Historic New Zealand match boost for Ipswich region
WHEN Corey Lucas was playing for Western Spirit 12 months ago, the prospect of tackling New Zealand was as far away as the country itself.
Fast forward to this week and his dream is about to become a reality.
Now with National Premier Leagues club Western Pride, Lucas is preparing for the match of his life.
He's one of Pride's most talented footballers eager to face the New Zealand All Whites men's side at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex on Wednesday night.
"It's massive,'' the defender said, excited about possibly lining up against reputable A-League players like Michael McGlinchey.
Lucas, 20, said the highest level team he'd previously played against was Brisbane Roar's Youth side.
"The New Zealand national team will hopefully make the World Cup so it will be awesome to play these guys,'' the Ipswich footballer said.
While playing Division 2 at Western Spirit helped hone his skills, Lucas has flourished since joining Western Pride this season.
Head coach Graham Harvey rates him a standout player in a young team having immense potential and speed to burn with a football at their feet.
However, Wednesday night's match is all about learning and becoming a better player.
"They'll be class,'' former Ipswich Knights junior Lucas said of New Zealand.
"They will be very different to what we've come up against. They'll be very fit and very sharp I'd say.''
Head Pride coach Harvey played a major role in bringing the New Zealand contingent to Ipswich, as part of their preparation for the Nations Cup in PNG later this month.
Harvey is keen to see players from local clubs and schools come along to the Ipswich venue.
"It's a good occasion for the whole region,'' Harvey said.
"Having international football on your doorstep doesn't come around every day of the week.
"It would be nice if these youngsters get down and see what it was like. They can see two different levels of the game - with us at NPL level and these guys that are professional footballers.
"For a New Zealand player, they have made it to the pinnacle of their sport.''
Harvey appreciated New Zealand Football wanting to help Western Pride.
"It's just good for us as a club,'' he said. "We're quite young in terms of the NPL concept.
"We find it hard to compete on all levels with some of the Brisbane clubs so having games like this is a good selling point for us as a club.
"It's a massive credit to New Zealand Football and to Anthony Hudson, the coach there, that they realise where we are at as a young club in the region.''
The Ipswich game is the only one in South East Queensland where the public is welcome to watch.
"They are willing to make it open and attract fans,'' Harvey said.
"They are preparing for Russia in 2017, the Confederations Cup. To be open to letting us have our day in the sun is massive.''
Wednesday (6pm): Western Pride NPL side v New Zealand All Whites national team at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex, Flinders View.
Admission: Adults $5, kids $2.