Mariners favourites in A-League final
Central Coast Mariners are favourites to repeat their semi-final dominance over Newcastle Jets and win Australia's A-League grand final here on Sunday.
The two rivals, just 68 kilometres (42 miles) apart on the New South Wales central coast, played each other a fortnight ago in a two-leg semi-final.
The Mariners overcame a 0-2 away first leg deficit winning their home leg 3-0 after extra time for their second Grand Final appearance in the three years of the A-League.
The Mariners, led by Socceroo striker John Aloisi, finished the 21-match season level on 34 points with Newcastle, but claimed top spot into the finals series on a goal difference of just one over the Jets.
With 15 goals between them this season, Aloisi and Sasho Petrovski have formed the most potent attack force in the competition.
"Revenge is a very powerful word. The boys are pretty fired up about this game," Jets' skipper Jade North said Friday. "We've had some great success and great wins this season. The fans have been brilliant. They will all be there, so what a day to take out revenge on them."
Both teams have qualified for the 2009 AFC Champions' League but the Mariners believe their extra week's rest will ensure they have fresher legs than the Jets, who needed extra time to get past Queensland Roar in last week's preliminary final.
It will also be former Socceroo and Mariners' defender Tony Vidmar's final match before retirement.
The Jets' hopes will largely depend on their free-scoring striker Joel Griffiths, who is the competition's leading marksman with 14 goals. Griffiths needs just one more goal to equal the highest number of goals scored by a player in an A-League season, set by Melbourne Victory's Archie Thompson last season.
"We just have to try and put pressure on the guy delivering him the ball so that he can't get that perfect through ball - so we'll try and limit the supply to Joel," Mariners' coach Lawrie McKinna said Friday.
"It's trying to keep it tight, they're a very good attacking team and their movement is really good, so we have to try and confine the space they've got to move in."
It has been a boom third season for Australia's restructured eight-team domestic league with total crowds topping 1.3 million and each match averaging over 15,000.
There are plans to add two more teams, Gold Coast Galaxy and Townsville's Northern Thunder, to next season's league. Big city teams, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, won the inaugural two A-League Grand Finals.