As Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers prepare for their first-ever meeting in the finals series, discontent among supporters stemming from the APL’s decision to award the next three A-League Grand Finals to Sydney has led to the Sky Blues’ active supporters group, The Cove, planning a boycott of the finals, including Saturday’s massive grudge match at CommBank Stadium.
The boycott has gained some traction across Sydney FC’s broader fan-base, as well as with supporters of other finals sides, and while it’s very likely that CommBank will still be packed out come kick-off, it’s impossible to deny that there is still plenty of anger around the Grand Finals call.
Also on the fans’ agenda is the governing body’s inaction on several key issues, including greater transparency and consultation with supporters on major decisions affecting the league.
In terms of the match itself, Marko Rudan’s side come into the historic elimination clash sporting a better regular season record, but coming off a loss to premiers Melbourne City, while Sydney FC have hit some form with three consecutive wins, albeit over non-finals sides Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Newcastle Jets.
Wanderers claimed two wins from the three regular season derbies, including a still fresh 4-0 humiliation of Steve Corica’s side at Allianz Stadium, with Sydney’s sole triumph a 1-0 result in Parramatta in February.
As the old cliche goes, however, you can throw form out the window when these cross-town rivals meet for the fourth time this season.
“It’s been a pretty up-and-down season,” said Sky Blues veteran and captain Alex Wilkinson, who could well be playing his last professional match on Saturday evening.
“We’ve struggled for consistency at times – that consistency in results, but also consistency in performances. I think over the last few weeks we’ve actually timed it well – we’ve played some good football the last few weeks, and the results have followed with three wins, it’s the perfect time to be hitting a bit of form coming into the finals.”
Talismanic WSW captain Marcelo said a return to the finals after five seasons out in the cold is to be celebrated but there is more to come for his side in the finals.
“I’m very proud of what we achieved (this) season,” the Brazilian said.
“We worked really hard in the pre-season to get standards to a high level. We don’t come here for a holiday, we come here to work really hard, and that’s what we did. But it’s not done yet. We have a couple of games to play still and try to get to the top.”
There are plenty of storylines to play out on Saturday, including the performances of Sydney FC rejects Milos Ninkovic and Calem Nieuwenhof, who’ve both had a big impact across the three matches against their former employers in 2022-23.
Wanderers boss Rudan has led his side back to finals football, but his ambition has surely not yet been satiated, with a two-legged semi-final clash with Adelaide United or Central Coast looming if they can get past Sydney.
Steve Corica, meanwhile, is still in a precarious position at the club and a first week exit from the finals may be the final straw for the board and Scott Barlow, who have shown patience regarding the club legend.
Despite the absence of boycotting fans, it’s sure to be a great spectacle at CommBank Stadium.
Kick360 will have you covered with all the post-game reaction.