Brillante eager to mark Victory turnaround with FFA Cup win

After his club experienced the most embarrassing and significant fall in A-League Men (ALM) history across its past two years, Melbourne Victory captain Josh Brillante is relishing the opportunity to establish their rebuilding efforts in this weekend’s FFA Cup final against the Central Coast Mariners.

After finishing second-bottom in 2019-20, Victory crashed to rock bottom and their first wooden spoon in club history in 2020-21: shipping 60 goals across a campaign in which they won five games against 17 defeats and sacked coach Grant Brebner mid-season after 6-0 and 7-0 defeats against crosstown foes Melbourne City 

Such was the humiliating extent of the collapse it led to wholesale changes at AAMI Park, including the arrival of new coach Tony Popovic, football director John Didulica and a cadre of new signings such as Brillante. 

And after exploding in the second half of their semifinal last week to down Wellington Phoenix 4-1 and book their place in the decider, a possible trophy to reward these efforts now awaits.

The winning of trophies, ostensibly, the reason for being for every football club around the world, it will be Victory’s first opportunity to add to their cabinet since lifting the 2017-18 Championship. 

“There’s always that sense of it’s a big week,” said Brillante.  “It’s important for the club to strive to win these sorts of things and it’s huge for the club as well, especially after the last couple of years – being so bad.

“Very quickly it’s turned around and now we’re in the final so it’s massive. It’s a great opportunity.”

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Brillante has previously lifted an FFA Cup whilst a member of Sydney FC’s dynastic 2017 side and added that not only would hoisting the trophy represent an important milestone in the club’s rejuvenation under Popovic, but it would also serve as an additional boost for a 2021-22 ALM campaign that sees them presently sitting second on the table. 

“It gives you that momentum,” he said. “It’s still early in the season really, we’ve only played eight games. And it gives you that opportunity to keep that ball rolling.”

Outside of the injured Rai Marchan, Victory is expected to be largely healthy for their meeting with the Mariners — somewhat of a rarity for the club thus far in 2021-22, especially in their backline, due to a combination of injuries and COVID. 

They will further be boosted by a high-profile absence opposite them: the Mariners attempts to register new signing Jason Cummings for the final denied by Football Australia. 

“You want to be playing against the best teams and the best players,” said Brillante. “It’s a shame that he won’t be playing [against Cummings] but that’s the way things are and you’ve just got to get on with it.

“[The defensive shuffling hasn’t been disruptive] because throughout the preseason and even during the season whenever we’re training, the players are always getting changed around so it doesn’t feel like we train with one, one particular team.

“Maybe someone else fills in and we’ve never played with them. Throughout the whole preseason. It’s always been mixed up so we have an idea of how we play with each other which is a really good feeling, especially the way things have panned out.”

Of course, Saturday’s final is not only a potentially seminal moment for Victory. The contest between them and the Mariners will be the final one in which the competition is staged under the ‘FFA Cup’ banner with a new name for future iterations, widely expected to be the Australia Cup, set to be unveiled pre-game. 

Perhaps the most fondly remembered initiative of former FFA CEO David Gallop, the Cup has rapidly become a much-loved part of the Australian football calendar since its 2014 introduction; linking the Australian football pyramid in shared format and making football the only code in the country in which grassroots and professional clubs could meet in competitive fixtures. 

“I think it’s great that we’ve got the FFA Cup,” said Brillante. “It’s another opportunity to win some silverware and it’s great for the nation because it gives NPL teams an opportunity to play against the best and prove how good they are. 

“It’s always nice going to some of those local clubs and seeing what the vibe is like around the club. Get the fans there, and the players and see what they’re about. It’s always nice people.” 

Enjoying Joey’s coverage of Australian sport? Your support helps keep it possible.
You’re seeing this advert because this is an unpaid, self-published piece.

You can support his ongoing work by buying him a coffee: https://ko-fi.com/joeylynchy 

Header Image Credit: Melbourne Victory

One thought on “Brillante eager to mark Victory turnaround with FFA Cup win

  1. Pingback: Victory confident of avoiding FFA Cup hangover against Phoenix | JDL MEDIA

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