Western United has dubbed it the “Battle of The Bridge” as it takes over a rebranded AAMI Park for the first time in its short history.
The team in green and black arrived to its press conference in style on Thursday by boat, travelling under the Bolte Bridge towards the city, foreshadowing their arrival in Melbourne.
In its first year in the league, United beat bridge rivals Melbourne Victory three times to secure a clean sweep for the season.
United will look to continue that trend.
In the lead-up to the battle, Western United head coach Mark Rudan said he was excited to build off of last week’s 5-4 blockbuster win against Perth Glory.
“Last year we beat this team (Victory) three times in a row, it was huge for our football club. We want to continue that dominance,” he said.
Meanwhile, United and its social media team have been trying to get under its opponent’s skin, avoiding calling Melbourne Victory by its name.
“We want to shake things up, we’re the new kids on the block,” said Rudan.
Being the new kids on the block, Rudan emphasises how important growing the club and its name is for United’s future.
The main focus for the head coach is the addition of a W-League side and an accompanying youth academy.
“We made it very clear just how important the women’s game is for our football club,” said Rudan.
“We want to be the only club in the A-League with an academy dedicated to the women.”
Western United has partnered with Calder United Soccer Club in the Women’s National Premier League (NPLW).
Rudan is proud of the growth that United has shown and how it’s developed from being just a team to a whole club.
“I said this last year, we weren’t a club, we were a team,” he said
“Now we’ve got two NPL teams participating in the youth league, we want to have a W-League side as well, we want a youth academy. That’s a club and we want to build this club.”
With the addition of players like Ayom Majok, United is building a solid foundation of youth for the future. But Rudan has urged his youngsters to make the most of their opportunity.
“They’re our future so we want to hang on to them as much as possible, but they’ve got to do the right thing as well,” he said.
“They have to show that grit, the determination, that will and desire to improve every day.
“And if you don’t, we make no qualms about making decisions that this club maybe isn’t for you.”
Rudan prides himself on ‘creating a strong, elite environment’ and that it’s not good enough for players to just participate.
“You’ve got to show why you want the jersey off a Besart Berisha or a Diamanti or anyone for that matter. That’s where the young kids have to change their mentality.”
Building a club is what Rudan is undertaking and it’s clear the passion he has for his club. The determination he has for United to grow and become the voice of the west is unmatched.
“I’m a passionate person, and you can see that on the sideline. I make no apologies for who I am. We want our fans to feel the same way that I do about our football club,” he said.
“We want to grow this football club. We want to make sure that everybody in the west understands there is a football club that’s there to support them and hopefully they can come and support us.”