For Olympic FC Head Coach Ben Cahn the 2020 season is one in which he can look back on with great pride, but which ultimately ended in disappointment.
Cahn’s side were edged out 1-0 in the NPLQ Grand final by Lions FC to make it three successive defeats now in the showpiece event.
A close contest was settled by a second half goal from Nathan Reardon, but some contentious decisions saw Olympic denied two penalties, which could have changed the complexion of the tie.
"It was a difficult one to take," admitted Cahn. "Finals are always tight affairs, I’ve been involved in six semis and finals now with Olympic and they have all been decided by one goal.
"We certainly weren’t at our fluent best, but let's take nothing away from Lions, they are an excellent side with a fantastic winning culture."
The 32 year old has had little time to dwell on the defeat though. He now leads a Queensland NPL All Star team that will take on Brisbane Roar this weekend before coming up against their New South Wales counterparts in a ‘state of origin’ style friendly.
The games form part of Football Queensland’s ‘festival of football’, and Cahn is relishing the challenge that awaits.
"It’s a great honour to lead this group," he said. "We’ve got some top players here in Queensland and I’m looking forward to achieving something that we can all remember."
There will be a familiar face in the opposition dugout - Roar coach Warren Moon enjoyed great success in the NPL before being handed an A-League opportunity after the departure of Robbie Fowler in July.
Cahn admits it will be a tough test: "We’re missing a few players through personal commitments and some are still nursing injuries from the end of the season.
"We’ll be without Steve Whyte, Mitch Nichols, Jez Lofthouse, Tasuku Sekiya, Max Brown, Sam Roper, Joe Duckworth, Henry Hore and Harry Sawyer but we should have most of them available for the NSW game which is very exciting.
"The Roar are likely to be close to full strength and it will certainly test the depth of talent in Queensland."
Next year, Football NSW will host the 2021 event and hosting rights will be shared on an alternate year basis.
The first Intercolonial match between NSW and Queensland took place at the Sir Joseph Banks Park in Botany on August 16, 1890, with Queensland winning 3-1.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have either watched or played in the games in the pas," said Cahn. "Everyone’s very excited to have the fixture back and very passionate about the outcome.
"I’m extremely proud to represent Queensland. Although the accent may be deceiving (Cahn originates from South London), it is in my blood. My mum, her parents and their parents are all from Brisbane.
"The players are excited, they respect the rivalry and they’re motivated to give a good account of football in Queensland. We’ll have a very strong squad available for the game and we’re determined to win and do the state proud."
Cahn is the youngest Australian to have an AFC Pro coaching licence after finishing off his course last year in South Korea, and he is candid about his ambitions further ahead.
He has already tasted life in the A-League with a stint as assistant first team coach at Central Coast Mariners back in 2016.
Australia is his preference to live and work, but Cahn is realistic about the lack of chances on hand. He remains open to working further afield, admitting he had a couple of opportunities earlier in the year in Asia, only to see them curtailed by the outbreak of Covid 19.
"It's no secret I’m ambitious," he admitted. "I was close to a couple of opportunities within Asia, but Covid has put the brakes on that for now."
In the meantime his focus fully remains on the upcoming challenges with Queensland and then another shot at taking out the NPL with Olympic FC in 2021.
Cahn sees the gap between the NPL and A-League as getting smaller each year.
He added: "I think there has been a lack of trust in the past.
"Certainly when I was involved in the A-League, there was a perception that it was a step too far for players from a part time environment."
That mindset may be beginning to shift with Brisbane Roar already recruiting former Lions FC pair Josh Brindell-South and Danny Kim for the upcoming season.
Perhaps following a strong showing this weekend, more may follow.