A far cry from ten years ago, there are now plenty of household names in football in Australia. Here are ten of the most noticeable ones.
#10 Graham Arnold
Arnold is a better coach now than he has ever been. Building the Mariners from the ground up with youth and club spirit was remarkable and something that led to many of his protégés taking up opportunities elsewhere, both around the country and the globe.
After a tough 2015-16 with Sydney FC, as he reworked his roster, Arnold seemed to strengthen his approach and raise his expectations. Being at a so-called ‘big club’ is often cited as the reasoning behind his demeanour, yet it has been more of a natural evolution of a coach, as he learns from mistakes of the past and refines his approach.
No doubt, the Socceroo question will be raised in the future and his previous experience as assistant in the role might inform his level of interest in the position.
#9 Besart Berisha
Like it or not, we are witnessing history through the actions of the newly capped Kosovo striker. Ninety-nine and counting and at age thirty-one there is scope for at least another thirty or forty, one would think.
A polarising figure at times, Berisha wears his heart on his sleeve and has grown into a more settled player, father and man. His comfort in Australia should hopefully see him play out much of the remainder of his career in Australia.
It would be nice to see the end of the story completed on our shores after having witnessed so many great moments that he has provided.
#8 Kevin Muscat
I know I’ve said it before, but he fascinates me. I want to know what is wrong with him. I think of Kevin every time RUOK day comes around.
Like George Costanza, Muscat appears to have grown into adulthood with that much baggage and so many chips on his shoulder, that anger is the natural manifestation.
Always good for a loaded line in interviews or a flat out verbal spray when moved, Muscat is one of the most curious and egotistical people in our game.
#7 Jamie Maclaren
In the short term future, the Brisbane striker will have to live with the ‘is he or isn’t he question’ draped around his neck.
Australia’s search for general play goals is much discussed and despite moments where we seem to get it right, the general belief is that a talisman up front is required to secure our goal scoring future.
Maclaren could be the one and if the case, Tim Cahill’s exit might not cause as much pain as some feel it will. With a fit Tommy Rogic, Massimo Luongo and Aaron Mooy servicing Maclaren, the Socceroos might just have a chance.
#6 Milos Ninkovic
Could someone tell this guy to stop? The Serbian has been a class above everyone else for the entire regular season with no disrespect intended, he is just that good.
To play the game with a smile and such a clear sense of joie de vivre, as Ninkovic does, is refreshing and without the letters M. Ninkovic signed on a contract, Graham Arnold’s Asian Champions League campaign will look less than promising. Please stay Milos.
#5 The RBB
The collective that is known as the RBB went too far at ANZ Stadium earlier this year and the fallout was considerable. There is a core element in this organisation who aren’t remotely interested in watching football or the plight of the Wanderers. Violence and vitriol seem more their cup of tea.
Once weeded out, the Western Sydney fans will have a supporters group of which to be proud, at the moment, the RBB is a polarising beast that negatively affects broad perceptions of the game from those who only see snap and grab headlines of poor behaviour.
#4 David Gallop
Depending on who you speak to, Gallop is either a shrewd operator overseeing the growth of football in the country or the captain of a sinking ship that goes down under the weight of his ignorance of the nuanced intricacies of football in Australia.
Personally, I look at him as one of the luckiest bastards I have ever seen. As football numbers boom and the game starts to impact the broader market in this country, Gallop sits at the helm and despite any errors he happens to make, growth is assured. Something any CEO would be ecstatic to have.
#3 Craig Foster and Les Murray
I have put these two legends of our game together because every image of them recently has been a two-shot. Their southern expansion proposal and the work they are currently undergoing, is a huge step for the A-League.
While not an article about expansion itself, the next three years will be significant in terms of developing the A-League product to a point where the next decade is a settled one and one where the game can experience slow, yet natural growth.
Foster and Murray have the smarts to get this right and let’s hope they and the A-League do the right thing for football in Australia.
#2 Tara Rushton
Have to be a little careful discussing Tara. There might be some who see male praise of her work as some sort of misogynistic ogling at an attractive woman on television. I can assure you that is not the case.
As other codes seek the magic formula in their on-air talent, Foxtel pulled a masterstroke by placing her at the helm of Shootout, having her preview matches live from the venue and using her in pre and post-match interviews.
Rushton lights up a screen, is never annoying and speaks with a passion and enthusiasm from which all presenters could potentially learn much. She is fun and she makes football fun.
Cooper Cronk’s decision to join her in Sydney has elevated them to celebrity couple status and where her next move will be in Foxtel’s structure is unclear, yet I hope she stays in football.
#1 Tim Cahill
Exactly when the old man plans to call time on his career has somewhat disappeared from discussion over the last two years. It appears that Russia 2018 was still achievable in Cahill’s mind and his fitness and self-belief now make that a realistic possibility.
Having him in Australia has been a treat for us all and he has not let anyone down. While not providing Del Piero like boosts to crowds, Australia’s greatest modern goal scorer has done enough to remind us all just how good he really is.
I’m sure there are a few other names that might usurp one or two on this list and if I have missed something, I apologise.
Overall, it is good to see characters, talent and passion in our local game, they are three ingredients that we so desperately need to continue to grow.
Enough of that for now though, bring on the finals!