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The Roar's A-League Men tips and predictions: Grand Final - Will Mariners hold off Victory's smash-and-grab raid?

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22nd May, 2024

Just two dancers remain on the A-League floor as the season comes to a conclusion at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford this Saturday night.

The Mariners have earned the right to defend their title and the Victory have gutsed their way to the decider after shattering Kiwi hopes last weekend.

Whilst the smart money will be heading the way of the Central Coast in terms of the betting, the visitors are not without a hope and will be planning the biggest smash-and-grab performance in the history of the A-League.

Enjoy the contest and thanks for being a part of the Roar’s A-League tipping for 2023/24.

Join me for a live call of the final match of the season on Saturday night and get ready for something similar during Euro 2024 in Germany, in three week’s time.

Here are the thoughts of the panel heading into the grand final and who they think will be holding the toilet seat aloft on Saturday night.

Daniel Arzani. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)


Texi Smith

Central Coast

The scene is set, the fireworks will be booming, the cannon blasting, the sauce bottles at premium pressure and Marvin giving it large in front of the packed away bay. What an evening we have at Central Coast Stadium as a week of incredible football brings the curtain down on the 2023/24 season.

The Mariners know they must do better than they did against Sydney FC last week. For large parts of the game, the visitors besieged the palm tree end and only the officials prevented an ignominious home defeat.

This time they welcome Melbourne Victory, fresh from an almighty robbery in Wellington, ready to take whoever stands between them and championship glory. It’s a fascinating match-up. Bruno Fornaroli will be at his sparkling best, and it is no surprise when he flicks home Daniel Arzani’s delicate near-post cross for an early lead.

The hosts have been burning the candle at both ends as the season reaches its climax, jetting off to magical lands and returning with silverware, and there will be an element of fatigue to their play as Victory keep their defensive block tight until well after half time.

The equaliser comes from Jacob Farrell, a guaranteed starter in any A-League All Stars team, and he rises to power home at the far post after great work by Mikael Doka.


Victory react and Nishan Velupillay strikes the post, Kasey Bos drills a shot into the face of Brian Kaltack on the line who doesn’t flinch, and eventually the Mariners wrestle the game back in their favour.

Angel Torres of the Mariners celebrates a goal

Angel Torres of the Central Coast Mariners celebrates a goal. (Photo by Kelly Barnes/Getty Images)

We have to wait until the 81st minute for the deciding moment, and it is a move straight from the training ground. A ball into the area to Josh Nisbet, the touch to the runner who makes the byline, and there is Max Balard with a diving header to send the fans to delirium.

Central Coast Mariners are the Champions. They’re the Premiers. They’re the AFC Cup winners. Soak it in.

Stuart Thomas

Central Coast

The performance gap between the Mariners and Victory across the course of the season has been immense. Barring the opening few weeks where Melbourne could not lose and the reigning champs could not win, it has been chalk and cheese in terms of who looked likely to feature in a grand final.


Yet somehow, Tony Popovic’s team is there and in the fight, with the cut-throat nature of the game now presenting them a real chance to claim the title and send the Mariners away with nothing; something they simply do not deserve. But do we deserve anything in sport folks?

Logic says the weight of attacking ability in the Mariners’ stocks will see them rampant in the second half and unless Victory can do something remarkable early, Gosford to be alight and exploding by around 10pm.

Well played Mariners, a wonderful and unprecedented treble by a superb Australian football team.

Andrew Prentice

Central Coast

The world’s hardest league to tip reaches its nadir on Saturday night at a packed Central Coast Stadium. My tip is part-heart, part-head – because I can truly see the Victory pinching the title in a similar fashion to their smash-and-grab raid in Newcastle in 2018. That would be a travesty.

Brian Kaltak celebrates goal against Western United

Brian Kaltak of the Mariners celebrates his goal with teammates. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)


The Mariners have been a revelation this season, recovering from an awful first month to power their way to two titles so far. Saturday night is the big one, and this football lover hopes they find the energy for one more tension-racked 90-120 minutes.

The Mariners showed signs of their chaotic season last Saturday as Sydney FC really put them to the test in the semi-final second leg. They hadn’t been kept scoreless since March 30, once again by the Sky Blues. Ironically, it came off the back of their first full week without a midweek flight and game, in a long time.

Maybe Mariners coach Mark Jackson should fly the squad to Oman and back on Wednesday to get them back in their regular routine. The Victory will have seen the way Sydney pressed the Mariners and will probably try to do the same in the decider, and they certainly have the personnel to achieve the task.

A big plus for Victory coach Tony Popovic is the return from suspension of Zinedine Machach, whose strength and direct attacking instincts will cause the Mariners defensive problems.

Tony Popovic enters his fourth A-League Grand Final as coach, with only a swag of runners-up medals to show for his considerable influence and tactical acumen.

Will that stat swing in his favour on Saturday night? On the other bench, Mark Jackson has performed coaching miracles to get his side to this point.

Amazing to think that many were calling for his head after the first month. He’ll be a little lonely on the pine with his assistant Danny Schofield suspended after copping two yellow cards in seconds from Drill Sergeant Faghani in the semi-final.


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Ultimately, this will be decided by fine margins. Only one game has been decided by more than a goal in the finals campaign. I’m not expecting any 6-1 blowouts like last year.

It could be 1-0 either way, and the heart part of my tipping leans just towards the Mariners at their beautiful sold-out, jam-packed home.

Grand FinalTexiStuartAndrew
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