By STEVE SPINKS
ON a frosty night at Oakes Oval last September, one of Lismore's most talented soccer exports scored his last competitive goal in a distinguished career.
Paul Foster rammed home two as a striker for the Goonellabah Hornets in their 8-1 first division grand final win over Lennox Head.
At the time it wasn't known that those goals would signal the end of Foster's career.
Already the 37-year-old had retired from professional soccer after successful stints with the Brisbane Strikers in the now defunct National Soccer League and in the competitive Hong Kong league, where he won three consecutive golden boot awards.
There was some thought that the talented striker may go around again with Goonellabah as they chased Premier Division glory in the Soccer FNC competition.
But the Hornets hopes were foiled by the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
Foster has recently taken up a scholarship with the AIS which funds potential elite coaches among a range of sports every year.
Since taking up the position in early January, the Lismore-born coach has led a busy existence.
"The head coach Steve O'Connor has given me the job of looking after the strikers because I used to be one," Foster said.
"So I work individually with the guys every day and I'm also involved with their strength and conditioning programs.
"It's full-on, and every day is a big day."
The AIS squad is made up mostly of 17 and 18-year-olds who will be playing for the Australian Under-20s in about two years.
With his coaching career on the way up, Foster admits his aim is to be an elite coach in Australia.
He also attributes his time with the Far North Coast Suns Youth team as a great help in getting the two-year scholarship.
That, coupled with a resume that includes a UEFA B and UEFA A licence, was definitely a bonus for the former striker.
Foster's playing career has a certain symmetry to it considering he started as a Goonellabah Hornet and finished as a Goonellabah Hornet.
It's a symmetry that suits the round ball game.