EXCLUSIVE Luke Casserly says 2009 will be his final season as a footballer - what a pity A-League fans never got to see the flying former Socceroo wingback, writes Aidan Ormond.
On a chilly afternoon in Sydney's west, there's a familiar face driving Blacktown Demons forward into the teeth of a snarling wind cutting through Cook Park like an icy wrecking ball.
He was well-known to fans of Northern Spirit, Marconi and Swedish club AIK Solna for a decade from the mid-90s. Some Socceroo and Olyroo fans would remember him too, but not A-League fans.
Casserly, capped eight times for Australia including during the Terry Venables reign, is plying his trade down in the NSW Premier League - not that you'd know.
It's a league full of proud footballers like Casserly, talented kids eying the big leagues, a few panel beaters and the odd foreigner.
Playing in front of hundreds not thousands, it's an anonymous existence. No A-League marketing campaigns or TV ads here.
It's bloody hard yakka, too. Full-time work plus training three nights a week; days start early and finish late: these guys - including Casserly - do it for the love.
"I've been a footballer all my life. I just love it so much. I love the game, I love being around the boys. I love being fit," Casserly, now 35, tells au.fourfourtwo.com after the Demons took a point off Penrith Nepean United on the weekend.
Casserly debuted in the NSL in 1993. He stayed with Marconi for five seasons where he also represented Australia at the Atlanta Olympics alongside Mark Viduka and Aurelio Vidmar before joining cross-town rivals Northern Spirit in its inaugural 1998 season.
Forty three appearances at North Sydney and a Socceroo debut later, the attacking defender joined the Swedes. Casserly last played for the Socceroos in 2001 against Japan in an OFC versus AFC challenge match in Japan.
Playing alongside current A-League names John Aloisi, Sasho Petrovski, Ange Costanzo and Steve Corica plus Scott Chipperfield, Casserly had his hands full against Koji Nakata and Co in front of 60,000 fans.
"I'll never forget my NSL debut," Casserly recalls. "I was fortunate enough to also play for the Olyroos at the Atlanta Olympics.
"Then getting a contract in Europe and playing three seasons in Sweden. Everyone dreams of that. I even played in the UEFA Cup.
"I've been pretty fortunate. I've ticked off most of the boxes."
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