Alex Brosque has played in 15 A-League Finals games, four of them Grand finals – winning three of them. He’s a man who understands the occasion and the tension of Grand Final week better than anyone. We chat to Alex about his Grand Final experiences and what the players can expect this weekend. 

Q: Let’s talk about that first Grand Final you played in. Sydney and Victory finished first and second that season, you played off in the Semi Final and were beaten and then managed to take home the Championship. Can you talk us through that Finals Series?

2010 was full of ups and downs. We were fresh off beating Victory in the final game of the season 2-0 at home to jump over them and win the Premiership. We then lost to them in the Semi Final and it was the way it happened too.

We lost 2-1 down in Melbourne and then beat them 2-1 at home in the second leg. But then Archie Thompson scored in extra time to beat us. From such a big high of jumping over them to take the minor Premiership to then them taking that season away from us. 

We then dominated Wellington where we were comfortably the better side. I think it was a game we needed heading into that Grand Final, to score some goals and get our confidence back because that Grand Final was always going to be difficult. 

The squad Victory had; [Kevin] Muscat, [Adrian] Leijer, [Leigh] Broxham and Archie up front, they had such an incredible squad but we were confident with the players we had too, it was two incredible squads going head to head. I remember when we conceded that offside goal my heart sank and I thought after that incredible moment of winning the Premiership, Melbourne seemed to have the upper hand over us. 

It was flagged for offside and we broke straight away, I crossed it into Bridgey who headed it home and again it was just highs and lows. Within a two minute period it fully encapsulated that Finals Series: I thought we were down with that offside goal and then two minutes later we’re ahead. 

That game obviously went to penalties and Muscat did something that he hadn’t done all year – and maybe even in his whole A-league career up until that point – when he missed. For me, it was my first Grand Final win and the first Grand Final that I was a part of. So it was incredible and special not only to be in one but to travel to Melbourne and be part of the build-up and then to actually win it down there was an incredibly special moment. 

Q: Did losing to Victory in that Semi make you hungrier for the Grand Final? Or did it rock your confidence a bit? 

That loss in the Semi Final definitely took the wind out of our sails and absolutely rocked our confidence. I was a young kid at the time so I leant on the likes of Simon Colosimo and John Aloisi and the more experienced players. I was really disappointed and my confidence was gone after the loss, particularly because it just felt like it wasn’t supposed to happen – the way we beat them in the last game had such a good feeling about it and it felt like it was going to be our season. To then have that snatched away almost in the Semi Final, as a kid that can rock you.

Looking towards the more experienced members of the squad, they weren’t really phased by it: they knew we just had to go to Wellington and take care of business. So looking to those players and experience that they had, it brought a calmness to the rest of the squad. 

Q: Captaining your side to the A-League double in 2016/17 would have been pretty special. Was that the strongest side you played in? 

To be named a captain is always an incredibly humbling and special moment, to know that you’ve got the confidence and the backing and trust of the coaching staff and be the player that leads the squad out onto the pitch and leads the team is very special. 

Looking back and being captain of that incredible squad in 2016/17 was something else and to be fair, credit has to go to Arnie [Graham Arnold] and Andrew Clark for what they did. It had taken a couple of years, but Arnie had developed that squad into what he knew would be successful. We had a group of guys that loved being around each other, we loved going to training.

We knew we were around a squad that was going to do something great.  

It was an incredible season to win the league by 17 points and lose one game all year. I’ve never before and never after had that feeling of just going into a game and, without being arrogant, just knowing you were going to win every game you stepped out onto the field. We didn’t care what the opposition did because you knew that the squad was that strong and we were playing so well that it didn’t matter what the opposition did.

We prepared so well, we knew exactly how everyone was going to play and how we were going to win. We were incredibly fit and the squad depth of that team was something else. The guys we were bringing off the bench would have started in any other team in the league. 

Of course, the way it ended, after such a great season and dominant season, it came down to penalties. I remember being frustrated in the Grand Final. There was a weird feeling about it after we had beaten them back in Melbourne and I was questioning whether or not they were going to get us back for it. 

We missed a penalty first and after snatching that grand final from them in 2010 it felt like they were about to do the same to us. We ended up holding on and winning on penalties and it just capped off what was an incredibly dominant and special season and was just a fitting end to everything we had done that year.

Q: How did you see your role for the 2019 A-league Finals Series? Was there anything in particular you did off the pitch to try and help the team? 

During the 18/19 season it came out pretty early that Arnie was going to be leaving and taking on the Socceroos gig. With Steve Corica taking over the role I think that was a great decision and the right decision.

