After 26 rounds of regular season football and three rounds of playoffs, the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues’ 2 NSW men’s Grand Final has finally arrived and will be contested at Sydney United Spirts Centre this Sunday.
Featuring overwhelming favourites Marconi Stallions and first-time Grand Finalists Mt Druitt Town Rangers, this clash has a real Prince versus Pauper feel to it.
Will the status quo prevail and Marconi claim yet another piece of silverware before they ride off into the sunset or will Rangers cause a major upset to claim the spoils of victory?
Marconi Stallions v Mt Druitt Town Rangers, 3pm, Sunday 17 September, Sydney United Sports Centre
Premiers Marconi Stallions will be seeking to win the treble when they tackle Mt Druitt Town Rangers in Sunday’s PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues’ 2 NSW Men’s Grand Final at Edensor Park.
After beating Mt Druitt twice this season by a combined tally of eight goals to one, Marconi will go into the Grand Final as overwhelming favourites.
In the first round Marconi trailed the Rangers 1-0 at halftime before hammering home five unanswered goals in the second half to win 5-1; while in the second clash between the two sides, the scores were level at nil-all until Marconi swooped in the 77th minute and ultimately struck home three goals for a flattering 3-0 victory.
But this is the Grand Final and while Marconi’s dominance of Rangers will give the sky blues plenty of confidence, they’ll be facing an outfit that has been in white-hot form for the past two months. Indeed, Mt Druitt has lost just once in their last nine games, a phenomenal effort that will give the side from Sydney’s west reason to believe that they can cause a stunning upset.
“Marconi are a quality side, there’s no doubt about that,” Mt Druitt coach Aidan Desmond told Football NSW. “But when we last played them, we were right in the game and it was fairly even until they scored at the back post in the 77th minute. We then turned possession over in the box and suddenly it was 2-0. That was pretty much it. At 1-0 we felt like we were right in the game but to concede another one within a minute kind of broke us a little bit. Then they got the third. They were goals from our errors rather than being broken down, which was disappointing.
“I can’t fault our effort, the effort was fantastic. But some little errors hurt us. It was a flattering scoreline, it certainly wasn’t a 3-0 game. They’re a class above but we matched them for 70 odd minutes. The scoreline definitely flattered them. ”
Since then Mt Druitt has come a long way. With the likes of Luke Grima, Lachlan Roberts and Daniel Rezo leading the way in a potent front third, and defenders Matthew Clowes and Nick Trimble forming the nucleus of a robust backline, they’re more than capable of creating a few dramas for the Stallions.
“We’re a young side and there’s a couple of boys with experience in there but there are six boys 21 years of age or younger who have showed they’re capable of playing at this level,” Desmond said.
“Reaching the Grand Final is massive for the club, they’ve never been in a Grand Final at this level and we go in there knowing just how big the task is (against Marconi). Marconi have been a standout side all year but we’ll go in there and we’ll do our best and have a go.”
Meanwhile, there has been a huge change out Bossley Park way since former Olyroo Peter Tsekenis took over the reins at the Stallions mid-season. Tsekenis managed to harness the egos that come with being the most talented group of players in the competition; a group that boasts a former Socceroo and a number of ex-A Leaguers.
But for whatever reason, before Tsekenis arrived the Stallions only played in fits and starts and while they won more than they lost, consistency certainly wasn’t one of their virtues.
But since the arrival of Tsekenis, the Stallions morphed into a completely different beast. It’s professional. It’s clinical. It’s lethal. And everyone has bought into what Tsekenis has to offer, not just the players but the officials and supporters too. And given the side’s incredibly successful season, their faith in the gaffer has been justified many times over.
But despite such a successful season, Tsekenis won’t be taking anything for granted this weekend.
“Unfortunately no-one remembers the Premiers, but everyone remembers the Grand Final winners,” Tsekenis told Football NSW. “Mt Druitt are one of the form teams heading into the Grand Final. They’ve been rolling along nicely, beating good teams well.
“The last time we played them it was a tough match and it was only in the last five or ten minutes that we scored three goals to finish them off. I think if we can get some goals and take our chances early, we’ll break them. If we don’t, it’s going to be tough.
“It’s a Grand Final and there’s no tomorrow. I’m anticipating another battle but I’m just hoping that with the quality we have, we’re able to get the win.”
It’s often said that big name players rise to the big occasions and it doesn’t get any bigger than a Grand Final. With former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp and Golden Boot winner Sean Rooney spearheading the team’s charge and Mirjan Pavlovic and Marko Jesic providing equal doses of skill and aggression, Marconi will be a tough nut to crack this Sunday.
But football can be a funny old game and while Mt Druitt are rank outsiders, they’ll go into their maiden Grand Final with everything to play for and nothing to lose.
Will the fairytale continue for Aidan Desmond’s unfashionable underdogs? Or will the status quo remain, with the overwhelming favourites signing off their two-year stint in second tier football with a flourish?
We’ll know the answer to that question by late Sunday afternoon.
-By Derek Royal, Football NSW Reporter