Despite contrasting starts to 2016, both FNQ Heat’s Ari Isman and Northern Fury’s Corey Waples believe this weekend’s northern derby couldn’t come at a better time for either club.
Heat and Fury line-up on Saturday night in arguably the most passionate derby in the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues - drawing on the traditional rivalry between the nation’s two largest tropical population centres of Cairns and Townsville, respectively.
Adding further spice are the clubs’ respective positions at opposing ends of the league standings after the opening four rounds of the 2016 season.
Heat are the only undefeated side in the competition and a point clear atop the table, while Fury find themselves bottom of the pile without a point from their opening four matches.
Heat twice defeated Fury earlier this year in pre-season, however Fury captain Waples is adamant previous form counts for nothing this weekend.
“I think this game coming at the time it has is the best thing for us. It can be a real turning point for us,” he explained.
“We’re aware of our weaknesses and we want to make sure we start stronger and last the whole ninety minutes. We are a second half team at the moment and that’s not good enough in this league.”
“So hopefully this game will fire up the boys a lot more and will make us a bit more mentally prepared.”
Waples is in his first season as captain of Fury but said he isn’t overwhelmed by the prospect of marshalling his young side into the heady derby atmosphere for the first time in a competitive fixture.
“It’s a big honour and a special moment for me. I’m looking forward to leading the boys out there and hopefully getting our first three points of the season.”
He added, “We are big rivals and they are doing very well so far this season. But I think if we can get a good win against them it will help to turn things around for us.”
Heat defender Isman is a former teammate of Waples, and will play his first league game for Heat against his former club after moving north during the off-season.
In a worrying sign for the Fury faithful, he said Heat had spent the Easter break drawing on the lessons of their last start draw against Gold Coast City.
“The Gold Coast game was one of the first games that we have really been put to the test - we conceded first and it was great to see the comradery come together,” Isman explained.
“But also since then we’ve worked on a couple of things such as holding the ball and making sure we can play out the way we have been.”
“So we’re going to look to play to our strengths as always against Fury and if we’re all on the same bus, so to speak, then I’m confident we will all continue to move forward.”
Isman admitted that the pre-season matches provided plenty of banter between him and his former Fury teammates and that he expected further friendly jibes this weekend.
“I have no doubt there will be a bit more banter this weekend because we are playing for points now,” he said.
However, Isman resisted the temptation to fire a shot over the bow in the build-up – replying diplomatically when asked his opinion on Fury’s new lime green playing strip, which has drawn a mixed reaction across the competition.
“All I can say is that I think I look better in orange,” Isman concluded.
PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues 2016 – Round 5
Saturday, April 2
FNQ FC Heat v Northern Fury FC
Barlow Park, Cairns
Kick-off at 6:30PM