Captain’s brilliant answer says it all as ‘money can’t buy’ Grand Final impact hits home

WATCH: Danny Vukovic & Mark Jackson press conference ahead of the Grand Final

Central Coast Mariners skipper Danny Vukovic explained exactly what hosting the Isuzu UTE A-League 2024 Grand Final means to the people of the Central Coast in a brilliant answer in the pre-match press conference on Friday in Gosford.

Captains Vukovic and Roderick Miranda as well as coaches Mark Jackson and Tony Popovic fronted the media ahead of Saturday’s decider between the Mariners and Melbourne Victory.

This will be the first Grand Final ever hosted at Industree Group Stadium, which will almost certainly see a crowd record at the venue after it was announced additional seating has been installed thanks to the Australian Professional Leagues, Central Coast Council and Boost Mobile.

“Yeah, it’s huge. It’s huge for the region. And I think the APL needs to be commended for allowing us to have a game here,” Mariners skipper Vukovic said.

“I think we all know they get the day takings they could have easily put it down in Sydney and got more money but I think this is a decision that is going to have a long lasting effect on this region. And that’s more than money can buy. 

Watch the Isuzu UTE A-League 2024 Grand Final LIVE on Network 10, 10Play & Paramount+ from 7:45pm AEST on Saturday, May 25

“I’ve been stopped that many times this week, in the lead up to the game. People were just so excited, people in tears after the Semi-Final  – it just goes to show how much this team means to them and what effect we have on the community. 

“It’s crazy to think about it. You know, this club has been through some dark times. And not many people were coming through the gates here not not too many years ago. 

“So to see where we’re at now, and to see how far the clubs come through a lot of hard work and hard work  everyone involved. It’s huge. And yeah, we’re just embracing this week, because everyone deserves to experience it.”

You could make a case that this is the biggest sporting match in the history of the Central Coast.

BOOSTED: Grand Final to break all-time ground record
INS & OUTS: View the full squads for the 2024 Grand Final
BECOMING BIELSA: What Mariners have gained from 5-year internship with icon
MATCH PREVIEW: Six storylines to watch as 2021 omen looms large

The region’s only professional sports team could make Australian football history on Saturday night; a win would see them become the first team ever to win a treble of trophies including a continental title, having already won the Isuzu UTE A-League Premiership and the AFC Cup.

Asked what he would say or do to motivate his team in the dressing room before the Grand Final, Mariners boss Jackson stopped short of giving specifics.

“Yeah, I’m not gonna give too much away,” he said.

“Before the Sydney game, we had some messages from family. We’ve done a little bit today with the team without giving that away. 

“All it is, is kind of drawing on our achievements so far this year. And that’s not just winning the Premier(ship), winning the AFC Cup; our achievements are much deeper than that. 

“We know what they are as a team, we know what we’ve been through. We know what we go through everyday. We know the sacrifices players make and staff making people at the club make to make things happen at the club. 

“We celebrate that and we understand what team we are. The chat we had before training today typifies what team we are and who we want to be and where we want to grow further.”

While the Mariners are hoping to complete a sporting fairy tale, Popovic’s Victory are hoping to spoil the party and create something special of their own.

The visitors finished second from bottom of the Isuzu UTE A-League last term, but have rocketed back into contention this season to finish third and after ending Wellington Phoenix’s dream campaign last week, they’ll be hoping to repeat the feat in Gosford.

Watch the Isuzu UTE A-League 2024 Grand Final LIVE on Network 10, 10Play & Paramount+ from 7:45pm AEST on Saturday, May 25

“I think it makes sense (that people are talking about the Mariners fairy tale),” captain Miranda said.

“Even with Wellington, our Sem-Final game, everybody was making a fairy tale for them and I understand (that) like with social media what they want to create, but at the same time Melbourne victory is one of the biggest clubs in Australia.

“Everybody thinks, ‘Yeah, they are big, they should be there’. And of course I understand the fairy tale story. But yeah, we already beat one team in the fairy tale and hopefully we can be humble enough to fight for each other inside the pitch to beat another team.

“They’ve already won two trophies this season. So they are in a really good way with really good momentum. But we’ve been in a really good momentum as well. 

“We’ve been playing good football this season so hopefully tomorrow we can show everything on the pitch.”

Popovic added: “That comes down to perception as well, it depends, how you perceive their fairy tale, which is certainly possible. 

“We feel that we can create our own history with a win tomorrow. And that’s our focus. 

“We know we have to do it here, but we’ve accepted all of that. And there’s a chance for us to hold up a trophy amongst a wonderful group of players, great people, great staff, great club. 

“You know, we don’t believe that you deserve to just win a title. We believe we’ll have to earn it and where we’re comfortable having to do that.”

Victory are expecting to be buoyed by a large contingent of travelling fans, who will head over the border to New South Wales hoping to watch their team spring a colossal upset.

“A really good crowd is coming. I heard around 3000 people are coming from Melbourne so for us it’s amazing to hear that and we’ll do our maximum in the pitch to respect the job,” Miranda said.

“Only they are there, to show that we’ve come from last season that was not our best season as a team to create our fairytale as well. 

“After a really bad season, recover the way we recover and be able to play Grand Final and do the maximum to mean it will be a really amazing fairy tale for us players, supporters, fans, direction staff, so yeah, we are really, really forward to it.”

Watch the Isuzu UTE A-League 2024 Grand Final LIVE on Network 10, 10Play & Paramount+ from 7:45pm AEST on Saturday, May 25