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

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By , 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.