The 2000 NSL Grand Final between Perth Glory and Wollongong Wolves. Although some people seem to look back on the NSL days as the ‘Dark days’, this grand final will always live long in my memory bank. I remember watching this one afternoon by chance on ABC. I’m so glad I did, as the match would turn out to be one of the most dramatic matches I have ever seen.
Perth were the favourites and playing at home in front of a full house. Perth had been the stand out side in the NSL for the past few seasons with their large support that most other clubs were very envious of. Even with all their support they had still yet to win a championship. This was meant to be their year. They finished the regular season on top of the table with Wolves finished second. The two teams met up again in the final. Perth ran out to a 3-0 lead at half-time. The players, coach and fans all seemed to think their wait was over. The match seemed over. However Perth made the error of substituting some key players too early and Wollongong crept back into the game. Scoring in the 57th, 69th and 89th min Perth were stunned. The match went to penalties and as the shoot out progressed the sides were locked at 5-5. It seemed all over for Wolves when their captain Matt Horsley missed his kick in sudden death. But there was still more drama yet to come as Wolves keeper Leslie Pogliacomi saved his first spot kick. Wolves would go on to win the shootout 7-6 to send the small band of loyal traveling fans into delirium.
It was a great game to watch as a natural. It was a glimpse of what football could be in Australia. Football was struggling badly to attract attention from the masses at that time. The NSL was also riddled with ethnic divisions and the occasional riot. However on this day football was the winner. A great game and as a spectacle something that A-League finals have thus far struggled to match.