'Absolutely fantastic': the unsung heroes at heart of Victory's dogged Grand Final win
There's a reason why Melbourne Victory match-winner Kosta Barbarouses praised three team-mates as "absolutely fantastic" in the history-making Hyundai A-League Grand Final win over Newcastle Jets.
But while one, Lawrence Thomas, received widespread acclaim and the Joe Marston Medal for helping his club to a record fourth championship, the contribution of the two others singled out by the New Zealand international perhaps flew under the radar.
That might be because Thomas Deng, 21, and James Donachie, 24, looked as though they had been defensive partners for a decade.
Their unflappable performances in the middle of an unshakeable rearguard belied a build-up that had forced Kevin Muscat's preferred back four to go under a complete makeover.
Rhys Williams, the calming, seasoned professional, ruled himself out of Saturday night's decider due to the calf problem he sustained in the warm-up prior to last weekend's Semi Final.
His absence compounded the mid-season departure of ever-present right-back Jason Geria, whose decision to sign for Japanese side JEF United Chiba in March saw 21-year-old Stefan Nigro drafted in to line up on the opposite side to reconfigured midfielder Leigh Broxham.
Against the odds, Victory's new-look defensive duo remained unfazed and kept a clean sheet that sealed the silverware.
"It feels terrific. We started off [the season] very poorly but it ended very sweet," Deng told Fox Sports.
"I'm very happy for the boys and the fans as well.
"Missing Rhys was terrible. I came and did my job for the team and I'm happy I could help the team as much as I did.
"The boys have been good every day since I came back from overseas.
"Every day has been good with them. I'm very happy we can share this memory forever."
Deng has been a constant starter since rejoining Victory from a loan spell at PSV, but the same cannot be said of Donachie.
The ex-Brisbane Roar man made just his 13th start of the campaign on Saturday night, having been hampered by a serious quad injury that sidelined him for over three months.
It made the triumph all the more special.
"It's a really great night," Donachie said.
"It was a tough year for me. It was the first long-term injury I've had.
"It was really good to come in and win."
An understated response to a memorable moment was perhaps the most fitting way to sum up the pair's approach to a perfect 90 minutes.