‘You’re going to get asked this a fair bit this week, aren’t you?’

Wellington Phoenix v Melbourne Victory - Highlights | Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24 | Semi Final Second Leg

This could be the year.

Having orchestrated a shock Semi-Final triumph over Wellington Phoenix, Melbourne Victory head coach Tony Popovic is into his fifth Isuzu UTE A-League Grand Final as a manager.

In four prior attempts to manage a team to the Isuzu UTE A-League Championship, Popovic has fallen short – three times with Western Sydney Wanderers, and one with Perth Glory.

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After Saturday night’s 2-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Sky Stadium – a result that sealed a 2-1 aggregate win across the two Semi-Final legs, Popovic addressed the media at Sky Stadium, where he was asked about his history in Isuzu UTE A-League title deciders.

Reporter: “How are you feeling heading into another Grand Final?”

Popovic: “Happy, proud, excited, looking forward to it.”

Reporter: “Personally, I mean.”

Popovic: “Yes, personally. I’m saying personally, all of those things.”

Reporter: “You’re going to get asked this a fair bit this week, aren’t you?”

Popovic: “Yeah – and that’s fine. I’ve been in four Grand Finals. I’ve been at that last game a few times. This is a fifth, so I’m extremely proud to be there again.

“We just prepare as we did this week and the last three matches, two against Wellington, one against Melbourne City. We looked ready for each game, and I’ll try and play my part in helping the players be ready for another big match, a Grand Final.

“There’s a trophy on the line and I know with these performances we’ve had, we have a real opportunity.”

Popovic’s Victory will take on Central Coast Mariners in the 2024 Grand Final; the Mariners drew 0-0 with Sydney FC on Saturday night to claim a 2-1 aggregate win over the Sky Blues and hosting rights for the decider on Saturday, May 25.

Victory travel to Industree Group Stadium full of confidence as their dream Finals run continues. Popovic’s side went a man down and a goal down in an Elimination Final against Melbourne City but fought back to progress via a penalty shootout.

Then, they took on Wellington as underdogs, and overcame the heavily-fancied Phoenix with a second-leg performance to savour in front of the biggest home crowd in Wellington’s league history.

Popovic was asked whether he feels a sense of inevitability about his side in the post-season as they continue to defy the odds.

“I hope so. I hope that’s what it is,” he said. “In the end, we still have to earn it. We had to earn tonight. Wellington, they didn’t give us an inch tonight. We had to earn every inch we got. In the end, we earned the win. We had to do it the hard way, we earned it, we deserve to be in the Grand Final.

“Now, if we want to win one, we need to earn it again. That will be the message to the group.”

“This club is used to winning trophies, and with that comes expectation,” he added.

“Our fans, our members, the club, they expect to be challenging and winning trophies. That’s what Melbourne Victory is. I’m very happy that I’m at a club that has that high expectation. We’ve just created another opportunity to win another trophy.

“It’s been a while since the club has been in a Grand Final, for many different reasons. Now we have a chance to bring some silverware back to our club.”