get sides into Cup quarter-finals. He has done that twice, once in the inaugural Cup season of 2014 season with Palm Beach Sharks and again last year with Gold Coast City (formerly Palm Beach).
Now the magic carpet ride is on again after the tourist strip’s Premier League club the Gold Coast Knights surged into the Cup Round of 32 with a last-gasp win over the Sunshine Coast Fire in the last round of qualifying.
But this time it is straight into the dragon’s den because the Knights have drawn well at home, but up against Hyundai A-League club Newcastle Jets on Tuesday night.
It was only back in 2015 that the Knights were floundering, almost extinct in the lower ranks of the Gold Coast League 1 competition, the local second-tier.
Fast-track and that same club has since won the Coast League 1 premiership-grand final double in 2016 and last year won the Gold Coast Premier League championship.
And the club has already clinched the Gold Coast Premier League title, unbeaten to date this season.
Next year the Knights have been licensed to play in the NPL Queensland.
“The Cup is a great competition and I love being a part of it as a coach – and the players love being a part of it as well,” Piddick said of his remarkable Cup run in the five years the Cup has been running.
“I’ve been blessed in a sense by being able to coach some good teams. I had a good squad at Palm Beach/Gold Coast City and had some good years there.
“Now I’m with the Gold Coast Knights, a club on the up.
“Obviously winning the Cup would be an absolute dream come true for all these boys who aren’t professional players.
“There is a long way to go to winning it but to actually knock off an A-League side would be a big buzz, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”
So the acid test goes straight on to the Knights, drawn against 2018 Hyundai A-League grand finalists Newcastle Jets, led by one of the competition’s most experienced coaches, Ernie Merrick.
Piddick and the Knights, it sounds like the name of a 1960s pop group.
But seriously, all going well, the NPL-bound Carrara-based club can carry on the tradition.
The Knights boss concedes he has had a decent run of luck in the Cup since the competition started in 2014, including the final regional qualifier against the Sunshine Coast a month ago.
“Especially scoring two goals in extra time last weekend, there was a bit of luck in that,” Piddick said of that clash on the Sunshine Coast
The Knights led 1-0 through Oskar Dillon, Sunshine Coast levelled, then scored a penalty for a 2-1 lead in the first period of extra time.
That was when Teddy Watson struck with match-winning goals in the 118th and 120th minutes.
Joining Piddick for the magic carpet ride this year, from Palm Beach/Gold Coast City, are: Justyn McKay, Jarrod Kyle, Roman Hofmann, Matt Schmidt, Josh Langdon, Oskar Dillon, Eoghan Murphy and Daniel Dragecevic.
Kyle scored a hat-trick in the Round of 32 win against Western Knights last year while Daniel Dragicevic scored Palm Beach’s first Round of 32 goal against Hakoah in 2014.
So how far can the Knights go this year?
“It depends on the draw first of all, the luck of the draw,” Piddick said before he knew the Jets were coming to town for the Round of 32.
“If you get a home game to start off, your chances of winning are definitely higher,” Piddick said.
“When it’s a Cup competition luck is involved but we have a good squad and if it’s in good form and fit we can cause a surprise.
“That’s because the big time Charlies from down south haven’t rated the Queensland teams.
“Now we want to get the rewards for getting further in the competition – everyone wants to go further, to win a game at least.
“But we certainly have a tough one first-up this year. Certainly going to be an interesting game and we have to do the best we can. Have a crack, try being positive in our game and have a genuine go at it.”
This is Piddick’s record in the FFA Cup:
2014: Palm Beach made the quarter-finals, losing 5-0 to Central Coast Mariners at Cbus Super Stadium. On the way they beat Hakoah Sydney City 2-1 away, then South Springvale 1-0.
2015: Palm Beach made the Round of 32 and beat South Melbourne on penalties at Cbus (1-1 at end of regulation and extra time). They then lost a Round of 16 clash 2-0 to Western Sydney Wanderers at Cbus.
2016: Beaten 1-0 in local qualifier by Surfers Paradise Apollo who, under David Benigno, made it to the round of 32 where they lost 1-0 away to Canberra Olympic.
2017: In the Round of 32 they beat Perth club Western Knights 3-0, beat Moreton Bay 1-0 in extra time, but crashed 6-0 against South Melbourne in a quarter-final at Cbus.
2018: The march to the 32 has been: Beat Surfers Paradise 1-0, beat Broadbeach United 1-0, beat Gold Coast United 3-2, beat South West Queensland 2-1, beat Sunshine Coast 3-2.
Words: Terry Wilson