As Melbourne prepares for the Hyundai A-League Final between Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United (and the Australian Grand Prix taking place by the shores of Lake Albert on March 29), a single question lingers in the air above Telstra Dome.
Whitewash Way or Route of Re-Ignition. Which road will you follow?
The outcome of the contest at the end of February can only go one of two paths. The first path is the Whitewash Way. That path can only be trod if the Melbourne Victory dominate like they have all season.
For the sake of argument, the Preseason Cup contest (in which Adelaide won 2-1) will not count.
Through veterans like captain Kevin Muscat, veterans Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp, the keeping heroics of Michael Theoklitos, and imports Ney Fabiano and Carlos Hernandez, the Victory have been unscathed throughout the regular season and Major Semi-Final.
Scorelines like 1-0, 3-2, 1-0, 2-0 and 4-0 have made it painfully clear who the dominate side have been.
For many who have seen the carnage that comes from witnessing the play of a team built on consistency and attacking football, it will surprise no one if Ernie Merrick and the Big V complete the Australian Treble before another packed Telstra Dome crowd of more than 50,000 strong.
Then there is the other road, the Route of Re-Ignition. As in re-igniting the rivalry that has trumped Central Coast vs. Newcastle or Melbourne vs. Sydney. The geographical rivalry in terms of sport goes back to another code of football: the Australian rules variety.
In 1879, the first interstate match between South Australia and Victoria took place. But the seeds of hostilities took place when the Australia Football League shortchanged clubs in South Australia in favor of those from Victoria.
In 1996, the premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett, moved the Australian Grand Prix from Adelaide to Melbourne, stoking further the flames of arrogance.
The rivalry between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory picked up steam with then-United coach John Kosmina grabbing Kevin Muscat's throat on October 14, 2006, in Round Eight of the 2006-07 season.
In that match, Adelaide defeated Melbourne 1-0. Victory would proceed to win three out of the four remaining contests they had, including the 6-0 Grand Final.
Two Saturdays ago, at a press conference following Adelaide's 4-0 defeat in the second leg of the Major Semi-Final, Aurelio Vidmar lamented the effort by his players, labeling the city a "piss-ant" town while rambling about claims of discontent from many within the club.
One of those players, Fabian Barbiero, took it to heart and helped the Reds redeem themselves with a crisp volley into the top left corner past Queensland Roar's Liam Reddy in the 25th minute of the Preliminary Final.
The Hindmarsh Stadium crowd was in raptures, and a sense of redemption and relief crept across Vidmar's face as he was lifted into the heavens.
If the usually-exemplary Vidmar and AUFC had not finished runner-up to Gamba Osaka in the 2008 AFC Champions League as well fifth place at the FIFA Club World Cup, there's no telling how the penalty, which is just a suspended $2,000 fine through Round 9 of the 2009-10 season, could have been for him.
With a return to the AFC Champions League in 2010, bygones might as well be bygones.
And what better way for Adelaide to re-ignite the animosities and the rivalry against Melbourne Victory than with a victory in the Grand Final at the Telstra Dome? If there was a time where all things would come full circle, February 28, 2009 would be it.
One A-League Championship Ring, and two roads to choose.
Will it be the Whitewash Way that this year's Grand Final will walk on? Or is the Route of Re-Ignition that awaits the winner?
When it's 7:30 PM at Telstra Dome (or 8:30 GMT), gentlemen...start your engines.
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