Retro Corner: Pondeljak – a serial Grand Finalist


Quick question: Can you name three players who have represented both Glory and the Mariners in a Hyundai A-League Grand Final?

Danny Vukovic is probably the one that springs most readily to mind, followed by Dean Heffernan.

And the third member of this exclusive club (who is also the only one of the three not to see red in an A-League Grand Final!)?

Tom Pondeljak.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg as far as the attacking midfielder’s Grand Final experience is concerned.

This was a man for whom reaching the season showpiece in both the NSL and Hyundai A-League must have become almost routine.

By our reckoning, he made it to seven Grand Finals with five different clubs between 1996 and 2009.

He’d already appeared in three with  Melbourne Knights and Sydney Olympic by the time he joined Glory ahead of the 2003-04 season and would, of course, end that year featuring in a fourth as Mich d’Avray’s men triumphed over Parramatta Power.

Tom Pondeljak v Andre Gumprecht

As one-season impacts go, Pondeljak’s with Glory is hard to beat.

He made 26 appearances in purple that year, scoring seven goals along the way, but largely avoiding the cameras if his absence from Getty Images’ photo archive is anything to go by!

Upon the advent of the A-League, he headed to Gosford and was a key figure in the Mariners side that reached the 2006 and 2008 Grand Finals only to be edged out by Sydney FC in the first and local rivals Newcastle Jets in the second.

There was some consolation for Pondeljak the following year, however, as he capped his first season with Melbourne Victory by earning the Joe Marston Medal for his performance in their Grand Final win over Adelaide.

Tom Pondeljak celebrates the 2009 Grand Final win

So if anyone can be described as a serial Grand Finalist, its the man who came full circle to end his playing career where it began, at Victorian NPL side, St Albans Saints.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this story, so please share your Pondeljak memories with us via Facebook HERE or Twitter HERE.