How Juric plans to ‘turn the tables’ and shed the one Sydney FC record he never wanted to set

Sydney FC coach has delivered consistent success – but his Grand Final record is the one glitch, writes Tom Smithies

Ante Juric chose his words carefully, just a few minutes after his team had given up their first chance of a place in the Liberty A-League Grand Final.

Juric knew better than anyone how the loss of the last two grand finals to Melbourne Victory would be playing in his players’ heads, given that they were now going to face a semifinal against… Melbourne Victory.

“Yeah, we’ve lost in grand finals against them…. (but) not many semi-finals.,” Juric mused just after last Sunday’s loss to Western United. “So now the tables have turned a little bit, and we’ll play them in the semis.”

You could forgive Juric for his determination to leave nothing to chance, no matter how much the form book says Sydney as Premiers should ease past Victory into the Grand Final on Sunday week.

After almost six seasons at the club and delivering abundant success, the number of lost grand finals is the one discordant note on his resume. Having signed a contract to become Sydney’s longest-serving coach, Juric is clearly its most successful – but there’s an argument that he needs this season’s title to really underline that.

His record is extraordinarily consistent in a league where teams tend to bounce around the league table year by year. In those six seasons, Sydney have never finished outside the top three, and have been Premiers for the past three seasons, an unprecedented run.

Juric has had success with top imports and with purely Australian-based teams, with star Matildas and then with the youngest team in the competition as it has been this season. Their football is always creative, and players clearly develop on his watch.

Ante Juric holds aloft the Premier’s Plate Sydney won this season on April 1.

The one fly in the ointment, albeit one with a particularly persistent buzz, is that record in grand finals. Incredibly he has taken the team to that season showpiece in all of his first five seasons at the club, but won only one, in 2019.

“In the history of the A-League Women there is a noticeable trend of the top team on the ladder not winning the Grand Final, and I think that creates a little bit of pressure,” says Liz Ralston, former Sydney defender who played for three seasons under Juric in Sky Blue.

“It’s hard to mitigate against that – but, If you look at last week’s loss to Western United in the semifinal, it’s almost a reminder that you have to perform, and fight, right when it matters.”

Former Sydney captain Teresa Polias knows that pressure well, and believes Juric will already have addressed it by the time these words were written.


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“They’ll talk about it, and about what happened in the semifinal, in a circle right before the first training session of this week, and then the focus is firmly back on themselves,” Polias tells KEEPUP. “He’ll let them know what the game plan is, and then it’s go time.

“The biggest thing is that Ante backs the girls and they respect him. He keeps things simple and consistent, doesn’t overcomplicate the message – basically, that if they play their best, it’s very likely they’ll win.”


Maybe it’s the years he spent teaching PDHPE and being Master in Charge of Football at a prestigious private school in Sydney, but Juric’s ability to spot – and give opportunities to – emerging talent is widely respected.

“Ante is particularly good at identifying the best young players and bringing them into the Sydney FC fold at that young age,” says Ralston. “By giving them exposure to the more experienced players, it creates a process whereby they then slowly become part of the core themselves.

“As captain Nat Tobin has been at the club her whole career, and there are players like Cortnee Vine, Sarah Hunter, Rachel Lowe who are relatively young but very much part of the team’s identity, a tight group who are friends off the pitch.”

There’s one further aspect of his coaching that may prove invaluable in the pressure cooker of a game that can send Sydney to the Grand Final, or end their season a week early, Ralston believes.

“He fosters creativity – the drills he puts on are never a blueprint in themselves, especially in the top third,” she says. “There’s always lots of opportunities for the creators in the team to express themselves.

“He tells players to back themselves and fosters a self-confidence that makes it hard to defend against. He’s got some work to do to make sure that last year’s Grand Final isn’t an issue, but the main message will as always be to relax, to enjoy themselves.

“Even in a challenging and pressure-filled game, he wants them to go out and have fun.”


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