Every day this week, commentator Simon Hill looks at some of the key grand final performances over the years… and who could be centre stage this year.
Big games require big performances from big players – especially the hard men of midfield.
1996/1997 – GLEN GWYNNE (Brisbane Strikers v Sydney United)
Kresimir Marusic was Sydney United’s playmaker, and his promptings had helped produce a combined total of 39 goals for David Zdrilic & Ante Milicic.
The question for the Strikers was how to stop him adding the Grand Final to the Premiership for Branko Culina’s team.
In the Major Semi-Final, the job had gone to Gary Phillips, and in the Grand Final, Nick Meredith would probably have been given the duties.
But Meredith was injured in the second leg of the semi, so the versatile Glen Gwynne got the gig.
Gwynne did a terrific job of nullifying the super-talented Marusic, and goals from Frank Farina and Rod Brown sent 40,000 at the old Lang Park into ecstasy.
2006/2007 – KEVIN MUSCAT (Melbourne Victory v Adelaide United)
Late in the season, Adelaide United had brought in creative midfielder, Diego Walsh, from the United States to pep up their title challenge. But Victory – in front of 55,000 fans, mainly wearing blue and white – were not going to be denied their maiden title.
Their Captain, Kevin Muscat, put in a crunching challenge on Walsh in the opening minutes of the game, which Walsh later admitted made him “wobble”.
By the time Ross Aloisi had been sent off on 34 minutes, Victory were already two clear – leaving the Reds coach John Kosmina furious that his skipper had been cautioned for challenges on Fred and Brebner, and Muscat hadn’t been for his early tackle, effectively rubbing Walsh out of the game.
2014/2015 – MARK MILLIGAN (Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC)
In the modern era, has there ever been a more dominant Grand Final display than Mark Milligan’s?
“Millsy” simply monstered Milos Dimitrijevic, Sydney FC’s main playmaker. Rightly awarded the Joe Marston Medal, Milligan had only just won the Asian Cup with the Socceroos, where he’d put in a series of impressive displays.
But in May of the same year, he was at his absolute peak. Goals from Besart Berisha, Kosta Barbarouses and Leigh Broxham gave Victory the title – but it was upon Milligan’s performance that the platform was laid. Fittingly, he lifted the trophy as captain.
2015/2016 – ISAIAS (Adelaide United v Western Sydney Wanderers)
Everyone remembers THAT goal of course, and there’s no doubt it played a part in his selection here. But it was more than that.
Isaias’s steadying influence on the Reds team (with 50,000 expectant fans in the stands), got them over the line in their third Grand Final.
The Spaniard put in a typically diligent shift – running, harrying, cajoling & playing the simple ball to team-mates, particularly when, after falling 2-0 behind, Wanderers pulled one back through Scott Neville.
That led to a nervy final half an hour, before sub Pablo Sanchez put the outcome beyond doubt. But it was Isaias who made it possible, and he was duly awarded the Joe Marston Medal. Si Senor, Si.
And who’ll step up in 2021? Luke Brattan has extensive Grand Final experience, and gets through a mountain of work both offensively and defensively.
If he can keep Adrian Luna and/or Florin Berenguer quiet, then Sydney could be on for an unprecedented three-peat.
Match Details – A-League Grand Final 2020/21
Melbourne City v Sydney FC
Saturday, June 26 2021
Venue, Kick-off, Tickets: TBC