Dockerty Cup-winning Bentleigh Greens coach Nick Tolios is excited to be pitting his wits against Sydney FC boss Steve Corica on Wednesday night at Kingston Heath Soccer Complex.
Tolios and the Greens have had an incredible few months, after an inconsistent start to the season.
A 14-game undefeated streak saw the Greens fly through the final rounds of Australia Cup qualifying and eventually into the Round of 16, rise up the NPL Victoria table and in a good position to claim a finals position in the Dockerty Cup.
A 3-0 defeat to Altona Magic last week may have ended the streak, but the Greens responded in the best possible way – delivering the Dockerty Cup to the Kingston Heath trophy cabinet for the third time.
A short turnaround heading into Wednesday’s Australia Cup clash with A-Leagues giants Sydney FC is far from ideal, but with a trophy in the cabinet, Tolios says the battle-hardened Greens are ready for whatever else this season can throw at his team.
“We’re just excited for what the rest of this season can deliver,” he said.
“After two years of barely being able to play football, to have won a trophy and now be welcoming one of the strongest teams in Australia to our home, it’s just exciting.
“We have everything to win and nothing to lose.”
Tolios said his boys had an undoubted hunger to prove themselves against A-League opposition.
“It’s David v Goliath. It’s NPL v A-Leagues. It’s one of the reasons why we all love this cup,” he said.
“We believe that the quality in NPL Vic is not that far off the A-League, and the boys want to prove that they can compete with the boys in a competitive environment.
“It’s also a great launching pad. Look at Elvis Kamsoba. He had some amazing games with Avondale, got noticed, got his contract and now he’s signed a deal overseas.
“It’s a great tournament for showcasing the talent that maybe the A-League has missed or talent that maybe the A-League clubs underestimated.
“The boys have said all along they want to play an A-League team, they want that challenge, so it’s great that we get that chance now.”
The Greens coach said from his perspective, this was another important learning experience.
“Every chance you get to play a good team and in this case an A-League team, it’s a learning experience for players and coaches alike,” he said.
“Steve Corica has done a wonderful job at Sydney FC. He’s replaced Graham Arnold – which aren’t small shoes to fill – and he’s had success.
“For us, it’s about how we can prepare for this challenge and ensuring that when we go out there on Wednesday, we can know that we’ve left no stone unturned in ensuring the players have the best chance to make history.”