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Apr 21, 2013

Popovic will learn from Arnold's lesson

Victory has many fathers, they say, while defeat is an orphan.

But how often in sport, as in life, does disaster prove a necessary precursor to triumph?

Not just a hiccup or a painful interruption along the way, but an actual requirement for progress and ultimate success?

The Central Coast Mariners are living proof of that.

They had lost three grand finals in seven years before breaking their hoodoo in Sunday's A-League showdown against Western Sydney Wanderers.

"We had to learn the hard way how to win," said coach Graham Arnold.

"A few of the boys have been scarred from grand finals. The scars are now gone."

Maybe in the long term, the Wanderers might be better for having lost the grand final after winning the league title in their very first year.

After all, how do you top a debut double?

If you start life in the penthouse, the chairman's seat or the mayor's office, surely there is only way to travel - down.

The Mariners used their previous grand final losses - particularly the nightmare of two years ago, when they squandered a two-goal lead near the death and lost on penalties to Brisbane Roar - as motivation.

Young goalkeeper Mathew Ryan summed up their outlook when he said: "Maybe you have to lose one to win one."

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic was asked whether he agreed.

In a moment of great hurt and disappointment, bless his red and black socks, he answered truthfully: "No."

I am prepared to make two bets.

First, that Popovic goes on as a coach to win silverware equivalent to, or better than, the A-League grand final trophy.

And second, that when he does, he will reflect on this 2013 loss as a day that played some part, possibly a vital part, in his eventual success.

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