They forged a strong bond in Wollongong, but friends and coaches Luke Wilkshire and Nick Montgomery will become enemies when the Wolves and Mariners go head-to-head at WIN Stadium on Wednesday night.
Wilkshire's NSW NPL side will host the Montgomery-led A-Leagues team in a must-win round of 16 FFA Cup clash in Wollongong.
It will be a special occasion for Montgomery, who arrived in the Illawarra in 2017 to play for the Wolves. He spent two seasons at the club, playing alongside Wilkshire, before transitioning into an assistant coach role under the tutelage of head coach Jacob Timpano.
Montgomery then headed up to the Central Coast to coach the Mariners' NPL and Y-League sides, before being promoted to the club's top job in July following the departure of Alen Stajcic.
"Monty's a great guy, and I wish him well for the A-League season, but obviously not on Wednesday night - and he's aware of that. We're two competitive guys but I've got a lot of time and respect for him," Wilkshire said.
"Monty's going to do a great job for the Central Coast. He had a great career as a player, his knowledge and understanding of players and football is second to none. He bided his time there in the NPL set up at Central Coast and he's got his opportunity now to really make a name for himself."
Meanwhile, Montgomery and his side are preparing for their second game in Wollongong this week. The Mariners returned home following their 2-1 A-Leagues loss to Wellington on Saturday, and will be hoping for better luck against the Wolves.
While focused on winning, Central Coast's mentor also can't wait to see Wilkshire.
"Luke had a fantastic career and I played with him a couple of times at the Wolves. Straight away, I knew he was a great guy and we become good friends from there," Montgomery said.
"Luke is obviously a good young and up and coming coach, and we have a good relationship. I'm sure we'll be enemies on the day, that's normal, but once the game is finished I look forward to catching up with him and having a chat."
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