Archie Thompson is a name synonymous with Australian football – and Grand Finals. Archie thrived off high-pressure moments and big games, playing in four A-League Men Grand Finals and scoring the most finals goals of all time – five of which came in one Grand Final. We chat to Archie about his personal experiences in Grand Finals, what it takes to win and the advice he has for players about to play in the biggest game for the first time in their career. 

Q: In 2006/07 Victory finished top by 12 points and then went on to have a dominant finals series. What was that year like? How was the confidence amongst the team? 

Yeah, that was an incredible year. Our first year in the competition wasn’t as successful as we wanted, I thought we had enough to go all the way. I think that was down to inexperience and we probably weren’t as close as a group as we were in that second year. 

That’s why we were so dominant. We made the decision before the season started that we were not going to cut any corners and we were going to do everything right. Thats why we had the success that we did that year. 

Q: How did you personally feel going into the decider against Adelaide? You scored five that day which is still the record for goals in a grand final nearly 20 years on. That must be something you’re really proud of?

I was so confident going into that game. My body felt right, I had a great feeling, we had the week off, and we were all feeling fresh. We knew there was going to be a full stadium, we had this belief that we were going to do something special.  

For myself to score five goals, yeah, that was pretty incredible. I think Jamie (Maclaren) scored five in a game not that long ago but to do it in a Grand Final made it very special. 

Q: The 2008/09 season was a lot closer: you just pipped Adelaide to the Premiership and then beat them 1-0. Can you tell us about that season and the differences between those two Grand Final wins? 

Yeah, again that was another strange one, one that I can’t remember quite clearly. 

Adelaide went down to 10 pretty early for a high elbow, who knows it may have been different if (Adelaide’s Cristiano) didn’t get sent off. I remember Tommy Pondeljak had a shot from outside the 18-yard box that went in but we had to ride our luck a bit even with the extra man. Again though it was another great atmosphere and a great season. We didn’t probably dominate as much as we did in ’06/07 but to get over the line made it another amazing night.

Q: Can you speak to us about the heartbreak of 2009/10? Sydney had just beaten you on the last day of the season to take the Premiership, you obviously went on to beat them in the Semi Final and then lost on penalties in the Grand Final. Was that a hard one to take?

Yeah, that was a really tough one to take losing to Sydney, especially after the way we got ourselves back into the match in Sydney in the Semi Final. For me personally, I did a serious knee injury 11 minutes in, it was tough for me all-round because I had my eye on the FIFA World Cup that year. It was a real tough one.

It’s hard to lose these games, but for me it’s a lot worse losing in a major Semi Final than losing in the actual Grand Final and not getting the chance to play in the Grand Final. 

Q: 2014/15 was another A-League double for Victory and another dominant Finals Series, dispatching City and Sydney pretty comfortably. How was that season and Grand Final? 

Yeah, that 2014/15 season was incredible. It was probably the best squad we had through my time at Melbourne Victory. We just had so much experience and quality across every line. 

That was a season where I found myself, especially towards the back end of the season coming off the bench. Funny enough that was one of my best years in terms of goal scoring. I had to change my role a little bit but it was still an amazing season.

Q: Do you look back and have a favourite Grand Final win? Or are they all special for different reasons? 

Nah I don’t really have a favourite Grand Final. Obviously, everyone remembers the one where I scored five and that was very special, but any Grand Final you get to be a part of is special. Knowing how hard they are to get to and how hard they are to win.

I’m very grateful to have played in four and win three of them. I’m glad I didn’t lose too many but I had a lot of losses in major Semi Finals and that hurts just as much: getting so close and being pipped at the line. You can’t win every game but I’m very grateful to win the Grand Finals that I did. It’s such an amazing week to be part of and get the opportunity to play in that atmosphere.  

Q: What was it like playing in your first Grand Final in 2007 compared to your last in 2015? Did you get used to those high-pressure games after a while? 

I always had a bit of fear going into Grand Finals. You don’t want to be the one to make a mistake, let your fans down, let your teammates down, or miss an opportunity that you needed to score. Those were the fears I had whenever I stepped onto the pitch. 

I think with my first and my last… I only played about five minutes in my last but it’s the whole season that contributes to it. From the first time you step out into pre-season and how hard you work throughout the season to get results. The first was amazing, the first for the club and for the supporters to be a part of you’ll never forget. The last one it had been a while between Championships so that made it just as special though. 

Q: If you had to give advice to a player about to play in their first Grand Final this weekend what would you say? 

My advice would be just to enjoy it and soak it up. It’s hard to say it’s just another game because it’s not, you never know when you’ll play in another one again. 

There’s some amazing players that I knew throughout my A-League career and even in the NSL. They were unbelievable players but never had the opportunity to win anything. So just be grateful that you’re there, just enjoy it with your team and with your family… They’re the ones that have put up with a lot of crap throughout the year because you play a selfish sport. Your friends and family all make sacrifices for you to achieve and to achieve at the pointy end of the season. 

Yeah, my advice would be to lap it all up and to enjoy it and if you end up winning it, enjoy it even more. 

Questions from Mitchell Grimes. Photos from Getty Images.