The NPL NSW Men’s Grand Final takes place on August 27 at 6pm, as Blacktown City takes on Manly United, and it will be a massive occasion.
Not only because it is the Grand Final, but because it will be the last before Football NSW transitions the NPL Men’s competition to a full home and away, expanded competition, with 16 teams and no finals series.
For Manly United, the side is well aware of what the occasion means.
“To be given the opportunity to play at Commbank Stadium is pretty special,” Manly United player Alen Aganovic said, discussing the game with The Inner Sanctum ahead of the match on Saturday.
“Also knowing it will be the last NPL Men’s grand final, it will be a special occasion and hopefully we get the job done.”
For Manly United, the side had to go the distance twice in the first two weeks of the final.
In week one, it broke Blacktown City’s hearts with a come from behind victory in extra time, with Aganovic scoring two goals in less than five minutes (119th and 123rd) to seal the victory.
“It was pretty surreal to get those two crucial goals in such a big game,” Aganovic said.
“After the first I was just stoked to get us back in the game, but then to go on and get the winner was an incredible moment.
“I don’t score too often being a defender, so to win in that fashion was an amazing feeling.”
In week two, the side again had to come from behind late on. Bruno Mendes scored the equaliser in the 122nd minute to send the match against Sydney Olympic to penalties, which Manly won 4-3 to seal a spot in the grand final and a much needed week off.
“It’s been good to be able to have the week off after going the distance the last two matches,” Aganovic continued.
“There were definitely some tired and sore bodies, but now we’re refreshed and ready to go for the final.”
Having that week off has allowed Manly ample preparation time for the game.
“We’ve been able to get in a full week of training in which we hadn’t in the last couple weeks due to matches going in to extra time, so it’s been quality.
“Everyone can’t wait to get out there and we’re all super confident.”
Despite the confidence, the side also knows that not getting overwhelmed by the sense of occasion will be key, and has been a focus in the lead-up.
“We’re just treating it as another game which we want to win, staying focused and not letting the occasion overwhelm us are the key points.”
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With the two games against Blacktown and Sydney Olympic, the side is well prepared should they fall behind to Blacktown on Saturday.
“[Those two games] highlights our attitude [of] fighting till the last whistle, embracing that never say die attitude [and] just shows the belief and drive we have as a team.”
As a defender, Aganovic knows just how crucial his performance will be for Manly’s success on Saturday night, and he knows what he has to do.
“I think just focusing on doing my job first and maintaining full concentration throughout the match as one moment can decide the outcome and usually does in finals,” Aganovic said.
With the game taking place at a neutral venue, turning CommBank Stadium into a home ground advantage will be one of the ways either side can help find success.
That involves getting the fans to come to the game.
“Our supporters have been great all season,” he said.
“We’ve already got a few supporter buses coming down, which shows the passion and support the club has.
“Hopefully they can get down to the game and show their unreal support one last time this season to help us lift the trophy and be part of the club’s great history.”
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