Facing off for grand final glory in the Men's Premier League this weekend are Hristijan Tanoski from Canberra Olympic, left, and Aidan Brunskill from Canberra FC. Photo: Graham Tidy
Thirteen goals, two penalties, one red card, a streaker and flares - this year's Canberra National Premier League grand final between Canberra FC and Canberra Olympic will find it hard to match the 2011 edition between the two sides.
FC star Adam Spaleta thinks a repeat is unlikely at McKellar Park on Saturday, but was expecting ''fireworks'' nonetheless.
Having already captured the league championship for a remarkable 21st time, Canberra FC now wants to return to the grand final winner's circle after being knocked out in last year's preliminary final.
An abdominal injury meant Spaleta missed that finals campaign, but he's back to full fitness. It's a scary proposition for Olympic given he's regarded as one of the best players in the ACT. ''It was just an amazing experience [in 2011], I'd like to experience it again but I don't think I will to be honest,'' said Spaleta at the grand final lunch at Dickson Tradies on Tuesday. ''I think there'll be fireworks. I get the feeling it will be an entertaining game, not the same amount of goals - I'm hoping our defence will be a bit better than last time - but I get the sense it's going to be a big game and there's going to be a lot happening. It could go either way … but we're confident of doing something pretty special.''
Olympic and FC have developed a strong rivalry, made stronger by a respect and friendship shared off the pitch. Both will go out the window when they line up.
Spaleta felt his side had more ''match-winners'', including a potent attack where both Phillipe Bernabo and Alex Oloriegbe finished second in the golden boot competition with 20 goals each.
''On any given day, anyone from each team can stand up,'' he said. ''I think both teams have match-winners, but I think we have more match-winners than they do.''
If the three meetings this season are anything to go by, then Saturday's final will be a lot tighter than two years ago.
FC has won the past two, both at Deakin, 2-1 and 1-0, while Olympic won at O'Connor, also 1-0.
Olympic coach Leo Exarhos thought those three games provided a better form guide.
''I don't think there will be that many goals … 13 goals in a game is ridiculous,'' Exarhos said.
■ CANBERRA NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUE GRAND FINAL Canberra FC v Canberra Olympic at McKellar Park, Saturday, 5pm.