Focused on Victory
MARINERS right-winger Bernie Ibini could be forgiven for getting a little sidetracked in tomorrow's semi-final against the Victory at Bluetongue Stadium.
The 20-year-old has enjoyed a fantastic season, scoring seven goals and earning the best under-21 player award for February.
Super impressive in his trial with Belgian team Brugge in January, Ibini could be signed by that club for next season.
But Ibini says tomorrow's sudden-death match is at the forefront of his mind.
"I've had a pretty good season, and that trip to Belgium gave me a lot of confidence that I can match it with the best players," he said.
"But I still think I can improve and score more goals during a season.
"All I'm focused on at the moment is the game against the Victory."
Ibini believes the Mariners deserve a championship for all their efforts over the past three seasons.
They were beaten grand finalists in 2010-11, did not qualify for the grand final last season after winning the Premiers' Plate, and finished second in the recently completed regular season.
Added to that, tomorrow's match could be the last in Australia for Ibini and his close mate, Mariners goalkeeper Mat Ryan - his former classmate at Sydney's Westfield Sports High.
Ryan has also fielded interest from UK clubs Tottenham and Rangers,.
Ibini said: "If we can win and make a grand final together that would be great. We know each others' games really well.
"Every young player dreams of playing in Europe."
Despite the pressure on Ibini to play well to press his claims for a stint in Europe, and the immense pressure on his team to finally win its second championship, Ibini says a steely mentality can be expected from the side.
"It will be just like any other game. (Coach) Graham Arnold is a great motivator and we'll be on our toes," he said.
Victory coach Ange Postecoglou saw benefits in his team's fighting, and controversial, 2-1 win over Perth in the elimination final, which was decided in the dying minutes.
"If we had have won easy, we would have felt good about it, but doing it the way we did gives us the belief that we can overcome adversity," he said.