Tigers FC v Gungahlin United | Grand Final | Saturday, 6pm @ Deakin Stadium
After more than 20 weeks of football, Tigers FC and Gungahlin United have risen above the rest, and will now play-off in the NPL1 Grand Final at Deakin Stadium on Saturday night.
However, both sides have had to overcome their fair share of adversity to reach the Grand Final.
Gungahlin’s story is well known; they started the season on minus-six points and were staring relegation in the face.
A strong start to the season saw them make up quick ground on their opponents, before a mid-season stumble against Canberra Olympic and Tuggeranong United left their finals hopes in doubt.
But Marcial Munoz and his side steadied, and a dominant run home, which included big wins over the Tigers, Belconnen United and the Riverina Rhinos, helped the squad to a third place finish.
The season hasn’t been all that smooth sailing for Cooma either, as they lost star signing Roko Strika to a knee injury very early in the year.
They then parted ways with Nico Abot, failed to find the back of the net in the last three rounds of the season, and ultimately lost the Premiership to Olympic on the final day.
But the big loss for the Grand Final is that of inspirational captain Mark Shields, who was sent off in the Tigers qualifying final victory against Olympic two weeks ago
Gungahlin on the other hand enter the match at full strength, with most of their key players in strong form.
Captain Jack Green has been the form player of the finals series, and his headed goal last week brought Gungahlin back from the brink, while Jordan Thurtell made a number of superb saves in goals to keep his team in the match.
Gunners will also be full of confidence given their results against Cooma this season, having defeated the Tigers 4-1 back in round eight to hand Gaby Wilk’s side their first loss of the season, before recording another dominant victory in round 17.
On paper, Gungahlin look the better of the two sides, but the Tigers will almost certainly be fresher, having enjoyed a 14-day break following their qualifying final triumph.
If they can keep the match close, they might have the legs to run over the top of Gungahlin in the dying stages, while an early goal for Gungahlin could potentially get the ball rolling towards a big win.
Very few people would have predicted this match up at the start of the 2019 season, but both Tigers FC and Gungahlin United have overcome everything thrown at them, and both are deserving of being crowned champions tomorrow night.