Words: Michael Flynn | Image: SportsPics
Gold Coast City attacker Rhys Saunders wants to experience the full magic of the Westfield FFA Cup – and a win this weekend against Caloundra FC is the first step to realising that ambition.
Saunders and his teammates line up against the third-tier McDonald’s Premier League club on Saturday night, with a victory securing City their return to the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32.
City twice previously qualified for the showpiece stages of the knockout tournament, which mark the entry point for Hyundai A-League clubs, in 2014 and 2015 under previous name Palm Beach SC.
However, those fabled campaigns came prior to Saunders’ move to the club and the dynamic attacking threat is determined to get his own taste of the national spotlight.
“I was part of the campaign last year, and played with Magic United a couple of years ago, so I know what it is like to be knocked out and it’s something I don’t want to feel again,” Saunders said.
“Hopefully we make the Round of 32 because it is a really exciting prospect.”
City previously met Caloundra in the Westfield FFA Cup 2014 Preliminary Rounds – posting a 1-0 win before embarking on a run that saw the team become the only Queensland club to reach the Quarter Finals of the competition.
Caloundra have already claimed one PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues scalp in earlier rounds and Saunders said City have done their homework so they don’t fall victim to a ‘cupset’.
“We’ve done a video session and we know they are physical and they like to play direct,” Saunder explained.
“Hopefully we can counter that with our own football style and the result will take care of itself.”
He added, “Being at home will help as well. We don’t have to travel which will keep us fresh and, with our family, friends and our fans watching, it will help us perform at our best.”
Born and raised on the Gold Coast, Saunders previously enjoyed a youth spell at River Plate in Argentina and recently returned for a second stint at City following a season on a college football scholarship in the United States.
He said he was eager to not only display his own wares before Hyundai A-League clubs but also represent his hometown against the best teams Australia has to offer.
“If we win this next game we will then be on the national stage and that is a good chance for young players to be exposed and to play on TV,” Saunder said.
“Our team has a lot of local Gold Coast boys and hopefully we can do the Gold Coast proud this weekend and in the rounds after,” he concluded.
The match will be LIVE STREAMED at the Gold Coast City official Facebook page - fb.com/gccityfc
Westfield FFA Cup 2017 – Preliminary Round 7
Gold Coast City FC v Caloundra FC
Saturday, June 10 | 7:30PM
Duncan McKenna Field, Palm Beach
Gold Coast Squad to be determined prior to kick-off