Hot Shots Eye Final Glory
Sunday’s NPL Queensland Grand Final will be a case of “first meets second” in more ways than one, with league leading goal scorers Antonio Murray and Tim Smits set to go head to head at Goodwin Park.
Murray and Smits have each scored 27 goals this season in the NPL for Brisbane City and Olympic FC, respectively, and the both players will be crucial to their side’s chances in the end of season decider.
Olympic finished the regular season as runaway premiers, while City ended the home-and-away rounds in second place and eight points adrift. The race for the competition’s golden boot award was much tighter, with Murray pipping Smits by a single goal.
Despite the accolade, Murray claims he isn’t too concerned about adding to his tally in the Grand Final, instead focusing on the team performance.
“I’ve said all the way through the season that golden boot stuff doesn’t really bother me. I’m part of a team at the end of the day,” the 28 year old former Ipswich Town and Hibernian player explained.
“If Smits ends up scoring at the other end but we end up winning, well I’ll be just as thrilled. That’s what more important for me,” he explained.
Murray pointed out that despite both strikers enjoying prolific seasons in front of goal, they performed different roles for their sides.
“They play a very direct style at Olympic and hit a lot of balls up to Smits,” Murray explained, “A lot of their play is focused on him with knock downs and such.”
“So, obviously, Smits is very strong in the air – he’s truly an aerial threat and scored a lot of headers this year for them.”
Asked for the key to his heading prowess, a deadpan Smits replied, “Keeping my eyes open.”
The 27 year old further explained that winning an attacking header started well before taking to the air, “You’ve got to lose your man before you make that run into the box, then be strong and take a good jump at it.”
Usually a man of few words, Smits admitted his side will need to contain his opposite number if they are to prevail in Sunday’s decider.
“We’ve got to shut Antonio down, definitely. When he gets the ball he’s creative and he’s smart and he scores goals,” Smits said.
Like Murray, Smits said he wasn’t too concerned with personal glory, “I always hope for a goal, but as long as we win, that’s what matters most,” Smits said.
The two strikers maintain a friendly respect for each other borne of working on construction sites together to support their football careers – ironically, toiling as under pinners.
“We used to have the odd chat about how he used to play professionally in England and that sort of stuff,” Smits explained.
Smits, who played in the A-League with Brisbane Roar for three seasons, identified Murray’s turn of pace as any area of the game where the Englishman possesses an edge.
“He’s definitely quicker than me. I’m really not the quickest guy,” Smits conceded.
Told of the compliment, Murray admitted his recent spell with Brisbane Roar had improved his speed and fitness.
“Obviously, going from training twice a week to training full time is going to help in that department. With the drills at Roar and playing with higher class players you get sharper all around.”
NPL QUEENSLAND GRAND FINAL
Sunday, 8th September 2013 – Goodwin Park, Yeronga
Senior: Olympic FC v Brisbane City – 6:00PM
Under 20: Brisbane City v SWQ Thunder – 3:15PM
Under 18: Queensland Academy of Sport v Brisbane City – 1:00PM
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland)
Image: Nick Milton & Brisbane City FC