It’ll be either Melbourne City’s Scott Jamieson or Sydney FC’s Alex Wilkinson lifting the A-League Trophy on Sunday evening.
Which it will be, taking out the competition’s ultimate glory in the Grand Final, is a question that can only be answered by the biggest 90 minutes of the year.
Both sides are searching for a history-making title.
After making their grand final debut in a losing match against the Sky Blues last year, City are both out for revenge and still seeking their first trophy.
Sydney, on the other hand, are in line to become the first A-League team to win three consecutive Grand Finals.
Wilkinson says despite having achieved a heaping of success already, the chance to make history is providing more motivation than ever.
“The chance to create history is what’s driving us, and has been driving us,” he told media on Friday.
“We’ve spoken about that since the first day of pre-season last year. …it’s about pushing for this one and do something that no other team’s done. Obviously that’s one driving force, but another is finishing off the season on a great note.
“[Success] never wears off, it never gets old. Finals football is the most enjoyable part of the season.”
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Holding Sydney in good stead for Sunday’s ultimate clash is the experience it has built up in the squad over the years.
Boasting a huge number of players who’ve been there and done that in regards to grand finals already will no doubt be a benefit on the day.
Though none have done it yet with City, Jamieson believes the players he’ll lead out onto AAMI Park have had the opportunity for plenty of success of their own.
No one at City is going into the game without understanding the occasion.
“We’ve got experience in grand finals, albeit a disappointing result,” Jamieson said.
“I think the biggest feather in our cap is we’ve got the monkey off the back in regards to winning a title, and that was winning the premiership.
“I definitely feel with that our mind leading up to the game, not that the pressure’s off, but we know what it takes to title… this is a one off game.
“We have to tap into those players that have won one or two, or even players who have lost four or five like myself. I know how to lose them, so try and do the opposite of what I do.”
A rematch written in the stars
As noted by both captains with a sure understanding of their history with each other, Sunday’s Grand Final will be a rematch of the 2020 meeting.
Some things have remained the same since then, others have changed.
Just like this year, Jamie Maclaren had won the Golden Boot. Oppositely though, Sydney finished on top of the ladder and earned the premiership, claiming the right to host City in the Grand Final.
After 90 minutes with both sides still locked at nil all, Rhyan Grant become a Sky Blue hero in extra time.
While it would have been easy for Jamieson to be tormented by the day all season, he says pre-season saw a deliberate focus to leave the past behind.
“Something I’ve learned is to not get too carried away and don’t think too much about it,” he said.
“We touched on it at the start of the year, what was the overriding emotion of losing a grand final. Not too much [was] talked about the opposition that beat us.
“I guess coming into now it’s a great story for the league to have the same two teams in it. It adds another chapter to the story of A-League grand finals between Melbourne City and Sydney.
“For us, we could be playing Central Coast on Sunday and we’d still have the same emotion… that this is a massive opportunity and it’s a grand final. There’s no different emotions to another team.
“We can look at who’s missing, what we’ve done, but at the end of the day there’s 90 minutes left, or 120 if it has to be, in the season. For us, there’s no excuses now.”
Wilkinson agrees with the sentiment, not focusing too much on what’s been done already.
While the Sky Blues no doubt celebrated their 2020 win, that was then, and now is now. The one game in front of them is where his mind is firmly set.
“Last season we’ve forgotten about a little bit,” Wilkinson said.
“I think the fact that a lot of our players have played in big games, played in finals series, played in grand finals, helps us.
“There’s nothing quite like experiencing grand final day and a grand final match. We’ve had a lot of players that have been in those situations, in cutthroat games.
“The reason we’ve been so successful, Sydney FC, over the years is because the players have that ability to drive themselves and have that will to win.”
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