They say there’s no gain without pain, and Perth Glory’s heartbreaking NSL grand final loss to Wollongong Wolves in 2000 is a stark example of that.
Glory were in just their fourth year of existence when they entered that grand final as warm favourites in front of then-record 42,242 adoring fans at Subiaco Oval.
Those fans were in ecstasy when first-half goals to Bobby Despotovski, Ljubo Milicevic and Jamie Harnwell put Glory up 3-0 at the break. In most people’s minds, it was game over.
Not so for Wollongong coach Nick Theodorakopoulos.
Keeping calm in the face of adversity, Theodorakopoulos urged his team to score a goal in each of the next two 15-minute periods.
Let’s see how Glory players react when the score is 3-2, he told his charges.
They duly responded to their coach’s pleas.
Scott Chipperfield beat a defender and nutmegged another in a piece of individual magic to open Wollongong’s account in the 57th minute.
Matt Horsley made the most of a lucky deflection to add another in the 70th minute.
Glory’s nerves were now jangling, but could Wollongong find an equaliser?
The answer was an emphatic yes, with Paul Reid sneaking one past Jason Petkovic in the 89th minute.
But the drama was just warming up. Extra-time couldn’t separate the sides, meaning it would come down to penalties to decide the result.
The first five penalty takers from each team all nailed their spot kicks.
But when Wollongong’s Horsley put his penalty wide, Glory had the chance to win it.
All Edgar Junior had to do was put the ball into the back of the net.
With the sellout crowd holding their collective breaths, the Brazilian struck a sweet penalty to his left.
Nine out of 10 times it would have smashed the back of the net. But not this time.
Wolves goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi guessed correctly, flinging his body to the right to pull off the crisp save.
Glory goalkeeper Jason Petkovic gave his side another chance for victory when he blocked Dino Menillo’s central strike.
This time it fell to Alistair Edwards to seal victory for the home side.
But again it was Pogliacomi who kept his team in it, diving low and to his left to keep out Edwards’ spot kick.
Glory’s Ljubo Milicevic held his nerve to cancel out Chipperfield’s ensuing penalty.
But when Wollongong’s Paul Reid nailed his spot kick, the pressure was again on Glory to stay in the contest.
James Afkos, the son of Perth Glory’s co-owner Paul Afkos, stepped up to the plate.
Pogliacomi was a man on a mission, and started moving to his right even before Afkos had kicked the ball.
Afkos, with his focus squarely centred on the ball, hadn’t noticed the goalkeeper’s early movement.
He drove his penalty low and to the left, but could only watch on in horror as Pogliacomi got down to save it.
Game over. It remains the greatest ever grand final in Australia’s soccer history.
Glory went on to lose another grand final in 2002, before winning the last two NSL titles in 2003 and 2004.
They endured pain before the gain.
So far, the A-League has only delivered Glory grand final heartbreak.
In their 2012 decider against Brisbane Roar, Glory led 1-0 until a late Besart Berisha brace stole victory.
Berisha’s winner came when he earned a controversial penalty in the dying seconds of stoppage time.
The Albanian had dived wildly to the turf after squeezing between two Glory defenders before unleashing an air-swing.
Referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot, sparking huge protests from enraged Glory players.
Diehard Glory fans still swear black and blue that midfielder Liam Miller’s lunging boot never touched Berisha.
This Sunday, Glory have the chance to ease that heartbreak when they take on Sydney FC at Optus Stadium.
If Glory’s history is anything to go by, expect plenty of drama.