Winners and losers from A-League season eight

Vince Rugari Columnist

By Vince Rugari, Vince Rugari is a Roar Expert

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    The January transfer window will be a busy one for the Australian coach. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    The football gods sometimes have a way of making themselves known when you least expect them. Perhaps this was why the Western Sydney Wanderers’ fairytale did not have the storybook conclusion.

    It is almost fitting the A-League new boys were not allowed to have it all their own way in their debut season, with the Central Coast Mariners instead seizing the opportunity to bury their own grand final demons.

    Now Wanderers players, coaches and fans have all been handed a stark reminder – success doesn’t come that easy.

    That’s how it should be. You need the heartbreak and pain first so that the good times taste sweeter. No doubt the city of Gosford can vouch for that now.

    To have come so far in such a short amount of time, however, is still a success in itself, and there is no doubt the rise of Western Sydney was the highlight of season 2013-12.

    There were others. Alessandro Del Piero, for one.

    But for some, the sooner version eight of the A-League is wiped from the memory banks, the better. Let’s look back.



    This is number one with a bullet.

    The A-League itself is almost unrecognisable to the competition that, this time last year, was marred by ugly dramas at Gold Coast United and Newcastle Jets.

    One season later and all the key metrics are up. It’s never looked this good, and we can actually see the growth before our eyes.

    It’s exciting, and it’s what season eight will be remembered for.

    Melbourne Victory

    Another transformation – this one looked just as unlikely. When Jim Magilton was moved on and Harry Kewell left the country, Victory looked stuffed.

    Enter Ange Postecoglou. The successful pursuit of his signature now has the A-League’s biggest club poised for long-term success.

    Marco Rojas is leaving but you can count on Ange to make sure someone fills his shoes, and that Melbourne Victory will be title challengers next time around.

    Mike Mulvey

    He’s had his critics but the Brisbane Roar manager is still standing and deserves credit for that.

    Whether the team’s emergence from the doldrums is all because of him or because the two-time champions suddenly decided to pull their collective fingers out is not clear.

    But in 12 months he went from a stepping stone gig in the W-League to a caretaker position at the reigning champions, and turned that into a two-year contract and the opportunity of his career.

    If he’s capable, he can turn Brisbane into a powerhouse again.

    Sydney FC

    Relevant at long last, and thanks to one man. Or rather, thanks to the men who brought that one man, Alessandro Del Piero, to Australia.

    That was a masterstroke that has positioned the Sky Blues as the LA Galaxy of the A-League. You’re doing something right when cheap Sydney knockoff jerseys start popping up across the globe.

    But you’ve only truly made it when there’s silverware in the cabinet. That’s next on the agenda.

    Central Coast Mariners

    Central Coast can give up the charade. The ghosts have been banished – they’ve finally won a toilet seat of their own and in extraordinary circumstances to boot.

    They deserve it – the A-League has never seen such a committed, professional club. The celebration of the grand final win said one thing, though – relief, because they had finally won the only trophy that really matters.

    Now that it’s done they can rip one star off their chest and move on.


    Ricki Herbert

    The unfortunate victim of a misguided decision of the Wellington Phoenix ownership to suddenly become the Barcelona of the Pacific.

    He is probably the best coach New Zealand has ever produced and maybe his time at the Phoenix was up, but he didn’t deserve to go in those circumstances and shouldn’t have had to deal with meddling from upstairs.

    The Adelaide public

    What has Adelaide United become? Once the darling of Australian football, the Reds are now lurching from crisis to embarrassment and back again with worryingly low levels of self-awareness.

    Players are agitated, fans are restless and the owners need to change the way they do their business if it’s all going to be reversed.

    The Gold Coast United diaspora

    At first this looked like the season that Clive Palmer’s generation of young guns would take the A-League by storm. After all, there was a reason Gold Coast’s carcass was so furiously picked apart last year.

    Yet none of the GCU refugees have kicked on.

    Ben Halloran and James Brown had rough seasons, Daniel Bowles has fallen off the radar in Adelaide and Chris Harold didn’t play anywhere near as often as he should have in Perth.

    Only Zac Anderson has made strides, but even he’s not starting yet. There’s Adama Traore, too, who is probably the best left-back in the country – but it’ll take a fair bit of paper-shuffling before we see him in green and gold.

    Newcastle Jets

    Gary van Egmond’s revolution hasn’t happened and the Newcastle Herald was at pains to point this out when the season wrapped up.

    The Jets are still maddeningly inconsistent. The pieces are there, for sure, but in practice Newcastle were not up to scratch this term and deserved to finish where they did.

    A bad start to the next campaign would put ‘Dutchy’ under immense scrutiny.

    Melbourne Heart

    Another side that simply couldn’t string anything good together. John Aloisi has already wielded the axe but it was perhaps 12 months too late, because the red and whites went backwards in their third season in the competition.

    The next one has to be pitch perfect for this club to actually start going anywhere.

