A week after the men in the lighter shade secured bragging rights in the A-League Big Blue, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are set to lock horns once again on Friday night - with youth supremacy on the line.
For the first time in Y-League history, the two bitter rivals will square up in the deciding game of the season, with Sydney looking to add to their two championships and Victory looking for their first at Jubilee Stadium.
It could prove to be the final game played under the current two conference, eight-game regular-season plus Grand Final format - with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that discussions were in place to expand the Y-League as soon as next season.
Victory’s only previous taste of glory in Australia’s premier youth competition arrived back in 2012/13 – when the competition consisted of an 18 round season without a final.
In that year, a team featuring Theo Markelis, Connor Pain, Isaka Cernak, Andrew Nabbout, James Jeggo and Matthew Foschini took out the Y-League Premiership on goal difference, their +37 mark easily surpassing second-placed Central Coast Mariners.
In a cruel twist for the Mariners, however, their hopes of overhauling Victory in a winner-takes-all finale were dashed when adverse weather conditions forced the cancellation of the two club’s round 18 clash – the default 0-0 score ensuring Victory took the crown.
Sydney’s most recent triumph came under the competition’s current format back in 2015/16.
Booking their place in the Grand Final on the final day of the regular thanks to a 3-2 win over the FFA Centre of Excellence, a Harbourside line up featuring the likes of Charles Lokolingoy, Jacob Tratt, Max Burgess, Liam McGing and George Timotheou downed Adelaide United 5-2 in the following week’s Grand Final.
This year, under the guidance of Jimmy Van Weeren, Sydney secured their place in the decider thanks to a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers in the penultimate round of the season.
Nonetheless, despite already qualifying, that didn’t stop the Sky Blues from putting Canberra United to the sword on the final day of the season – running out 7-0 winners at Leichhardt Oval and playing themselves into a healthy bit of form.
However, despite being boosted by home-field advantage on Friday, Sydney will head into Friday night’s contest a weakened unit after they lost captain Ryan Teague to Portuguese side FC Famalicao.
Looking to step up in his absence will be the likes of Y-League Golden Boot winner Marco Tilio – who grabbed nine goals and five assists across the eight-game regular-season – Jaiden Kucharski – who added seven goals and four assists – and Jordi Swibel – who had five goals and six assists.
U17 World Cup representative Anton Mlinaric, Young Socceroo wing-back Callum Talbot and midfielder Calem Nieuwenhof will look to lockout Victory at the other end.
“We haven’t seen too many nerves around,” van Weeren told the Sydney FC website.
“Some of these boys have been involved with A-League matches, FFA Cup squads and some of them even in the AFC Champions League.
“For some of them it’s ok and for some of the younger ones it’s their first taste and they may be a little nervous, but they’re resilient and they’ll be ok come Friday.
“I’m excited. It’s been a pretty successful season so far with a very good group of players that we’ve worked with for a number of years. To see them get to this point is exciting for us and exciting for them.
“The boys are relaxed; they have been all week. They’re just treating this as any other normal week.”
“[Grand Finals] are nice, they’re not the only measure of success in youth development, but of course everyone is competitive and wants to win
“It would be nice for the players and the staff who’ve put a lot of hours and effort into this project, some over many years since 2015, so it’d be a nice reward.
“I hope for everyone involved that it’s open and we see a lot of nice football.
“We hope the players enjoy the experience and everyone puts their foot forward and represents the club as best as possible.”
As can so often be the case with the transient nature of youth football – in which squads will turn over year-on-year as youngsters age out and a new crop take their place – Melbourne Victory have undergone a significant turnaround in 2019/20 – going from worst to first in Conference A to earn their first-ever appearance in a Y-League Grand Final.
Under the guidance of Director Drew Sherman, it’s been a positive year all-around for the Victory academy the club becoming just the third A-League side to abolish fees in their academy back in October.
"The message for us is to have good energy in what we're strong at, trust what we do and stay in the fight,” Victory Y-League Head Coach Gareth Naven – who has been at the club since arriving from Perth SC in 2016 – said to Victory's website.
“It's a one-off game, a good challenge for our players against Sydney.
“We don't know what they're like, they don't know what we're like, only obviously what they've seen on video, so I expect it to be a really competitive affair.
“[It’s] Melbourne versus Sydney, the Big Blue.
“[I’m] just looking forward to the day and looking forward to the players performing."
Though Victory’s barnstorming run in 2019/20 can owe a debt of gratitude to a number of standouts, the play of Australian U17 World Cup representative Luis Lawrie-Lattanzio has been a particular highlight of their campaign.
Signing from Adelaide United, the 17-year-old attacker has been immense in his first season at AAMI Park, netting seven goals. That tally included a hat-trick against his former club in the final round of the season to secure his new navy blue side a Grand Final berth.
Other potential key contributors include senior-capped defender Aaron Anderson, midfielders Zayden Bello and Will Wilson and former Melbourne City attacker Josh Varga - who has adjusted with aplomb since moving across from Bundoora.
U17 World Cup representative Birkan Kirdar has battled injury throughout the Y-League campaign but, if fit, could also prove a difference-maker on Friday night.