Merrison set to make senior starting debut for Buccaneers
WIDE Bay Buccaneers coaches will hand former KSS Jets goalkeeper Chris Merrison a Football Queensland Premier League start at his former home ground on Sunday.
Merrison produced a sensational stint in goal to help deliver Wide Bay's first senior competition point against Logan Lightning two weeks ago, and a half-hour masterclass in the FQPL earned him the distinction of being the first Buccaneers player to make FQ's Team of the Week.
The Lightning led 3-1 early in the second half of their Martens Oval clash when regular stopper Jason McEwan suffered a hip injury.
Merrison conceded just one goal during the last 35 minutes of the clash, a debut which came just an hour after he played the full 90 minutes of the drawn under-20s game.
He missed last week's 8-1 annihilation at the hands of FQPL powerhouse Peninsula Power, but Merrison could return to the field at which he spent most of his career playing for Kawungan and the Jets.
"I do miss the Jets, I miss it there but I see the guys every few weeks and that's when I feel at home," he said.
"I was stoked to see (the team of the week). I didn't expect that from 30 minutes of game time. But I can't complain at all."
Merrison, who started his junior football career at Kawungan as a seven-year-old, said he had no idea he would be given a run in the senior team until after half-time.
"They only mentioned it about five minutes into the second half," Merrison said.
"(Jason) pulled up a bit sore but I was a bit nervous.
"Playing seniors is a lot quicker (than the U20s) but better for me. The 20s feels like the Fraser Coast League so it's a huge step up.
"It was a good start."
The 29-year-old will get the nod ahead of McEwan, though the former Bingera goalkeeper is the first-choice stopper and a member of the club's four-man leadership group.
McEwan has been kept busy during the Buccaneers' first five regular season games.
While they are improving, the Wide Bay is still considered one of the easybeats in the state's second-highest tier while players, the majority of whom have stepped up from the Wide Bay Premier League, adapt to the faster and higher standard of competition.
The Buccaneers have conceded 30 goals so far, and in the Sunshine Coast Wanderers face a team that sits second on the table and boast several elite attacking weapons.
Still, interim coach Kieran McKean told the Chronicle Merrison's performances in both grades is exactly what the coaches are looking for from players who are not yet in the top squad's starting XI.
"We have some very good keepers in the club," he said. "We want competition for places. That's what football is about, bringing through younger players through the grade if they're up there to play that level. Mez is on Squeak's (McEwan's) heels and it will be tough to split them."
Wide Bay is hopeful import Ben Wilks will finally play his first game for the club.
The 25-year-old Englishman arrived in the Wide Bay on February 14 but was sidelined while he waited for an international clearance.
The Buccaneers will host Sunshine Coast Wanderers at Hervey Bay Sports Club on Sunday. Kick-off at 3pm.