Wanderers help lay some ex-NSL ghosts to rest
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Western Sydney Wanderers' fan group the Red and Black Bloc during the Wanderers v Perth Glory round 22 A-League match at Parramatta Stadium in Sydney, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Sometimes moving forward is all about letting go of the past. We got a reminder of that at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday afternoon when Western Sydney Wanderers downed Perth Glory in the wet.
Victory for the Wanderers was a remarkable seventh straight for the A-League’s newest side and it came courtesy of a goal from a 22-year-old who started his professional career in Europe.
Aaron Mooy began his professional life at English side Bolton Wanderers before moving to Scottish Premier League outfit St Mirren.
But when the Wanderers gave the Quakers Hill local a call, Mooy ditched the cold climes of Paisley for a career back home in the A-League.
Could any of us have imagined that scenario when Perth Glory ventured to a wet Parramatta Stadium back in April 2004?
That was the day Nik Mrdja’s extra-time winner settled the last-ever National Soccer League decider against the soon-to-be defunct Parramatta Power.
There were less fans inside the ground that day than turned up to see the Wanderers beat Perth in a regular season game played in atrocious conditions on Saturday.
For all its teething problems – and it’s safe to say the A-League has had plenty – could anyone truly envisage how far football would come in this country since that dismal April afternoon almost nine years ago?
Perhaps a better indicator is the fact the Sydney FC line-up against Melbourne Heart yesterday included Alessandro Del Piero, Brett Emerton, Lucas Neill and Joel Griffiths. And they lost.
Watching the Heart leapfrog the Sky Blues on the table in front of a raucous 13,700-strong crowd was another indicator that domestic football in Australia is continuing to move forward at an impressive pace.
The ‘Yarraside’ was in superb form and slowly but surely it’s becoming the norm rather than the exception to see large, boisterous crowds file into the stands.
The standard of football continues to improve as well and some of the performances on display this weekend were sublime, not least in the Central Coast Mariners’ 6-2 thrashing of a shellshocked Melbourne Victory in Gosford.
The Mariners made light of the tough conditions, or better said actually used them to their advantage, in what was an outrageously dominant attacking display.
And the win sets up what is surely the most anticipated match of the season to date as the table-topping Mariners get set to host second-placed Western Sydney at Bluetongue Stadium next Saturday night.
Years ago names like Del Piero and Mooy, Neill and Popovic were the type we only read about in the ‘overseas football’ section of the local newspaper.
Now they’re making their mark in our own backyard and it’s us as football fans who benefit.
The A-League was instigated precisely to unify the tribes, so to speak, and with absolutely no disrespect to the NSL, fans of domestic football in Australia have surely never had it better.
And while it’s important to acknowledge the role the likes of Marconi and South Melbourne, St George, Melbourne Croatia and all the other migrant-founded clubs played in helping football reach this point, it’s also important to accept that those days are gone and the code is now in a much better place than anyone could have possibly imagined during the dying days of the NSL.
It’s been a hard slog at times but surely if fans are willing to sit through the sort of weather which lashed Newcastle, Gosford and Parramatta this weekend just to watch a game of football, the future looks bright for the sport in this country.
Sometimes to move forward you’ve got to let go of the past, something newcomers Western Sydney have helped achieve by exorcising the ghosts of the last ever NSL grand final.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
Former Roarer, Jesse Fink, has released a new e-book, World Party, the story of the Socceroos' incredible run at the 2006 World Cup – 15 days every Australian football fan should never forget. Support a fellow Roarer and download a copy today.