A 2017-18 tarot reading for every A-League club – Part 2

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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    So, to the second half of our reading. Waiting as they are with bated breath and wrung hands, we shall not keep the rest of the clubs on tenterhooks. Again, let’s draw from the deck…

    Newcastle Jets: The Hanged Man

    It’s been eight years since the Jets have made the finals, the better part of a decade spent hanging upside down, learning every harsh footballing lesson, existing as a living example for the other clubs of how bad things can get.

    Read Part 1 here.

    The figure, dangling from his ankle, is crowned with a halo, and is smiling despite his torturous suspension. Through his suffering he has found wisdom, through his inverted view of the world, he has discovered a new perspective.

    Ideally, having made himself so vulnerable, having sacrificed his power, he uncovers an unlikely seam of divine inspiration. Only then will he right himself, and stand proud on solid ground, enriched by his newfound knowledge.

    Ernie Merrick, instated as Jets manager three months ago, was subject to no small amount of trauma last season at Wellington, and will have learned valuable lessons about how – and how not – to rebuild a club that has wallowed for so long near the bottom of the table.

    Out has gone Andrew Hoole and a swarm of others. In has come some tested and reliable A-League troops Roy O’Donovan, Dimi Petratos, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Daniel Georgievski, and Glen Moss.

    The lessons offered by the Hanged Man are much more easily given to others than they are personally undertaken, because the wisdom available requires some suffering first. Jets fans have certainly suffered, but the writhing has eased, a certain stillness has descended.

    Perhaps, this season, there’ll be a little more to smile about in Newcastle.

    Phoenix Head Coach Ernie Merrick (right) prior to the Round 9 A-League match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at NIB Stadium in Perth, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. (AAP Image/Theron Kirkman)

    (AAP Image/Theron Kirkman)

    Perth Glory: The Fool
    How carefree he is, how unworried and cavalier! With a posie in one hand, he wanders cheerfully along the precipice, blissfully unaware of how easily he might trip and fall into the abyss. The Fool represents the innocence of the unmoulded, and his existence holds, in equal parts, the potential for soaring success, or plummeting failure.

    Such was Perth’s sojourn through last season, a dainty dalliance with both astonishing victory, and brutal defeat. Theirs was a style of football that was, in its essence, unsustainably volatile, and the weaknesses of such an approach inevitably outweighed the strengths when it mattered most.

    The 2017-18 pre-season has seen little evidence of Perth or Kenny Lowe doing much to address this systemic naivety, in fact, following the departures of a number of defensive assets, it appears as though Perth’s brittleness is intensifying.

    Drawing the Fool card isn’t exactly an insult – it’s tinged with a sort of affectionate melancholy, because the world would be a lot more fun if everyone was a Fool.

    The Fool is not deterred by risk; he lives wholly in the present, he is seduced by the gamble, and he enriches the lives of others as a result. But perilous consequences accompany him everywhere, and rarely depart unrealised.

    Sydney FC: Strength
    Though it may appear this card refers specifically to some supreme physical power, in truth it relates to mental fortitude, of the strength found in patience, in persistence, the qualities that fortify the mind.

    A woman, her brow undisturbed by the crags of toil, pries open the mouth of the savage lion, little by little. No great gesture of brawn is found here, just the determined application of her infinite will.

    As Sydney walked, calm and composed, to the premiership-championship double last season, their strength was found in its richest deposits in their minds, steeled and galvanised as they were by the task at hand. An FFA Cup final defeat was waved away. A fiery mid-season derby loss was only a small stumble.

    An extremely nervy finale, where they went a goal down to the Victory in the ultimate match, could not disturb them, and their triumph will be remembered as one of the A-League’s most impressive ever.

    Their off-season has seen a similar sense of slow, steady progress, re-signing their stars, remaining granite-still as clubs have flurried around them. Consistency is the key to unlocking a dynasty, and Sydney have been nothing if not consistent.

    Alex Brosque Sydney FC A-League Grand Final 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    Wellington Phoenix: The Hermit
    Answers to existential questions are rarely found in a crowd. Only in solitude, out of reach of the clanging bombardments of the world, can the inner voice be heard. Even the Hermit’s lamp, faintly held aloft, cannot illuminate the inky recesses within.

