Henwood Park’s successful campaign has doubled as a feel-good reunion for two old friends.
Captain Matt Menser and midfielder Carl Pideski joined forces this season for the first time since 2004.
While they are now preparing to win the Pascoe Cup with a grand final victory over Lake Albert on Sunday, their previous conquest saw them hailed as national champions.
Playing for Canberra Deakin in the old NSL’s National Youth League, the duo achieved national supremacy with a 2-1 victory over South Melbourne in the 2003-04 grand final.
It was the first time a Canberra team had taken out the competition.
“The buzz of winning it all was incredible,” Pideski said.
“It was a really good achievement.
“We were beating a lot of big budget teams, while we had next to nothing.”
Pideski said it was a fun time to be playing soccer as a fresh-faced 19-year-old.
“Matt and I were good mates even then and the trips away were always a lot of fun,” he said.
“We’d go as far as Brisbane to play and we’d all go out together afterwards.
“But we had to play well when it came down to it.”
Their premiership marked the end of the National Youth League in its NSL-inspired format, and with a long layoff before the implementation of the competition’s A-League-flavoured replacement, Pideski moved back to Wagga and the dynamic duo was no more.
But after taking the reins at Henwood Park this past offseason, Menser gave his old pal a call and suggested they team up once again.
Pideski wasn’t sold on making the move from the Wagga City Wanderers - where he was making occasional appearances - and playing at Henwood Park on top of his work commitments.
He also knocked back his mate when the Hawks coach made a second pitch closer to the start of the season.
But it was a case of third time lucky for Menser, Pideski eventually giving in to temptation and joining his old running mate in the red, white and blue five games into the season.
Despite being a hard man to convince, Pideski could not be happier with his decision.
“It’s like we never stopped playing together,” he said.
“Except for the fact that we’re a bit older and slower, with a few more kilos on us too.”
Menser said he was equally pleased with the way he and Pideski had come full circle.
“I’ve really enjoyed teaming up with him, it’s nice to play with guys you have a history with,” he said.
“We would hang out all the time in the Canberra days.”