I think for me my role that year was sort of helping the side. We were moving away from Allianz so there were a few challenges that season. There was a bit of negativity surrounding the fact that Arnie was leaving and the ship was going to sink. I didn’t like that and it didn’t sit well with me, hearing some of the comments I felt like the squad itself wasn’t being given enough credit and Corica, who had been with us that whole time, he wasn’t getting enough credit. 

For me hanging around that next year was just about maintaining those standards that we had set in the two seasons prior to that, again you look at the squad we had it was pretty easy to do. That narrative that Arnie was leaving and it was all falling apart, I knew that wasn’t going to be the case, we had so much experience and quality in that squad and we had a coach who knew what it took to get the best out of us. 

I knew we would go on to have another good season and thats exactly what we did. We finished second to that incredible Perth Glory squad that Popa [Tony Popovic] had built but I thought we had done everything right to put ourselves in a position to challenge for that Championship. 

Q: That would have been a different experience for the team. In your previous Grand Final wins you would have been considered the best in the league, but going to Perth to play the Premiers must have been daunting? 

Going over to Perth for that Grand Final was always going to be a daunting task, not only the travel side of things but add to that the incredible new stadium that was going to be packed with 60,000 Glory fans and the incredible squad that Popa had built and that had been so dominant throughout the year. We knew we were up against it. 

Still, we had a calmness amongst our group. We not only knew the quality that we had but we had been in these high-pressure situations and big game scenarios in the past few seasons we could draw on. 

We had a lot of experience in the squad which gave us confidence that we would go over and steal it from them which is, in the end, what we did. 

It was a very tense game. There were not many chances for either side but it was a classic Grand Final battle. It might not have been that entertaining to watch but it was physical, it was tough, it was end to end without too many chances. I think there was an understanding that it was probably going to be one chance that was going to separate the two sides. 

In the end, it went down to penalties and we were able to get the win. I think it was harsh on Perth seeing how dominant they had been.

But for our boys to go over there and be up against all those things and come out of it with the Championship it just showed how special our squad was. 

Q: How about post-Grand Final? Can you tell us what those immediate hours after a win are like? And then take us through the following week? 

Winning a Grand final is such an incredible, surreal feeling, all my Grand Final wins came down to penalty shootouts so it doesn’t get much more thrilling than that. 

I would have loved to win a Grand Final 2-0 or 3-0 and know by the 70th minute it was done. But I wouldn’t change anything to be fair. As difficult as shootouts can be, the can come down to one kick or one save, it’s such a thrilling moment. 

In 2010 it was [Sung-hwan] Byun, 2017 it was [Milos] Ninkovic and 2019 [Andrew] Redmayne, and all three times it was incredible. The anxiety and tension that builds up in your body is released in one second and it’s probably one of the greatest feelings a sportsman or an athlete can feel.

It’s such an incredible incredible feeling which is so hard to replicate in any other way. It’s beautiful, those first few moments of celebrating with your teammates. You’ve shared so much together throughout the year, helping each other with injuries and you’ve carried each other through difficult moments. You’ve bled together, you’ve gone through pain together but on the other side you’ve shared so many incredible moments and when it all culminates together like that, it creates a bond that you never forget.

I guess the week following the Grand Final, it’s coming back down to reality. It is all a bit of a blur, to be honest. The partying and celebrating that goes on for the days following the Grand Final, you get time as well to be around family and soak it all in together, be around people who have ridden all those emotions with you throughout the year and your life and sharing those moments with those people is just one of the best feelings you can have. 

Q: Your first and last championships were almost 10 years apart. Was there a difference in how those victories felt in relation to your age? Were you able to soak it in more as you matured? 

There were 10 years between my first championship and last one. My final game as a professional I was 35 or 36 and I definitely remember the feeling of the build up, playing and the feeling afterwards being completely different. 

The first one down in Melbourne I was a lot younger and inexperienced in those high-pressure situations. I remember the game just flew by and it was surprising how quickly it went. I felt like I didn’t do that much, it was almost a blur. 

I think the excitement and tension of it got to me which can definitely happen as a young kid. You can get caught up in the emotion and tension of the Grand Final week and coming out in front of a full stadium and playing in a grand Final what the can do to you. 

Whereas in my next two, it comes with experience. There’s nothing that can teach you how to handle those moments until you’ve done it. You just look to the more senior players and try and learn from them and try to see what they’re doing. You naturally get that calmness from being around those guys, so while in that first one I was a lot younger and found it difficult to handle the emotions of playing in a Grand Final, in the second two I felt a lot more composed and a lot more ready and there was more of an understanding in me as to what those games required. It was definitely completely different feelings from a young boy to an older man.

Questions from Mitchell Grimes. Photos from Getty Images.