Sydney Olympic’s Mitchell Stamatellis believes his side should not be seen as Championship outsiders and their fifth-place finish during the regular season will mean nothing come finals time.
Despite scraping through to the final playoff qualification spot, Stamatellis is confident his team has the talent and mental fortitude to surprise their higher ranked opponents and take out the Championship title.
“Regardless of where you finish, the finals for us is a whole new competition,” he said.
“Knockout competition football is very different to the long grind of the league season.
“Anything can happen on the day. We are treating each game like a grand final and hopefully we can do enough to win the competition.”
Olympic were one of the form teams during the opening weeks of the league season, but coaching changes and player departures mid-season appeared to derail their title hopes.
The veteran defender admitted the instability did take its toll, but their three wins in a row to finish the season was proof they are back to their best when it matters most.
“Yeah we have had a few disruptions throughout the year but thats no excuse. We just have to get on with the job,” he said.
“We started preseason very early this year and by the middle stage we were burnt out and struggling to play to our best.
“I think we have managed to get everything back together now and we are playing the football which I believe will make us a force to be reckoned with during the finals.”
Coach Gorka Etxeberria has only been in charge at Belmore for six weeks, but Stamatellis thinks the Spanish coach will be one of Olympic’s secret weapons.
“Gorka is a coach who is so passionate and devoted to the game that regardless of his experience in this competition he has been able to learn and study enough to give us the best chance to win,” he said.
“He has spent so much time studying each team in the competition that I think he would have a far greater understanding of their players and how they play than we would.
“Hopefully that knowledge can help us game plan better against our opponents and provide an extra advantage throughout the finals.
Stamatellis said the fact Olympic had learnt valuable lessons from their last-minute defeat at the hands of Manly United in Round 17 would put them in good stead for victory on Saturday night.
“After beating Manly at Cromer Park in Round 6 it was very frustrating to lose in that way but we know we have the players and tactics to beat them at their ground.
“Manly are a strong side but we are quite strong too so I think we should be able to frustrate their attack throughout the match and snatch a result away from home.
“We will need take our chances and keep switched on for the whole 90 minutes but that should be enough for us to get the win and proceed to the next round.
“Anything can happen in the finals and you only need one goal to progress. We’re confident in our ability as a team and hopefully we can go all the way.”