Kel Neil and his ACE Under 23 team-mates will be using lessons he learned 12 months ago to prepare for tonight’s grand final.
ACE, who finished runners-up in FQPL2 Under 23, face premiers Surfers Paradise at Perry Park, in Bowen Hills, (kick-off 6pm).
It’s a second successive final for Kel, Danny Bryant, Aaron Powell and Charlie Coster from last season’s double-winning ACE Reserves.
That included a convincing 3-0 victory over Toowong in the Brisbane Premier League (BPL) Reserves grand final.
“That was pretty good and I’m sure this will be a great occasion for everyone,” said Kel, who has played for North Star, Moreton Bay United and is in a sixth season with ACE.
“One thing learned from last year was treat it (grand final) as a big match, but don’t let the atmosphere overcome you. Stay calm and let your football do the talking.”
Reports suggest ACE have been relaxed in training this week, fine-tuning preparations before facing Surfers, who won 19 of 22 games in the regular season.
However, ACE was the only team to keep a clean sheet against the Gold Coast outfit this year, with a 0-0 draw at Lex Bell Oval in July.
“Surfers are very fit and we will need to be on our toes,” said Kel, 21, “we’ve been working on our shape and combinations, but nothing too strenuous.”
ACE were, however, pushed all the way in last weekend’s semi-final against North Star, who twice had two-goal leads.
But Danny Bryant’s 88th-minute equaliser made it 3-3 and forced extra time, after which ACE took the penalty shootout 5-4.
“After Danny got that equaliser I thought we got on top,” Kel said, “the way (keeper) Caleb (Patterson) has been playing I was actually quietly confident in the penalties.”
Kel went first for ACE in the shoot out and Caleb followed up with three saves to book tonight’s final at Perry Park.
“The team has shown tremendous tenacity and a strong character, never accepting defeat and those characteristics are what got them to the grand final,” said coach Alex McMillan.
“Good luck to all the boys for the final game of the season.”