Suncorp Stadium packed to the rafters with passionate fans, a battling New South Wales team taking on a Queensland outfit oozing with confident swagger, a week of frenzied build-up chock full of hyperbole from the media … does all this sound familiar?
Sunday’s A-League Grand Final has all the hallmarks of a rugby league State of Origin clash, and the players involved give the impression they are more than happy to buy into the hype.
Queensland’s Maroons are going through an unprecedented period of success in their sport, having won eight consecutive series, and the Brisbane Roar are currently attempting to build a legacy of their own.
If they win on home turf on the weekend they will have claimed three A-League titles and two Premier’s Plates in four years, capping the most successful era for any one club in the history of the competition.
The Western Sydney Wanderers, meanwhile, are the new kids on the block who have given Australian domestic football a major shake-up in the two short years of their existence.
Not only have their Red and Black Bloc supporter group taken fandom to a whole new level in this country, the team itself has energised the league by establishing itself as a genuine powerhouse.
Two Grand Finals in two years is testament to this, but such a record will begin to look like a blight if the Wanderers once again go home empty handed.
Brisbane will be terrified of losing a decider in front of their home fans for the first time, and it is this combination of fear and desire that both teams will be experiencing that just adds to the whole aura of the game.
Roar gaffer Mike Mulvey has already claimed the Coach of the Year honours, and is now happy to play promoter ahead of the final, talking up the State of Origin vibe in every interview.
“There’s going to be 52,000 people here, I’m led to believe between 8 and 10,000 Western Sydney fans, and that means there’s going to be 40 to 42,000 people dressed in orange cheering us on,” he said.
“We’ve got our eye on the prize. We’ve won the Premiership and we’re very, very pleased with that, but that was then, this is now.
“Dare I say it, this is Queensland versus New South Wales.
“This is ‘The Cauldron’, and we’re going to be up for the fight, you’d better believe it.”
Veteran Brisbane left-back Shane Stefanutto, who is likely to have his hands full with the dynamic Wanderers’ winger Youssouf Hersi raiding down his flank, also pumped up a potentially sensational Suncorp ambiance.
“I think the build-up and the atmosphere in the ground on Sunday is going to be electric.
“Western Sydney have got passionate fans, we’ve got extremely passionate fans, it’s going to be orange versus red and it makes me excited just thinking about it now, to be honest.
“So Queensland versus New South Wales? Yeah I’m happy with that as well.
“I’m a passionate Maroon, Queensland born and bred, and I think that just adds to the theatre of it all.”
Theatre it will be, no doubt, with tragedy awaiting one side and glory the other. This is why they call it a Grand Final.
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