A Waratah Cup final win would mean more for Brendan Cholakian than most at Manly United FC.
On a personal note, it would be a fine reward for his near four years of service to a club he has come to love and would finally take an edge off the pain he still feels from a 6-2 Waratah Cup final drubbing at the hands of Blacktown City FC just two years ago.
But more than that, some much-needed silverware would be the perfect way to mark the incredible strides Manly have taken this season and prove once and for all that Cholakian and Co. are no longer happy to simply play the role of mid-table battlers.
“I think in years gone by, we’ve been taken a little bit for granted,” Cholakian said.
“We’ve just been seen as a mid-to-bottom table team.
“But this season we’re sneaking up behind those teams a bit higher up. We are still going under the radar a bit – I think we’ve gotten to the final without a whole lot of headlines – but winning this would be a real statement of intent and our progress.”
That progress has not come overnight, either.
Cholakian was keen to praise the club and coach Paul Dee for the hard yards put in over the last two years in particular to build a squad and a culture that could be set to push Manly to another level and make the club a more attractive proposition to players like star acquisition Richie Cardozo – who arrived to much acclaim earlier this season.
“Richie is different class. He’s a class above this league,” Cholakian said.
“He scores goals and he brings others into play and I think the fact that we got him shows how far we have come.
“We would not have dreamed of getting a player like him before, but with the squad Paul and I have been trying to develop over the last two or three years we’re able to attract players of that quality.
“Paul is a great coach. He works us hard and puts in a lot of work not just on training night but on other nights as well to make sure we’re all prepared and ready to give our best for the club.”
Cholakian said he believes it is Manly’s time to win, but he knows that nothing can be taken for granted in the cup final, particularly against a side like Sydney United 58 FC.
“We feel like if we play our best this could be a big day for our club,” he said.
“After what happened two years ago, I feel like the fact we’ve got back here, shows we deserve it.
“But we’re happy to be the underdog and we know there will be key battles all over the field.
“We know they’ve got good boys up front and Panni Nikas has been on fire but we’ve got a dangerous three or four attackers as well who can all be match winners, so we’re happy to take them on.”
-By Matt Galea