Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic declared his Wanderers would return even bigger and better next season after stumbling at the final hurdle in their stunning entry to the A-League.
Popovic admitted to both pain and disappointment after the Wanderers fell 2-0 to Central Coast in Sunday's grand final at Allianz Stadium in a season which had previously been packed with plenty of highs and very few lows.
The Wanderers, and their fans, lit up what has been largely embraced as the best A-League season yet, but their bright flare was snuffed out by a determined Mariners outfit before a record 42,102 fans.
The win ended a 13-game unbeaten run for the Wanderers and while Popovic acknowledged the grand final loss soured an otherwise fantastic season he said his players would be the better for it.
"We had to face harsh reality today but we will look back with pride on what we have done," he said.
"At the moment it is disappointing but when we wake up tomorrow we will appreciate it.
"There is a lot of pride at our club. There is a lot of positives to take out of this year and we will be striving to be better in every department on and off the field next year.
"We are in the ACL (Asian Champions League) and we are looking forward to that.
"And what will be driving us is the opportunity to play again in this (the grand final) next year.
"It's been a great year but I don't like losing and I know the players don't like losing either.
"Losing hurts but we will be back bigger and stronger next year."
A Patrick Zwaanswijk goal before halftime and a Daniel McBreen penalty in the 66th minute gave the Mariners the win and Popovic said it was a deserved victory.
"Overall we probably weren't good enough," he said.
"Today they were the better team and they won."
However Popovic said he couldn't begrudge his old mate, Mariners coach Graham Arnold, championship victory at last.
"I'm always happy for Arnie when he does well," Popovic said.
"I'm not happy to lose but if I had to lose to anyone I am glad it was him. He deserves it."