    The Phoenix have, for so long, existed in an odd limbo – not quite Oceania, not quite Asia, the A-League’s appendix that doesn’t really warrant excision, yet one that has had so little tangible effect. After preparing lavishly in anticipation for last season, bringing in Gui Finkler and Kosta Barbarouses, lofty expectations fell flat.

    Manager Ernie Merrick left the club, Roly Bonevacia and Barbarouses have both made tracks in the off-season, but Serbian striker Andrija Kaludjerović has been recruited, along with Dario Vidosic and Scott Galloway.

    A new manager in Darije Kalezic, a refreshed club logo; perhaps the Nix are coming back in from the cold. Another season of finals-less football, however, and they may wander silently back out into the wilderness again.

    Western Sydney Wanderers: Wheel of Fortune
    Spinning somewhere up there, hidden from mortal view, shining with a brilliance that would blind us to look at, the Wheel of Fortune sits beyond our control. Its workings, precisely marked with symbols and cycles inscribed clearly around its margins, cannot be understood; only the results of these workings are visible.

    Somewhere we are all placed on the Wheel. Those at the top – though they don’t know it – will tumble down as it turns. Those at the bottom, in turn, are hoisted up into the sun.

    Perhaps Tony Popovic, eternal squad tinkerer, cerebral touchline presence, scribbler of obscure notes, has some angle from which to view the wheel that makes sense of things. Perhaps not.

    The Wanderers’ fluctuating form over the last few seasons implies the latter, and the hit-and-miss recruitment and tactics have only clouded the issue. Nico Martinez and Terry Antonis – two of last season’s positives – have both returned to their parent clubs, but a host of encouraging signings – Roly Bonevacia, Josh Risdon and Spaniard Oriel Riera – have arrived.

    The Wheel of Fortune doesn’t just imply change; it promises it, and as things stand, it seems the Wanderers are poised to improve on last season’s lacklustre turn.

    Still, one must be wary – and Wanderers fans no doubt remain so – of certainty when it comes to the Wheel; lean on it too trustingly, and you may find yourself tumbling around to the other side.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 23rd 2017 @ 9:55am
      At work said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Consistency will be key for Sydney backing up our success firm last year.
      I think we’ve done very well in recruitment by keeping Ninkovic on board and replacing Holosko with Mierzerjewski who looks quality and Sydney have great faith in him, as evidenced by him being offered a 3yr contract. Hopefully Wilkshire stays fit and fires from right back.
      ACL will present a challenge, so we’ll be reliant on an injury free season from our starters, as we have less depth compared to last season.

      Sydney FC should finish as Premiers again.

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 7:33pm
        Josh said | August 23rd 2017 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

        Not with ACL to deal with, unless they bomb out early.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 23rd 2017 @ 9:58pm
          At work said | August 23rd 2017 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

          If we had to focus on one this season I’d prefer we give most focus to ACL (over the A League), considering what was achieved last season.

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:14pm
        Arto said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

        Whether we finish as Premiers will depend upon our start to the season & thus far I’m encouraged by that so hopefully we are undefeated & have at least 10pts by Rnd 6 and then I’ll be more confident in your prediction – we can’t be trying to take the majority of points from Februrary onwards as history has shown how hard that is (even for the record-breaking team we have!).

        Whilst I think we are one of the Top 3 teams in the League quite easily, being the Premiers in 2017-18 will be more difficult than last season, I reckon – not least due to said ACL participation…

    • Roar Rookie

      August 23rd 2017 @ 10:00am
      At work said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:00am | ! Report

      I sense we’ll see great improvement from Newcastle and a possible finals spot, good recruitment and having Ernie on board should steady that ship.

      Wanderers really are like a wheel of fortune, who knows what Popas new squad is going to produce…

    • August 23rd 2017 @ 1:23pm
      R King said | August 23rd 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      It was an amusing read that’s for sure, hopefully as the season gets closer and squads are finalised someone will put together a serious look at each club.

      Without looking at any of the lists so far this is how I see it.

