For some it’s third time lucky. For Team Wellington it turns out fourth time’s a charm.
The side made a near perfect start to the OFC Champions League Final last weekend when they put six unanswered goals past Fijian club Lautoka FC in the first leg.
Captain Justin Gulley is pretty elated to be playing a key role in changing the face of regional club football.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start really,” the former New Zealand youth international said.
“To get six goals and keep a clean sheet, that’s huge for us and gives us a lot of confidence going into the return fixture.
“And it puts a lot of pressure on them.”
Team Wellington put the wheels in motion in the semi-final when, over the two legs home and away, they managed to out-play the reigning champions Auckland City FC to make their way into the first final where they wouldn’t face the nine-time regional champions.
Gulley said heading into the semi-final was a strange experience after three years of Auckland City vs. Team Wellington finals.
“We sort of didn’t know what to expect really,” he said.
“Obviously we’re used to playing Auckland in the finals so we knew we had to really work hard, be prepared and just keep doing what we’re doing because we couldn’t take anything for granted.”
Which has made the first non-all New Zealand final in three years an interesting experience for Gully and his teammates, especially those of them who have been trying to win this competition for the past three years.
“Honestly, I think we felt a lot more confident,” Gulley reflects.
“Last year we were close, we’ve been close many years, but I really feel like we’ve got a great squad.
“We’ve worked so hard all year and this is what we’ve been working towards.”
With their first leg performance giving them a comfortable cushion going into Sunday’s match at Churchill Park Team Wellington could be forgiven for lifting their foot off the accelerator.
However, having seen what would normally be considered a good lead overturned in the UEFA Champions League quarter and semi-finals this season, Gulley said his side won’t be complacent about their own second leg encounter.
“Of course that’s in the back of our minds too,” he said.
“It happens on the professional stage you know, it can easily happen here so we’ve got to make sure we’re definitely prepared for whatever – for everything.”
Fortunately for Team Wellington they’ve been well-drilled over the course of the season by coach José Figueira who is encouraging his side to continue as they have been right up to the final whistle.
“We’ll approach the game in exactly the same way,” Gulley said.
“We can’t get complacent and think we’ve already got it.
“Football’s a funny game and crazy things can happen here so we’ve got to make sure we work hard this week and go into Sunday with the same attitude.”