The Cavaliers have been drawn against Canberra Olympic in the quarter-final stage and will be favourites to advance to the final four, emulating the feats of fellow Victorian NPL clubs Bentleigh Greens (2014) and Hume City (2015).
It’s an exciting time for the ex-NSL club - not that Papas has had much time to sit back and think about what he and his proud club had achieved.
“It's been difficult to find time to reflect on what we've done because as soon as the game is done, you're already planning for the next session and the next game. Every game we've played in the past two months has been like a final,” he told The World Game.
“It's fantastic for the club with a sensational group of players with great character. This is a great club but, if we're honest, hasn't been at the top of any competition in the past couple of years.
“Now, all of sudden, we're being spoken about nation-wide. There's just so many positives.”
While the opportunity to advance to the semi-finals is clearly on the cards for Green Gully, the coach isn’t getting carried away with the favourable draw.
“I don't want to think that it's a situation where, because we've drawn Canberra, it's a given. They're a strong team and they've beaten two strong teams as well prior to this game,” he said.
“It will be difficult to travel up there and we'll do our homework on them, I think they're still competing in their league as well, so maybe we'll get a chance to see what they're about.
“I watched them in the game against Redlands and the game prior to that as well and they were a really sound team. They were very good on the counter attack, in particular.”
Both Olympic and Gully will bank $5000 for getting this far, with the winner pocketing at least $10,000 for making the final four - not including bumper matchday sales. $25,000 goes to the losing finalist and the FFA Cup champions makes $50,000.
The Cavs made it to the final eight with a stunning, come-from-behind 3-1 win over Melbourne Knights at Somers Street on Tuesday night, highlighted by a double from Liam Boland, either side of a beautiful goal from Nick Krousouratis.
“We had a group of players that could have easily dropped their heads at 1-0 in a very difficult environment against the team that has had the wood on us this season,” Papas said.
“But it was a magnificent response from that moment onwards and to come in 2-1 at half-time, we spoke about round one when we were up 1-0 and didn't claim the victory that day and the reasons we didn't go with it.
“I asked the players not to fall into the same trap of sitting back and defending - instead we stepped up our line, kept attacking and ended up creating more and more opportunities.”
Asked about players could potentially catch the eye of A-League clubs, Papas reckoned several of his squad could step up.
“There's definitely guys who could play in the A-League,” he said.
“Look at Jay Davies, who has come in from State League One at Cairnlea, when we needed a creative player but didn't have the budget. Nick Krousouratis is 22, Liam Boland is prolific and Callum Richards, as a right full-back, is only 20 and an exceptional full-back. There’s a lot who just haven’t had the opportunity.”
Pappas’s own ambitions of coaching in the A-League nearly came through when he made it to the final six at the Mariners, a role which ultimately went to Paul Okon. However, he’s not given up hope.
“I have ambitions but I'm really enjoying what I'm doing. I spent three years abroad coaching the Indian [under-23] national team, and then in the Indian Super League with Zico [as the Brazilian legend's assistant] and Robert Pires,” he said.
“The only difficulty coming back here is that you work two jobs to keep competing at this level. I'm sure it would be even better if it was a full-time, professional environment.
“That would be great if I get that opportunity but if not, I've got a great staff with a great bunch of boys and I'm happy. I'll take it as it comes.”