Victory sights turn toward Asia

As the celebrations continued on Monday, Australia's national champions have turned their sights towards conquering Asia as Melbourne Victory begins to come to terms with becoming the first Hyundai A-League club to win two national championships.

As the celebrations continued on Monday, Australia's national champions have turned their sights towards conquering Asia as Melbourne Victory begins to come to terms with becoming the first Hyundai A-League club to win two national championships.

The Victory squad and coach Ernie Merrick paraded all three trophies won by the club this season - the pre-season cup, the Premiers' Plate (for finishing on top of the ladder at the end of the home and away season) and the championship - to fans in Melbourne's Federation Square on Monday - the first time one club has ever made a clean sweep of all three domestic A-League trophies in the one season.

But there is another trophy Merrick would like to add to Melbourne's growing trophy cabinet in coming years - the Asian Champions' League.

Melbourne, along with beaten grand finalist Adelaide, will be Australia's representatives in the 2010 Asian Champions' League - with this year's competition to kick off this month with 2007/08 qualifiers Newcastle and Central Coast.

While Melbourne will not get to test itself on the international stage for another 12 months, Merrick says the club has already learned much from its first Asian campaign earlier this season - when the club was unlucky to bow out in the group stages to eventual winner Gamba Osaka of Japan.

And the Melbourne boss can hardly wait for a second opportunity in Asia.

"We are looking not only towards the next A-League season but with one eye on the Asian Champions' League as well," Merrick said on Monday.

"We want to do well in the Champions' League and in Asia and while it's not the ultimate because the domestic competition is very important to us, the Asian Champions' League is very important to us now."

"We felt we did really well this season - we finished second in our group to the eventual winner Gamba Osaka and the aggregate score (over the two matches with the Japanese champions) was 6-3 so we did well against them."

But Victory only finished second in their group behind Gamba and were eliminated but as Merrick pointed out on Monday, under the new rules in the Asian Champions' League (beginning in the upcoming competition) the top two teams in each group now progress to the knockout stages.

"We would have qualified along with them (Gamba Osaka) for the next round under the new rules," Merrick said.

Merrick said the enormity of Melbourne's achievements this season were now beginning to sink in as he joined a small but elite group of coaches to have won more than one national championship in Australia - a list headed by Zoran Matic, Eddie Thomson and Ange Postecoglou.

"Everything is sinking in, it's just a great time," Merrick said

"Some players and coaches go their whole career and don't get this excitement but to win the championship twice in three years here has been fantastic."