FOOTBALL: Sunshine Coast captain Greig Henslee is convinced the Fire can transfer its dominance to the new Australian Premier League.
The APL's 12-team Queensland Conference is the dawning of a new day for football in the state - the Fire's four championships and three premierships having come in a defunct, supposedly weaker competition.
A new-look Coast side will take the field in round one in March, but Henslee says a winner's mentality is ingrained in the Fire's DNA.
He is relishing the prospect of competing in the new competition.
"We're going to be right up there. We're going to be as good as any team in that league," he said.
"And it's going to be like a real league, where you have to fight every single week.
"That's going to make it really exciting. You'll really have to be on your game every single week if you're going to come away with the points."
The Fire starts pre-season training this week.
For the first time since the side's inaugural season in 2008, inspirational midfielder Tyson Holmes and striker Shaun Blackman will not figure in the build-up to a new season.
Holmes has joined South Melbourne FC and Blackman is retired.
Defender Ryan Smith is the sole remaining member of the 2008 premiership and championship-winning side.
The Fire will also have to cull its foreign-player list.
Under APL rules, each team is permitted only three overseas players.
Six foreigners featured in the Fire side that beat the Whitsunday Miners in last season's State League grand final.
Forward James Verdin may also be gone as it is understood he has a trial with a Melbourne-based Victorian Premier League side, and skilled Kiwi striker Dakota Lucas is recovering from knee surgery in New Zealand and is no certainty to return to the Coast.
Henslee said that while midfield general Holmes, in particular, would be "sorely missed", the Fire was used to starting each season with plenty of new faces.
He said: "We'll be fine. We've lost good players in the past … the truth is we've always come up with the goods in the end and I don't see how that will change."
Henslee "can't wait" for the APL to start.
He said the State League had become stale and burdened with too many under-performing sides.
"With this new structure they're not going to put up with teams just being in there and getting by," he said. "That's really going to push the whole state forward and push the youth to improve."
New Coast coach Kevin A'Herne-Evans has invited some of the best local strikers to pre-season training in a bid to plug the goal-scoring hole left by Blackman, Holmes and potentially Lucas.
Those players include Matt Thompson (Noosa), Luke Alderson (Woombye) and ex-Fire player Ryan Delahunty (Kawana).
FORMER Noosa mentor A'Herne-Evans - Richard Hudson's replacement at the Fire - said: "It's an opportunity for some of the local boys.
"I've played against them and with them the last couple of years and I know their strengths.
"Whether they can commit to the amount of training that goes with it and the expectancy that they're going to take one step further and be more professional (has to be determined)."
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