Cairns FC will be at full strength when they take on Hyundai A-League powerhouses Sydney FC in an historic FFA Cup clash in the far north city tonight.
“We’re pretty much all fit and ready to go, we’ll have a full squad,” coach Danny Graystone said in the build-up to the biggest game of football in the tropical city.
Graystone said only about four players will be backing up from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Moreton Bay United after resting players, on top of one-match suspensions to Josh Taylor and Johnson Slotemaker.
The far northerners could afford not to take too many risks because they are well out of National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland finals contention and really do need all hands on deck to be able to be competitive with Sydney FC, who are the reigning FFA Cup champions.
Greystone had a shot at those people who have criticised the FFA Cup qualifying draw in which Cairns get to play only northern regional teams to get into the Round of 32.
They successfully manoeuvred that stage by beating NPL Western Australia club Armadale 3-0.
“Everyone was excited and really pleased being in the competition for five years and had never got past the Round of 32,” Graystone said.
“It was an achievement for us because there are plenty who say we have an easy draw to the Round of 32. But we’ve shown by beating Armadale that we deserve to be in the Round of 16.”
One player who cannot wait for the match is local Harry Corica, who is the nephew of new Sydney coach Steve Corica.
Only just turned 17 and a product of the Innisfail system, Harry has been told by Graystone that he will be playing.
“Yes, my uncle and I have talked about it and he’s keen to play us,” Harry said.
So has there been any good-natured sledging between the pair since they learnt the draw?
“No, but I reckon I’ll give Michael Zullo a run for his money, just a bit of friendly banter, of course,” said the teenager who plays a midfield role for Cairns.
“I know him well because I have trained with the Sydney youth team before.”
“It’s a good chance especially when you’re playing good teams like Sydney.
“It’s a good way to get your name out there.”
Cairns officials are doing the right thing by raising funds to help with the Queensland Drought Appeal.
They are donating 10 per cent of all online ticket sales to help the struggling farmers.
Director Darren Halpin said with such a high-profile team coming to the far north, excitement was at an all-time high and a big turnout was expected.
“The Cairns region is buzzing,” he said.
“Everyone’s talking about this and ticket pre-sales are going even better than expected.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring our football community together to enjoy something pretty spectacular – our very own Cairns boys playing against some of the best players in the country.
“And this is all on the national stage with the FFA Cup streamed live on Fox Sports.”
Words: Terry Wilson
Image: Pine Creek Photography