The quality of the A-League grand final could be a cause for concern

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    The A-League grand final produced one the best atmospheres seen anywhere in Australian sport, but did the quality of football match the occasion?

    One of the most memorable moments of a gripping title decider came when Sydney FC star Milos Ninkovic’s reacted to a thumping challenge from Melbourne Victory midfielder Leigh Broxham.

    Ninkovic tends to let his football do the talking, so when he squared up to Victory skipper Carl Valeri just after the half-hour mark – Ninkovic hadn’t even fingered the right culprit – it sparked an all-in melee that suggested Victory’s niggling tactics were getting on Sydney FC’s nerves.

    There were five yellow cards handed out in the first half alone – eleven in total – and when my Dad rang me at full-time after watching the game on TV, he mentioned he’d never seen a game with so many cautions handed out.

    I found that a noteworthy remark, because although I played football throughout my childhood, my Dad is more of a casual observer of the sport.

    And when we’re broadcasting the game to a massive domestic TV audience – some of whom don’t tune into the A-League every week – it’s worth asking whether Sunday’s grand final showcased the very best of the A-League.

    The question was put to me on my Facebook page by lawyer and radio broadcaster Ezequiel Trumper during the week. Trumper is an often outspoken critic of the A-League, and he wrote of the title decider, “at times it felt like I was watching a rugby league game with a round ball”.

    Not everyone is enamoured with Trumper’s strident tone, but I appreciated his willingness to kick-start a discussion around the style of football on display in the A-League.

    And it got me wondering, is it a style we’re happy to have broadcast to some 150 other countries around the world?

    I personally viewed the match as a typically bruising affair between two teams desperate to avoid defeat in the biggest game of the season, although it wasn’t until I watched a replay that I realised quite how many fouls were committed on the night.

    Watching from inside the stadium, it didn’t feel like the game was any more ill-tempered than usual – although it was certainly stop-start – and the sheer intensity of the occasion kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, even if the standard of football failed to satisfy the purists.

    Sydney FC fans Football A-League Grand Final 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    This sort of navel-gazing is probably best left to the AFL, whose baffling trip to Shanghai has already produced some truly embarrassing media coverage.

    We’ll leave it to the supposed big guns of Aussie sport to battle it out for the hearts and minds of the mystified Shanghainese, however the question remains – does the A-League produce the sort of football we’re looking for?

    Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if former Argentine national team legend Gabriel Batistuta can enhance the competition, with the once free-scoring Fiorentina striker linked with a move to Adelaide United to take over from the departing Guillermo Amor.

    Batistuta earned his coaching licence years ago in Argentina, yet he’s never coached anywhere, and he’s famously on record as saying he never even liked football in the first place, calling it “only my job”.

    It seems he’s in need of a job now, and having lived for a couple of years in Perth following his retirement, Batistuta is at least familiar with the country.

    Yet a sceptic would surely question how a man with no coaching experience is automatically supposed to improve Adelaide United’s fortunes.

    That’s the beauty of football though. There’s no one way to play a game enjoyed from Adelaide to Shanghai, and pretty much everywhere in between.

    I thought the A-League grand final was predictably tough, but immensely enjoyable.

    But was that the case? Or was the standard of football not befitting of the occasion?

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.