With the A-League Men’s competition set for its seventeenth Grand Final this weekend, Western United will have its chance to finally be the kings of the land while City is looking to become the first ever back-to-back double winners.
But to be the best Grand Final in A-League history will take some doing. But what does it mean to the best? Kick360 has re-watched every Grand Final to decide which finale features the most iconic moments, as well as considering factors such as entertainment, match quality, atmosphere, drama and significance to the competition.
Part One takes a look at the bottom five Grand Finals!
16. Perth Glory 0-0 (1-4 on pens) Sydney FC – 2018/19
The biggest ever attendance at an A-League Grand Final witnessed comfortably the competition’s dullest showpiece event at Optus Stadium in 2019. The Glory was out to capture its first National championship since it clinched the last ever NSL title in 2004, and 56,371 parochial West Australians filled the newly opened arena for what turned out to be a rather tepid affair, with just two shots on target between them in 120 minutes.
The FFA was also very lucky to avoid a second consecutive title-deciding VAR disaster (more on that later) when Adam Le Fondre’s first half finish was ruled out after Michael Zullo was incorrectly adjudged to be offside in the build up. The only somewhat ‘iconic’ moment was Wanderers legend Brendan Santalab’s last kick as a professional footballer being a failed panenka that was plucked out of the air by Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne, an incident that summed up the overall quality of the game.
15. Sydney FC 1-0 Melbourne City – 2019/20
Sydney’s record breaking fifth A-League title unfortunately did not have the atmosphere that it deserved. In a season that was ravaged by COVID, just 7051 fans watched Sydney FC win the first (and only) Grand Final at Commbank Stadium. This decider did have a couple of moments to remember though, Harrison Delbridge cruelly had a goal disallowed after Andrew Redmayne’s vision was obstructed and who could forget cult hero Rhyan Grant scoring the winning goal ‘off his nipple’ (credit to Andy Harper for that one). A magnificent achievement from the Sky Blues, but one that ultimately didn’t have enough people there for it to be further up this list.
14. Newcastle Jets 0-1 Melbourne Victory – 2017/18
The 2018 Grand Final is mainly remembered for what can only be described as one of the biggest injustices in the history of Australian sport. When replays showed James Donachie to be in an offside position in the lead up to Kosta Barbarouses’ decisive goal, it appeared that the first Grand Final featuring VAR would have an early opportunity to intervene. However, the goal stood with the FFA later confirming that the video feed ‘failed’. There was also a horrifying incident in the dying stages, as Roy O’Donovan kicked Joe Marston Medal Winner Lawrence Thomas in the face. Ultimately, it was a final that won’t be remembered fondly due the underdogs Newcastle being toppled by the Victory in such controversial fashion.
13. Melbourne City 3-1 Sydney FC – 2020/21
Unfortunately, the worst four A-League finals being in the last four seasons is somewhat indicative of the current state of the competition. The most recent decider saw Melbourne City finally win its first A-League crown, in what was a rather entertaining affair.
Once again, this final loses marks because it was played in front of a limited capacity crowd, with 14,017 on hand to see the unlikely goalscoring trio Nathaniel Atkinson, Scott Jamieson and Scott Galloway blast City to a maiden A-League title. The match was also held back by a scheduling blunder, with both teams missing key players due to international duty. Overall it was a relatively one sided contest as the Sky Blues mustered just three shots at goal for City to run out deserved winners.
12. Sydney FC 1-0 Central Coast Mariners – 2005/06
From here on out, a case could be made for most of these games to be amongst the most memorable season finales. The competition’s first ever showpiece event was notable for the competition’s biggest player putting in a man of the match display in the biggest game of the season, as Dwight Yorke won the Joe Marston Medal and set up Steve Corica to give ‘Bling FC’ the first ever toilet seat. It truly felt like a turning point, as less than two years after a crowd of 9630 people turned out for the last ever NSL final, 41,689 packed out Sydney Football Stadium for an all New South Wales final.
Coinciding with Australia’s first World Cup in 32 years just a couple of months later, looking back on this one it is almost hard to believe this was the first season for the league considering the passion on display in the stands and on the pitch. Football had arrived, but not as you knew it.