One-club hero Rhyan Grant defies convention for serial winners Sydney FC | Jonathan Howcroft | Football

After rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in 2013 Rhyan Grant told reporters: “It’s a long road ahead but I’m positive and looking forward to getting back on my feet.”

After rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2017, Grant’s enthusiasm remained undimmed. “It’s disappointing, but I’ll be alright,” he said. “These things happen in football and it has happened to me before so I know what it takes to recover and come back stronger.”

On Sunday Grant scored the winning goal in the A-League grand final and left Bankwest Stadium wearing the Joe Marston medal, the award handed to the player of the match. It was a popular choice.

Grant is that rarest of commodities in the Australian game, a one-club man, first turning out for the Sky Blues in 2008. (His captain that day was Steve Corica, now a two-time championship-winning coach.) Outside of football he is the Australian of fable, a knockabout country kid who drives a panel van, surfs, and trims a mullet so iconic EA Sports feature it in his online likeness. “There’s nothing wrong with being a bit different,” he said last year.

The 29-year old carries that difference onto the field. His industry is renowned in the A-League, so much so that he has turned his nominal starting position on the right side of defence into the focal point of the most consistently successful side in the competition’s history. His duel with Melbourne City’s Nathaniel Atkinson – a not dissimilar footballer – was a compelling subplot to the 120 minutes of action, much as his rivalry with Jason Davidson shaped last year’s decider, with both teams using their fullbacks to overload in midfield and provide genuine width in attack.

It was on one of those raids that Grant decided the destination of the championship. Bounding forward, like a labradoodle chasing a frisbee, he stole in at the far post, catching the fatigued Craig Noone unawares, and latching onto a majestic lofted pass from Luke Brattan. The conventional play at the moment of contact was to stoop and head the ball, but Grant defies convention. Instead, he delayed his denouement a beat longer than expected before whipping his left shoulder forward and steering the cross beyond the despairing Tom Glover with his left pec. It was a tribute to the art of thinking clearly, and it arrived 100 minutes into the last game of a season that began 10 months ago.

Grant now has nine career goals to his name, two of them have arrived in grand finals. He also converted a penalty in last year’s shootout.



Melbourne City goalkeeper Thomas Glover (1) watches Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant (23) shot on goal go into the back of the net Sydney FC v Melbourne City FC, A-League, Grand Final, Football, Bankwest Stadium, Sydney, Australia – 30 Aug 2020 Photograph: Speed Media/REX/Shutterstock

During the early stages of an entertaining contest it was City’s right-back that looked destined for the headlines. After 18 minutes Harrison Delbridge found the back of the net with a drive from the edge of the box, only for the goal to be disallowed with the assistance of VAR after Lachie Wales had needlessly strayed offside.

City dominated the first half, pressing Sydney aggressively and prospering with balls in behind the premiership-winners’ flat back four. But for all their ascendancy they registered only two shots on target and were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Adam Le Fondre went down under pressure from the otherwise excellent Curtis Good.

The second half was a different story. Sydney slowed the game down, Brattan became more influential, and the subdued Miloš Ninković burst sporadically into life. Just after the hour mark the Serbian created a golden opportunity for Le Fondre then missed the clearest opportunity of the 90 minutes himself, stabbing a close range effort near enough to Glover for City’s custodian to repel.

As players tired the game stretched and there were scares at both ends with Glover again enhancing his burgeoning reputation with a reflex stop to prevent an own goal. But it ended 0-0, just the third time in two seasons Sydney had featured in a scoreless fixture; the other was at this stage last year. Grant’s late late show spared another round of penalties.

The defeat was tough on City, who took another step forward in their development this season under Erick Mombaerts, a coach who has added a certain je ne sais quoi to the competition. But with his side wearing their old Heart stripes it was difficult to ignore the principal failing of previous iterations of the club – a lack of know-how to see them over the line in clinch moments. A solitary FFA Cup in 10 seasons is below par for an organisation that has, for more than half its life, been backed by the riches of the City Football Group. The contrast with now five-time champions and serial winners Sydney, and their decorated one-club hero, could not be more stark.


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