Sunshine Coast duo takes on Tim Cahill
FOOTBALL: When Australia's greatest player of a generation jogged on to the paddock at Perry Park on Wednesday night, defender Sam Knight couldn't help but do a second take.
He and fellow Sunshine Coaster Greig Henslee were in the defensive line, tasked with containing none other than Tim Cahill.
"There's someone you've been watching on TV for ages and then he's right in front of you and you're having to mark him. It's a pretty surreal feeling," Knight said.
Knight and Henslee are two capable players embedded within the best team in Queensland's state competition.
But the Brisbane Strikers duo's exploits pale in comparison to Cahill, a talisman for the Socceroos who was making his debut A-League giant Melbourne City.
But on this night, they met, thanks to the magic of the FFA Cup, a knockout competition featuring teams from all divisions from around the country.
"It was awesome. It was a case of keeping an eye on the game and trying not to be starstruck," Knight said.
"I was like 'crap, I've got a game to play here but Tim Cahill has just come on to the pitch'.
"He's an inspiration to young footballers around the Coast and around the world.
"At one stage we were marking their two strikers, Bruno Fornaroli and Cahill."
Knight, 28, thought they kept Cahill "at bay" and he will savour the moment.
"It's something that will be one the highlights of my time playing football," he said.
As a central defender Henslee, 33, had a greater role to play against Cahill.
At least he avoided falling victim to one of the 36-year-old's famous headers.
"I was marking him on the corners but thankfully the ball flew over our heads so I wasn't really called into action there," he said.
"He has a real aura about him. He's a champion player and a legend of the game.
"He hadn't played in seven or eight weeks so it was more of a hit-out for him than anything.
"But the platform the FFA Cup provides is exciting. To get Melbourne City at home was a massive plus for us and the whole Tim Cahill thing made it into a real event."
City won 2-1.
Knight, Henslee and current Strikers coach Kevin A'herne-Evans were all with the Sunshine Coast Fire before linking with the Brisbane-based club.
They still live on the Coast and carpool to Brisbane to train and play.
They won the regular season title in the National Premier Leagues Queensland and will contest finals from this weekend.