If the pathway between grassroots football and national success in Queensland was ever in doubt, the presence of three Hyundai A-League Champions at Saturday’s Queensland State League match at Perry Park made it perfectly clear.
Former Strikers and current Brisbane Roar players Matt McKay, Matt Smith and Shane Stefanutto were all in attendance as their former side hosted local rivals Gold Coast Stars in one of the most highly anticipated clashes of the QSL season.
The players were presented to the healthy crowd prior to kick-off alongside their Hyundai A-League trophies before signing autographs pitch-side at half-time and taking part in a question and answer session with fans at the conclusion of the match.
With almost 200 appearances for the Strikers between McKay, Smith and Stefanutto, the three players are outstanding examples of the clearly defined pathway between grassroots football and success in the country-s top-flight competition.
Also in the crowd was newly appointed Brisbane Roar General Manager Eugenie Buckley who was on hand to take in the night-s action.
“The Grand Final success would not have been possible without the input of the local clubs and their development of players the ilk of Matt McKay, Matt Smith and Shane Stefanutto,” Buckley said.
“It is important we recognise the role clubs like Brisbane Strikers play and continue to foster relationships which have positives for football as a whole.
“The next generation of Brisbane Roar players will come from the local competitions and by working with Football Queensland, Football Brisbane and the local clubs we aim to have a clear career path for young players to aspire to.”
Local boy Matt McKay-s rise to fame has been the most prolific with the 28-year-old-s recent international success with the Qantas Socceroos and exceptional leadership qualities with the captain-s armband a true testament to the hard work that began when he started his career with Brisbane Strikers back in 2001.
Shane Stefanutto, a veteran of six seasons at Perry Park, has represented the national side on three occasions and since leaving the Strikers in 2004, had also experienced success in Norwegian football before returning to Australia two years ago.
Defender Matt Smith is the most recent of the trio to feature for the side, playing two seasons under the guidance of another former Roar player Stuart McLaren between 2008 and 2010 and captaining the Strikers to a QSL premiership in their 2009 campaign.
All three Brisbane Roar players played key roles in the club-s Premiership and Championship success in the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season and all played the full 120 minutes in the nail-biting grand final decider against Central Coast Mariners.
However, the presence of three of their most prestigious footballing graduates was not enough to inspire the current crop of Strikers, with their old club succumbing to a 1-0 defeat in the round 8 clash.