Celeski still pinching himself

Melbourne Victory midfielder Billy Celeski has had a big change of fortunes in 12 months, capped by Saturday's Hyundai A-League Championship.

Melbourne Victory midfielder Billy Celeski has had a big change of fortunes in 12 months, capped by Saturday's Hyundai A-League Championship.

The 23-year-old played for Perth Glory in the first and third seasons of the A-League, only being part of four wins in the 2007/08 campaign as the Perth-based team finished second-last.

But having returned to his native Melbourne in time for the Victory's maiden Asian Champions League outing during 2008, Celeski was a key member of the side that added the Championship to its Pre-Season Cup and Premiers' Plate triumphs in 2008/09.

And having recently played his first international for the Socceroos when they travelled to Indonesia, as well as being named in the squad for this week's Asian Cup qualifier against Kuwait, Celeski was pinching himself after Saturday's final whistle.

"Where do I start, (my) first grand final, (an) absolutely amazing crowd, I'm just rapt to be here and to get away with the premiership (and) the championship, it's just an amazing feeling right now," Celeski said.

Hot favourites before the game courtesy of a 6-0 aggregate thumping of Adelaide United in the Major Semi-Final, Melbourne wasn't able to find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes despite Cristiano's 10th-minute send-off.

But Celeski added that coach Ernie Merrick - who later said he'd had no doubts his team would prevail - had preached patience at the interval, with the hosts heeding the message and going on to win thanks to Tom Pondeljak's 60th-minute goal.

"We knew we had to stretch them, being a man down they were obviously going to camp outside the box and keep their defence compact so we tried to free up the midfield by pushing Seb (Ryall) into that holding role and trying to free me and Carlos (Hernandez) further forward."

"And credit to the boys, we stayed patient, Tommy (Pondeljak) scored a ripper goal and we're just really excited."

While Celeski also lauded the 'great turnout' after 53,273 fans packed Etihad Stadium for the season finale, substitute Evan Berger quickly forgot about the heavy landing that prevented him being on the park when the game finished.

Brought on in the 56th minute, Berger had an immediate impact and then back-heeled the ball to Pondeljak to set up what proved to be the winner, but in the closing minutes he tried to leap over Fabian Barbiero for a high ball and landed heavily on his upper back.

The game was held up for a couple of minutes as a ginger Berger was eventually taken from the field and replaced by Jose Luis Lopez, but 21-year-old Berger was in celebration mode soon after the game ended.

"It was awesome just to get out there and be amongst it and to be involved in a win - you can't have anything better than that," Berger said.

"And looking back on it (in the future) I can say I was involved in the goal so that was a great experience and Tommy finished if so well and I am just so happy that we got our hands on the trophy."