The curtains are closing on Shinji Ono’s two-year tenure at Western Sydney Wanderers and for all his success and moments of brilliance in the A-League, he feels it will count for little if he departs without leading his club to the title.
The former Japan international is not familiar with a competition that hinges on a finals series but after witnessing the pain of defeat first hand in last year’s grand final, Ono is determined to deliver the only prize that counts.
He scored arguably the two best goals of last season and twice struck a dagger in the hearts of cross-town rivals Sydney FC this campaign but the man they call “genius” still feels he needs to issue a final statement before returning home. Despite lifting the premiers’ plate last season and providing many goals, assists and tricks, there’s a sense the determined veteran feels his time in Australia will not be fulfilled without one grand final win in two attempts.
When asked whether he feels he still has a point to prove, he said; “Yeah I think so, but if we play as a team, we will win.”
Ono is reluctant to talk about his imminent departure for J-League 2 club Consadole Sapporo but revealed the lack of public recognition for winning the premiership rather than the grand final has spurred him on to add to his legacy with the Wanderers.
“I don’t want to think about leaving Australia. Anyway, I still have a grand final and ACL against Hiroshima so I’m focused about just the final and I’m thinking just about that,” Ono said. “I’m really hungry to get this championship in the grand final because we achieved the premiership in the regular season last year but people just think about the grand final winner. I’m very hungry to win the title and of course, I want to leave a memory here before I leave.”
The Wanderers are yet to beat their grand final opponents in three previous attempts this season but Ono denies the Brisbane Roar have a mental edge over his team. The last time they travelled to the Queensland capital, a youthful Roar scored a commanding 3-1 win over Western Sydney and Ono is itching to claim their first win at the expense of the newly crowned premiers.
“I’m looking forward to playing against Brisbane Roar because I think we didn’t win against them this season,” Ono said. “They have big confidence but I think we have confidence for just one game to decide for us, heaven or hell. I want to prepare good for this week and I want to give a hundred per cent and show what I have on the pitch.”
When the Wanderers met the Roar in a finals series last year, Ono produced arguably the best goal in the history of the competition as he outwitted goalkeeper Mike Theo with a sensational lob from outside the box to seal their passage to the final. It was a moment to savour for Ono but he’s determined to snare another after the disappointing end to last season.
“I will do my best, of course I want to show my experience in a big moment, I want to show everything on the pitch,” he said. “We do the same as usual, we can’t do anything [different] just show what we do this weekend in this game.”
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