It proved to be third time lucky for Waitakere United last weekend as New Zealand's perennial bridesmaids finally clinched the league title they have long craved.

Yet the 2-0 Grand Final win over Team Wellington on Sunday not only secured the West Auckland club's first-ever New Zealand Football Championship, it kept Chris Milicich's side firmly on course for an unprecedented treble of titles.

That is because, with Waitakere long since confirmed as NZFC Minor Premiers after topping the league in the regular season, tomorrow offers the chance to add a continental title to their trophy room when they defend their OFC O-League crown in the first instalment of a two-legged final against Kossa FC of the Solomon Islands.

"No-one's ever done the treble before," said Milicich, "but it's firmly in our sights."

Waitakere have, of course, tasted victory before in the Oceania showpiece, beating Fijian outfit Ba in last year's O-League final to claim a coveted place at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007. However, despite emerging as New Zealand's dominant force in recent years, they had twice fallen at the final hurdle, going down to Auckland City on two separate occasions.

A big weight has been lifted off the club. The title's ours, and the Auckland hoodoo, that's all gone.
Chris Milicich on the relief at finally landing the NZFC title.

In fact, prior to last Sunday, no-one other than Waitakere's cross-city rivals had ever won the fledgling NZFC's biggest prize. For Milicich, the delight and relief at crowning a season's worth of success, not to mention years of fruitless endeavour, shone through in his every word. "It's fantastic," he beamed. "The club deserves this. We've been the best club all year and we've dominated the competition, which is tremendous given the other competitions we've been involved in. "

Japan 2008 the target
Milicich's side's success against Wellington, as with the season as a whole, was based on a solid defensive backbone; in 22 NZFC matches, Waitakere have managed 12 clean sheets. That same parsimony will be crucial tomorrow as the Aucklanders go up against a skilful and speedy Kossa side that features a host of the Solomons' renowned beach soccer stars such as James Naka, Joe Luwi, Samson Takayama, Gideon Omokirio and John Morgan.

I think they'll be a very, very tough side. They'll be active, they'll move the ball well, and they'll be playing in front of a huge crowd
Chris Milicich on the danger posed by Kossa FC

"The key is to get out of the islands with as little damage done as possible." was Milicich's verdict. " - 25,000 is the number being talked about."

With the trip posing such obvious perils - and the memory of an away defeat to Ba last year still fresh - Milicich will once again look to the likes of Danny Hay, Neil Emblen, Darren Bazeley and Commins Menapi, all of whom boast considerable top-level experience. Yet even for players who might have thought they'd seen and done it all, Waitakere's season has been an eye-opener, with the Kiwi outfit having competed in three different competitions over four countries.

As well as their rewarding NZFC campaign, Milicich's side's O-League adventure has taken them to Tahiti, while there was that memorable if disappointingly short-lived trip to last December's FIFA Club World Cup. The manager, however, insists his players have become "pretty used to these sort of demands", and is desperate to see them book a return ticket to the world showpiece in Japan by retaining their continental title.

"Motivation is not a problem," he said. "This is it. Much like in Europe, winning domestic titles is great but the Champions League is where all the kudos is."