Legends of the game

Rale Rasic and John Garside (centre) with The Ultimate Coaching Team in Emerald, ahead of this week’s junior coaching clinics.
Rale Rasic and John Garside (centre) with The Ultimate Coaching Team in Emerald, ahead of this week’s junior coaching clinics.

WHEN former Australian World Cup soccer coach Rale Rasic speaks, people listen.

The football great touched down in Emerald on Friday ahead of a week-long coaching blitz in the Central Highlands.

He was also the guest speaker at the Emerald Eagles Football Club's dinner on Saturday evening, to officially launch its bid in the Central Queensland competition.

Brisbane Roar's assistant goalkeeping coach John Garside, who helped bring Rale to the district, gave his introduction to the dinner audience by saying, "what this man has done for soccer is unbelievable".

It's a just appreciation for the man who coached Australia in 58 international matches between 1970 and 1974 and was voted the National League Coach of the Year in 1987 among many other accolades.

Rather than speak from the podium, Rale opted to give his thoughts on the game from ground level and was quick to down-play his personal achievements.

He said despite having coached at the game's highest level, he was as passionate about the grassroots football today as he was when mentoring his World Cup stars in 1974.

"I was never big enough for the big stage," Rale offered.

"Ninety per cent of great sportspeople come from the countryside so I pay as much attention to these people as I can.

"Country kids can be just as successful as anyone else in this nation."

He said the Australian sporting spirit could never be understated.

"We have emotion, we have spirit and a competitiveness that cannot be matched."

Eagles coach John Salogni has been at the forefront of the club's restructure in the past 12 months, and he took the opportunity of the occasion to unveil the club's new green playing strip.

It's Salogni's and the Emerald club's vision to develop the football talent right here in the Central Highlands.

With the assistance of training clinics and leading coaching identities such as Rasic, the club hopes to seed the dream for local players.

"It's not what we're looking at now, it's what we're looking at in 10 years time," Salogni said in an earlier interview.

"That's what John (Garside) is here for.

"These clinics will enhance what these kids do for their next 10-year playing careers."

Rale encouraged the Central Highlands' players, coaches, managers and fans to dream and reassured them they would succeed.

"The most important thing is to focus on something you love and pour all the effort you possibly can into it," he told Saturday night's audience.

"Believe it that one day you will have someone extraordinary - you just have to try."

Currently listed only in the Central Highlands League, the club's long-term aim is to enter multiple divisions in the Rockhampton-based league.

With the right foundations, Salogni's ambitious plan hopes to one day provide the region with their next Australian representative.

"What we're looking at for the next 10 years is to see an Emerald player in the national side," he said.

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