Just like last year, as the conclusion to the 2011/12 season approaches, we’re faced with an enticing football match to put the full stop at the end of a torturous 12 months for the game in Australia.
Talking points and controversy can be good – they are the lifeblood of sport after all – but with the game’s future looking more tenuous then ever, it is hard to shake a sense of dread.
In a piece I wrote for The Roar before last season’s grand final I argued that the prospect of a Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners clash was far from “a bad finale for a competition that appears to be stuttering its way towards a significant crisis.”
At the time it was Brisbane who’s future was in jeopardy.
While the defending champions are now safe, Gold Coast United has joined North Queensland Fury on the scrap heap and 2008 champions the Newcastle Jets may well be on their way to joining them.
Last season was also overshadowed by a sense of apathy after the season kicked off during the AFL and NRL campaigns, and while that issue was rectified, this season has brought its own tribulations.
The dream of a western Sydney club in the A-League is being realised, but as a rush job funded by a football federation fast running out of cash.
You can add to that the jeopardising of player rights and the battle of egos between some of Australia’s most powerful billionaires and the FFA, which is pulling the game’s reputation down with it.
In other words it’s hard to find the positive and focus on a game between two diverse teams in Brisbane and Perth Glory.
FFA are taking a massive gamble in western Sydney, and it’s one that must pay off if the game is to have any chance of avoiding finding itself in a similar position 12 months from now.
It’s hard to imagine this grand final reaching the dramatic standards of its most recent predecessor, but at least we can hope the horrors of recent weeks won’t be repeated.
Either way football needs another great occasion on Sunday to distract it from the growing sense of disheartenment as the A-League approaches what could be a long and hard winter break.