EXCLUSIVE: Former Sydney FC fan favourite Mark Rudan is set to bring the curtain down on his career in Monday’s NSW Premier League grand final between Sydney United and Sydney Olympic.
The two best teams in NSW club football meet at Olympic's refurbished Belmore Sports Ground in what is shaping as a classic contest featuring former and potential A-League stars.
Rudan, 36, who confirmed this would be his last match, urged fans from his former club Sydney FC to warm up for the new A-League season by supporting NSW football’s big day.
“It’d be nice to see the old fans from Sydney FC turn out in good voice,” he told au.fourfourtwo.com.
"Obviously having played for the club I’ve got a lot of time for everyone there at the club including the fans so it’s a good opportunity but we hope all fans turn out for the game
“We all are football, it’s not just the different teams and competitions we all are a part of the game. And it’s important to get out and support the game."
It’s not just Rudan that A-League fans will recognise. Chris Triantis, Brett Studman and Paul Henderson are all in the mix for selection at Olympic.
And for United, midfield schemer Ufuk Talay has been in stellar form after his stint at the ill-fated A-League franchise North Queensland Fury.
Rudan and Talay know what it takes to win a grand final lifting the first ever golden toilet seat with the Sky Blues five years ago. And for Rudan to win a trophy with his first club United would make it even more special.
“It’ll be good to finish off with him [Talay] because we are close mates and Uffy is massively important to us. He’ll play a major role in the grand final,” tipped Rudan.
Then there’s Luka Glavas – another former Sydney FC player – who has been in eye-catching form this season with 14 goals.
If anyone should feel confident on grand final day it’s Glavas who banged in four goals for United in the corresponding fixture in 2006 (the last time United tasted NSW grand final glory).
Glavas’s grand final heroics secured the tall forward a gig with Perth Glory then Sydney FC and although his A-League career didn’t quite take off, he’s been a powerhouse in the NSW scene since 2008.
The 26-year-old has scored over 50 goals could still make the step back up to the A-League.
“I haven’t come up with a striker like him in his league,” said Rudan. “He is a busy customer who also makes space for Benny Vidaic who’s also been up front and playing magnificently.
“One on one with the defender he [Glavas] is probably the best in the competition.”
Rudan, a former AIS student who went on to ply his trade with United in the NSL under Branko Culina followed by Northern Spirit, Alemannia Aachen, Nanjing Yoyo, Avispa Fukuoka and FC Vadusz, added: “I’ve got massive respect for Olympic.
“It’s going to be tough to knock them off on their turf on Monday. [Robbie] Mileski and [Alex] Smith work really well in tandem together in the middle of the park, but I just think in our final third we can play some brilliant football.
“It’s real exciting to watch. We create lots of chances with guys like Ivo Bosnar and Stevie Hayes – who could easily make the step up to the A-League. Then there’s Mitchell Thompson too,” said Rudan.
But for football fans, Rudan wont’ be lost to the game. He confirmed his analysis work with Fox Sports as an A-League and Socceroo pundit will continue.
For Sydney Olympic’s part, the Blues secured their spot on the big stage after defeating Rudan's United 2-0 at Belmore in week two of the finals.
The victory came on the back of Olympic's first ever NSW minor premiership and their first ever grand final appearance in the NSW Premier League.
The rampant Blues are eying an extraordinary quadruple trophy success this season.
They began the season with a pre-season trophy and followed that up with the recent Brett Emerton Cup win over Sydney FC (featuring a spectacular winner from Smith).
Now with the minor Premiership in the bag, the grand final is the last hurdle for Peter Tsekenis’s talented side.
Olympic’s star man Alex Smith, scorer of eight goals from midfield this season, said it’s been a remarkable season for the former NSL champions.
“I know it was only a pre-season game but we’ve beaten Sydney FC so the quality is there. Come out and enjoy it," he said.
Smith always felt United would be the side Olympic would face in the grand final. And he also admitted that playing the grand final on home turf is a “massive” advantage.
“Having said, that we seem to have a strategy that figures them [United] out. We’ve beaten them every time I’ve played against them but United like to play football.
“It should be very entertaining and hopefully there’ll be 5-6000 fans there with the ultras singing and hopefully a few fans who haven’t been to an Olympic game in a while.There’ll be players who’ve played in the A-League and some who could easily slot into any A-League team."
And if the match is anything like the recent VPL final between Oakleigh Cannons and Green Gully, NSW fans are in for a treat.
Smith added: “The message before the game will be simply to do what we’ve done all year. Just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The game kicks off at 3pm.
Follow me on twitter @Aidothejourno for tweets during the game.