Though the faces across from him will be very familiar when he takes the field in the A-League Grand Final, Josh Brillante says there will be no sense of sentiment weighing him down as his Melbourne City take on Sydney FC.
Brillante, 27, has played in two A-League grand finals since he returned to the competition following a stint with Italian giants Fiorentina – and won both of them.
However the victories came when he was wearing a Sydney FC shirt – the very same foes that he will be seeking to vanquish come Sunday evening.
The midfielder made 74 A-League appearances for the Sky Blues across three seasons with the club, winning the 16/17 and 18/19 championships, 16/17 and 17/18 Premiership and the 2017 FFA Cup.
Seeking a new challenge, he made the switch to Melbourne during the most recent offseason - Luke Brattan making the opposite journey after a brief detour in Turkey - and has since anchored City’s midfield across 27 appearances during the 19/20 season, 26 of them starts.
But when referee Chris Beath blows his whistle to signal an opening of hostilities in Sunday’s decider, Brillante says his performance won’t be weighed down by any sense of sentiment.
“I think a lot of people are going to jump on that, my old club and playing them in the Grand Final," he said today. “But I don’t see it that way.
“I won a lot of trophies there, so it’s a great opportunity for an exciting challenge. I know Sydney has been in finals and won it, so it makes it all the better that if we get the win.”
Beyond providing a ‘new club vs old club’ narrative, though, Brillante’s previous experience with Sydney also sets him apart from his teammates in another manner; he is the only member of Erick Mombaerts’ likely starting XI to have previously played in, let alone won, an A-League grand final.
This sits in stark contrast to the Harboursiders, who will feature a bevy of players battle-tested in the crucible that is a grand final.
Set to captain City due to the absence of Scott Jamieson, who returned to Melbourne to be with his partner for the birth of the couple’s first child, it’s an experience that Brillante has sought to share with his teammates to prepare them for the occasion.
“I’ve already mentioned a few things about that,” he said. “Trying to tell them to enjoy the experience and take it on.