Another chapter in the story

When Graham Arnold tells his team that they’re off to Brisbane again, the Central Coast Mariners squad must groan like kids going to the dentist.

When Graham Arnold tells his team that they-re off to Brisbane again, the Central Coast Mariners squad must groan like kids going to the dentist.

This weekend, Graham Arnold takes his team back up to Brisbane, a trip they must know like the back of their hands by now and it-s one they rarely enjoy.

In the two regular seasons Arnold and Ange Postecoglou have met with their current teams, the two have met nine times, and Brisbane have utterly dominated the team that have pushed them hardest in the league.

Six Brisbane wins, two draws and just the lone victory for Central Coast; within those games, Roar have scored 19 goals and the Mariners just seven (excluding grand final penalties).

As always, stats don-t tell the whole story. The Mariners are obviously much closer to Roar than those figures suggest, but still, that-s dentist-drill levels of painful reading for Arnold and any Mariners fan.

This season, there is little to separate the two, except that Arnold has been able to create what Postecoglou most craves: consistency. The two sides- records are almost identical, with only one drawn match stopping Brisbane winning the Premier-s Plate on goal difference.

That mid-season slump that brought Roar back to earth made their season ordinary. With all due respect the Central Coast-s achievement, you have to wonder what would have happened had star playmaker Thomas Broich been fit all year. Or, for that matter, what affect the German could yet have on the finals.

Set to make his 50th A-League appearance in the first leg of the major semi-final, Broich has been hailed as the competition-s finest import by Roar skipper Matt Smith and if he is fully recovered he could yet inflict more pain on the Mariners.

Despite Graham Arnold-s stated preference for winning the league, it-s the grand final that captures the attention of the Australian public, and if Broich is at his best, it will be Roar celebrating in a tickertape explosion that will be all over the back pages (excluding anti-football media agencies...), while the Mariners- Premier-s Plate presentation will probably, unfortunately, gather little attention.

So now that they-re Premiers, do Central Coast head to Suncorp with their hearts full of confidence and self-belief - they-ve certainly regained the best form for the end of the season - or do the memories of regularly falling to a full-strength Brisbane side have them steeling themselves for the worst?

The best part is that the story of this rivalry just keeps getting more intriguing - for the fans, at least - and the coming chapters are as engrossing as the A-League has ever seen.