      I expect much of the same as last season [boring], Sydney to dominate, Victory to chase hard [the blow hards] WSW will talk the talk and realise they are playing second fiddle in the East Coast capitol while City will find away to finish behind the top 4 or 5, Brisbane will once again produce some good stuff but flop in games they should win, Perth as always will battle hard, win some big games and lose the unlosable Newcastle, oh dear what a disappointment they are. Everyone is told that the Jets are in a football heart land, yet they can’t seem to keep it together for a whole season, sad really. CCM are there to make up the numbers as are Wellington.

      Which leaves us the REDS, what a nightmare club to follow. But wait, there’s more. This time round they have gone for a ‘little known’ German as the man to lead them to the ‘holy grail’ and with a complete revamp of that Championship team. Only Issy and Tarek are left from that squad. The club has been ruthless, some say callous in dealing with their Spanish/South American contingent, most of whom are now gone [Only 1 FFA Cup, a Championship and the Premiership in 3 years] Not sure if many would consider that experiment a success or not. But lets not look back in anger, lets look to this upcoming season. Mostly unknown O/S players, which is good because low expectations can only improve as the season goes on and most likely every other club and their supporters will talk them down and hardly rate them at all, which is a good thing as we point to the scoreboard at the end of each game. We have come to expect to be ridiculed, in fact any football side west of the Great Divide, don’t rate as a serious club to most on the East Coast. We are only included in the comp because the EFFA want to call it a national competition and because this great land mass is one country we are accepted by default.

      Hopefully now the burley has been cast upon the waters the sharks below will come looking for the baited hooks.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 23rd 2017 @ 3:48pm
        At work said | August 23rd 2017 @ 3:48pm | ! Report

        Yes I’ll bite R King; it is disapointing that Australia is so large, it would be much more convenient if we could split into 2 separate countries east and west.
        That way the A League would only encompass teams from Qld, NSW & Vic. 🙂

        But I digress, I don’t mind AU, they’re one of my ‘2nd favourite teams’. Was it because of the style of play, who knows but losing all that Spanish style may relegate them from my support. I’d say that 3 yr span was quite successful in terms of what you won, you should be happy. But from here it appears you’re starting all over again, good luck for the pI$$ants 🙂

        • August 24th 2017 @ 12:25pm
          chris said | August 24th 2017 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

          Will be interesting to see how AU go this season. I also have a soft spot for AU even though Im SFC . I like the way they play and losing the Spanish influence may change that. Looking forward to seeing what they have this season : )

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 10:42pm
        Arto said | August 23rd 2017 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

        Throw a blanket over all those below the Top 3 (SFC, MV & WSW in that order after tonight’s FFA Cup result). The Premiership will go down to the wire and won’t be decided until the last Rnd, I reckon – AU are definitely my Smokey for this season (especially after tonight’s game), but CCM & NJ could also being playing in April so some teams are definitely going to disappoint. My two leading candidates for those teams are BR & PG…

    • Roar Guru

      August 23rd 2017 @ 1:51pm
      Griffo said | August 23rd 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

      After so many pre-seasons of hope and optimism, a Jets fan can be forgiven for taking a wait-and-see attitude with any predictions.

      Although the looming trial against Sydney FC at Magic Park will go some way of showing what this latest rebuild may offer before the serious points business gets underway.

      Although thus far we have a better attacking mindset, a close look at the defence is still needed. Improve both of those consistently across the season and we could see some finals action

      Not to mention still waiting on recruiting a better creative outlet in midfield, and possibly another striker.

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 3:00pm
        Midfielder said | August 23rd 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

        Hope you are right G … love the Jest to have a good year…

        • Roar Guru

          August 23rd 2017 @ 4:21pm
          Griffo said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:21pm | ! Report

          Thanks Mid, I know that well wish would hurt a tad 😉

          I thought Okon would be a good coach for us a few years back. I think he’s going to make you guys great again.

          Hopefully we don’t miss out on the finals because of that though :mrgreen:

      • August 23rd 2017 @ 3:32pm
        R King said | August 23rd 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

        We thought you guys were going to pick up Carrusca for your creative midfielder? well that’s the story going around in Adelaide.

        • Roar Guru

          August 23rd 2017 @ 4:19pm
          Griffo said | August 23rd 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

          I thought that was a possibility, too. Been very quiet on that front after the South American first choice striker marquee could not be signed.

          I thought he would be a good pickup and not in that great a decline…but we signed a young defender instead.

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