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Late-arriving Wanderers set the stage for Roar battle in A-League grand final

Not happy: Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey was far from impressed with the Wanderers turning up late to the grand final press ...

Not happy: Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey was far from impressed with the Wanderers turning up late to the grand final press conference. Photo: Getty Images

Call it mind games, a pre-emptive strike or just some unfortunate timing, but the Western Sydney Wanderers' late arrival for the pre-match press conference has lit the touchpaper for Sunday's A-League grand final.

With the media call scheduled for 1.30pm on Saturday, the Wanderers kept Brisbane Roar coach Mike Mulvey, captain Matt Smith, A-League officials and the season's largest press pack waiting for more than 10 minutes.

But rather than wait for the tardy visitors, Mulvey – who originally waited outside to personally welcome Wanderers coach Tony Popovic to Brisbane – eventually took matters into his own hands, striding into the press conference, imploring questions from the floor and trumping the FFA's customary introduction.

Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic and player Nikolai Topor-Stanley with Brisbane Roar captain Matt Smith and coach Mike Mulvey at a media conference at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane ahead of the A-League 2014 Grand Final. Click for more photos

A-League 2014 Grand Final preparations

Players and fans ready themselves ahead of the A-League 2014 Grand Final between the Brisbane Roar and the Western Sydney Wanderers at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH Photo: Michelle Smith

When the Wanderers' delegation – one of the A-League's more lavish ensembles – finally arrived, they were taken aback to see Mulvey and Smith already speaking boldly about their desire for a third championship in four seasons.

Whether any of this plays out in any form on Sunday remains to seen, but it certainly demonstrated the depth of feeling that exists.

Undoubtedly, this depth of feeling – and whether either side should use it as motivation – will be the primary topic of discussion around the breakfast tables for both teams on Sunday.

Yet both coaches were careful enough not to give the issue further ammunition. Mulvey said he simply wanted to start on time, denying he was annoyed.

"No, no, I just hate to keep you guys waiting," he said. "I think it's rude. You guys have got deadlines, so I think it's probably best that we start."

When Popovic eventually arrived and settled in, he was immediately asked if he felt he'd "been given the away-team treatment", with the conference already starting.

"I didn't even think of it that way," he said. "But it's no problem at all."

With Brisbane having won both of their grand finals (2011 and 2012) on home soil, Mulvey reckons the thunderous support from the stands will be a huge advantage, describing Parramatta's Pirtek Stadium as "petite" when compared to the vast walls of Suncorp Stadium.

"I think the home-ground advantage is massive tomorrow," he said. "One thing I'm looking forward to is that the Wanderers will be allegedly bringing 10,000 fans tomorrow. I've been in their stadium and Matt has played in their stadium and it's also quite one-sided. What we've got a chance is for our fans – 40,000 of them – to outsing them. I'm really looking forward to that."

Recalling his own memories as a spectator, the Mancunian said a grand-final day in Brisbane was a spectacular experience.

"I've sat in this ground when the Roar have won two grand finals previously and it was a fantastic atmosphere," he said. "I said to myself I wanted to be part of a grand final but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be for the Roar and so quickly."

Mulvey said he would make it clear to the players from the outset about the need to keep things simple from the first minute to the last.

"We don't need to do anything different to what we've been doing all season," he said. "Our form has been very consistent and I'm not asking for anything extra from the players.

"All I'm asking is that they produce the performances that they've been producing throughout the year. It will be a top game because they're a formidable opponent, but we've proven all year that we can play top-quality football."

The match will be the last one for several players on both sides, most notably gun striker Besart Berisha, who has already committed to leaving the Roar for Melbourne Victory next season.

"Perhaps some of the anguish he's been feeling has been alleviated because he has already scored the winning goal against Melbourne Victory [in the semi-final]," Mulvey said. "He's a true professional, a great guy, a family guy and he fits into our culture beautifully, and he wants to win things. Here's the platform for it tomorrow."

2 comments so far

  • The A-League is the best sporting event of the year .. as the numbers say the Athletes are better ...

    NRL and AFL have far to many professional players ( in AFL case X5 that of the A-League )
    AND far to few people participating form which to pick from ( a few hundred thousand in each case ) they rely on Channel 9 & 7 to Hype it ...
    We have over a million Soccer player in the country and there are 400 million world wide ,,,

    That why these guys are a class above the AFL&NRL as sportsmen....

    Finally a real sportingf event....the rest of our Domestic sports need to improve their standard to that of the A-League ...

    Commenter
    Association Football 4 OZ
    Date and time
    May 03, 2014, 9:46PM
    • It is not wise to be pitting fans against each other. Coach should be more careful.

      Commenter
      Barry
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:54PM

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