Melbourne Victory young gun Christian Theoharous says there's "no place" in the game for tackles like the one from Luke Wilkshire that robbed him of a chance to play in the A-League grand final.
The 18-year-old winger had to watch from the sidelines at McDonald Jones Stadium, having failed to recover from a crude challenge from Sydney FC veteran Wilkshire in the dying stages of their semi-final win last week.
Theoharous was somewhat fortunate to escape with only strained ankle ligaments from Wilkshire's scything tackle, but the former Socceroo was not sanctioned or even pinged for a foul.
"There's no place for it in the game," Theoharous told AAP.
"There's nothing I could have done to protect myself. And it wasn't punished at all. It is what it is.
"Everyone's saying, 'offside goals, offside goals'.
"But don't worry about that - first you've got to protect your players.
"If you don't do that you miss out on big opportunities and big events like this."
Theoharous still had a smile on his face on Sunday as he paraded through Newcastle Airport with the A-League trophy on his shoulder and a medal around his neck.
Teammates ensured that if he and injured defender Rhys Williams couldn't play in the match, they would at least play a big role in the after-party.
"Obviously missing out was disappointing," Theoharous said.
"You work hard all year and you miss it.
"But it doesn't matter because at the end of the day, I celebrated with the boys.
"Rhysey, being nearly 30, he hasn't won anything yet, so it's good to get one under his belt.
"Someone told me before the game, if you miss out on the game and your team wins the championship, I think you take it any day."
Whether Theoharous will be part of the Victory squad that defends their record fourth A-League crown remains to be seen.
After a season of eye-catching cameos off the bench, it is understood the teenager will try his luck overseas.
His agent, John Grimaud, has strong connections in Germany and paved the way for successful club moves for Mathew Leckie, Robbie Kruse and Brandon Borrello.
"I think I'm just going to soak this all up and see what happens in a couple of weeks," Theoharous said.