This week is no ordinary week. It’s yet another Grand Final rematch and instalment of the mouth-watering Sydney FC-Melbourne Victory rivalry.
For the past two seasons, Sydney have been crowned Liberty A-League premiers. But on each occasion, the Sky Blues have fallen to Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final.
Sydney have twice been denied the Premiership-Championship double by their rivals across the border, yet in the eyes of star forward Cortnee Vine, the Sky Blues have already proven themselves to be the benchmark.
Last season, Sydney finished two points clear atop the regular-season standings and 11 ahead of Victory. In 2020-21, they were five points better off than the team from Melbourne before the finals series got underway.
“In any other country we are the winners. We are the best,” Vine told KEEPUP.
It’s unfortunate Aussies kind of look at the Grand Final as the champions of the league. I love the Premiership, it proves a lot that we’re the most consistent and we have been the most consistent in the past two seasons and we’re pushing for three years.
“We’ve started a bit slower than the previous two seasons. That might not be a bad thing. We might peak later in the season and that might help with finals. It’s always tough losing finals.”
Sky Blues star Mackenzie Hawkesby recently said she was still haunted by last season’s defeat in the decider.
Victory were 2-1 winners in March, having outlasted Sydney 1-0 after extra-time in the 2020-21 showpiece.
“I think the previous season when we lost against them, we kind of felt lucky we pushed until the 120th minute. Victory had a really good Grand Final that year and probably deserved the win earlier. We had a lot of players out as well,” Vine reflected.
“Last season it kind of felt the opposite way. We should’ve won that and we had a lot of chances to finish. That one haunts us more than the first one for sure.”
Saturday’s showdown at Cromer Park is shaping up as another blockbuster battle, with both teams coming off opening-round defeats.
Sydney were upstaged late by last season’s semi-finalists Adelaide United 1-0, while Victory went down to Liberty A-League newcomers Western United by the same scoreline.
Vine and her team-mates are hellbent on avoiding defeat to the two-time reigning champions – and bolstered by the return of star striker Remy Siemsen who is back from Sweden and AIK and pushing for selection this weekend.
“You can feel it already. Everyone is pretty emotional about it. Everyone gets pumped up about it,” said the Australia international.
“Everyone knows we have a rivalry with them now, especially the past two years. It always gets pretty fiery. The girls look forward to it.
We don’t want to lose against them. This week matters, training matters this week.
Vine added: “If we can beat them, it’s some sort of revenge there. It feels like a Grand Final every time we meet.
“We versed them last season during the week and we were so emotional about that and that game didn’t mean too much. That was more playing them and we just don’t want to lose against them.”
‘It’s pretty surreal‘
All eyes will be on Vine this weekend as she continues her remarkable rise, at club and international level.
Vine enjoyed a breakout A-League Women season in 2021-22, with nine goals for the Grand Finalists.
Her domestic form has led to her involved with the Matildas; after making her debut at the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, Vine has since established herself in Tony Gustavsson’s plans with a further 10 appearances, including a brace against South Africa and a start in Australia’s 4-0 rout of Sweden in Melbourne this month.
Vine is still coming to terms with the “massive year”.
“It’s still pretty surreal. To live out one of your dreams, which I wanted to make come true for so long,” the 24-year-old added.
It’s still pretty crazy to think I’m playing alongside Sam Kerr, Hayley Raso and all those girls who are doing well in England.
“I’m in a good place at the moment but definitely not comfortable. Want to push myself. I still need to prove myself at club land as well.
“I don’t look at the A-Leagues, just because I’m doing well internationally I should be killing it here. It’s a pretty decent league and everyone steps up against Sydney as well. So I find it very difficult when we play teams in the Liberty A-League.”
Having earned the trust of Gustavsson with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup looming large on home soil, the Swede had some advice for Vine heading into the new ALW campaign.
“For me, I’m someone who gets quite a lot of niggles. We want me in the future not to have those little niggles. So I need to focus on my strengthening, in the gym and my load as well but he said keep doing what I’m doing,” she said.
“He just wants me to be confident and that’s how I’m approaching this season.”