End of an era for GCU

Goal machine Shane Smeltz believes Gold Coast United face the end of an era with the departure of up to six senior players at the end of the season.

Goal machine Shane Smeltz believes Gold Coast United face the end of an era with the departure of up to six senior players at the end of the season.

But the New Zealander declared their aim to make the most of their short time left together by overcoming Melbourne Victory in Sunday's do-or-die elimination final at Skilled Park.

Salary cap pressures have forced Dino Djulbic, Steve Pantelidis, Zenon Caravella and Bas van den Brink to seek greener pastures and well-deserved bigger pay packets overseas and interstate after two stellar and successful seasons on the Glitter Strip.

Meanwhile, captain Jason Culina looks likely to join his father Branko at the Newcastle Jets, and Smeltz remains linked with a move to Perth Glory.

With so many of the club's established stars and first-team fixtures heading for the exit at the end of the season, the Kiwi marksman conceded there will be a tinge of sadness about the club's impending departures but said the playing group will do all they can to make them happy farewells.

"The players have spoken about it already. We all know there's certain players leaving but we're putting that aside and concentrating on the task at hand," Smeltz said. "We're in with a shout to win this thing so we've got to put our heads down and work has hard as we can."

"Some of these younger players might not understand that playing finals just doesn't come around every day. There are going to be teams watching these finals games wishing they were a part of it. Being involved in the finals means you're in it to win it and you've got to take it."

"I grew up here and I'm as passionate as anyone about this club. It'd mean a hell of a lot if we progress on Sunday and take it all the way to the Grand Final."

Last season, United finished third in the regular season but collapsed at the first hurdle in the finals, knocked out by Newcastle in a heartbreaking penalty shootout that ended their season earlier than many punters had expected.

Smeltz said the feeling of despair that came after that defeat burns deep in his heart and will fuel United's endeavors to go one better than their inaugural season in the Hyundai A-League.

"We certainly don't want to be in that situation again. We want to at least improve on last season and if we can get through Sunday's game we'll do that, and who knows after that," he said.

"We know we're a good side and when we play the style of football that we can and when we're at our best, we can beat anyone in this league. We haven't shown that in the last few games and that's disappointing but there's many factors towards that."

"We're a little bit fresher than we have been in the last few games so that's the biggest plus, that we've had a full week to prepare. We had a trip to Perth and then we played the top two teams in the league, all in the space of seven days."

"We've had a tough preparation for what is now the most important game of the season. We copped a few beatings but hopefully we can learn from that and take it into this game."