    Vince Rugari
    Vince Rugari

    Vince Rugari is an Adelaide-born journalist who cut his teeth on the sporting graveyard of the Gold Coast. He fancies the round ball and the Sherrin, and used to be a handy leg-spin bowler before injury curtailed a baggy green push. A Port Adelaide fan by birth, he now is a sports reporter for Australian Associate Press

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • April 24th 2013 @ 7:26am
      Football United said | April 24th 2013 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      “only trophy that really matters.” “Now that it’s done they can rip one star off their chest” How very ridiculous. Maybe for you, but i know the Central Coast community and players absolutely cherished those two premiers plate’s, just as Western Sydney fans are more than ecstatic at taking out the league. You can’t say after seeing the celebration’s in Newcastle that League was less important to them. I would have no problem seeing a star above West Sydneys badge next season, why does it have to be for GF wins and not for major trophies or even whatever competition the club decides is more valuable?

      As for a response to the article, i don’t see sydney as a winner at all. They have the highest wage bill by far and yet couldn’t even finish in the top half of the table, that to me sounds like a loser. Sure signing stars like ADP, Joel Griffiths, Luca$h and Culina might have had an impact of the field, but it did very little good for them when the rest of the squad played like headless chooks.

      Heart have been exposed as complete losers on and off the pitch. Aloisi has been shown to be completely out of his depth as a manager and tried to blame his failures on everything else. Off the field they only managed to break even after having a fire sale for any player with a bit of talent, some which they can’t repeat next season. Their crowds were again woeful for a 30000 seat stadium with the derby and sydney’s visit bringing all the ADP fans only skewing what their real support looks like, which is small. A move away from the Inner City will need to happen once their sweet heart deal at AAMI is over, it couldn’t hurt actually having a real point of difference from Melbourne Victory other than playing in red and saying they play continental football (which they don’t).

      “Yet none of the GCU refugees have kicked on.” Except Adama Traore who was Victory’s best and most consistent player after Milligan.

      • Columnist

        April 24th 2013 @ 8:08am
        Vince Rugari said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        Re: Traore…d’oh. Amended. Although to be fair I was thinking about Australian kids.

    • April 24th 2013 @ 8:00am
      nearpost said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Arnie, Ange and Poppa have had success because they create teams that do the detail. The Coaching detail has lifted their teams over the years.

      Poppa’s attention to defence and then to counter attacking football, the fitness of his group, the ability to press and win the ball.
      Arnie, has a little more, Defensive structure, but flying full backs, and detailed coaching moves across the park. The detail.

      Ange’s teams were almost infuriating good in Brisbane – their refusal to play the ball into the box at times – simply following the coaching plan.

      Sydney FC: Yes they’ve improved, sort of, but I’m not sure Frankie can do the detail, or his assistants from what the group produced this year. Has Frank’s teams ever been strong on detail, coaching detail or do we just let them play a bit?

      And in the A-League in season 9 it will be the detail that will sort the top three from the pack.

      Interestingly I reckon Ali Edwards with a pre-season under him will have done the detail!

      • April 24th 2013 @ 8:54am
        j binnie said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        Nearpost -Did you watch Bayern this morning. May give you a clue as to from where Tony and Graham have gleaned their tactics, downscaled of course because of the difference in player quality,but successful nevertheless, for their opposition is of that same player standard. jb

    • April 24th 2013 @ 8:24am
      Jaiden Florimo said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Im not convinced about the Brisbane coach. They did come good at the end but had a pretty poor season overall. I’m a big fan of aloisi. He makes me laugh. He doesnt know whats going on but looks great in a suit and a quality haircut. Hope he is back for another couple of years at the Heart who need to find some meaning. Its a club that doesnt mean much at this stage.

      • April 24th 2013 @ 8:59am
        Towser said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        The end Jaiden is all that counts for the Roar. I have faith in MM’s ability so far & willingness to look listen & learn,but still reserve judgement until I see his off season signings & how they turn out.

      • April 24th 2013 @ 9:02am
        j binnie said | April 24th 2013 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Jaiden – Let’s give the Brisbane coach a chance. There is little doubt he inherited a “poisoned chalice” and obviously had things to overcome, things that had very little to do with what goes on ,on the field. His squad had been decimated,some outstandingly horrible recruitment had taken place,he was relatively in-experienced as a coach of a championship winning team, and for 13 or so weeks had to struggle with what he had.
        The real judgement time will come in the next 12 months,and for the good of the progress the club has made in crowd participation it can only be hoped that he will succeed,if not, we will be back on the “roller coaster ” of 3 seasons ago. jb

        • April 24th 2013 @ 3:19pm
          tezza said | April 24th 2013 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

          jbinnie, how was the squad decimated,apart from the departure of Eric Partuulu the rest of the players were from the premiership side.Visconte and Fitzgerald were let go and ended up in Grand Final sides and as for the horrible recruitment I beleive Mr Mulvey was responsible for some of that as well.I am not convinced that he has turned the roar around yet but I hope he can for the sake of a great football side and if he does I will be the first to say well done.

          • April 24th 2013 @ 4:17pm
            j binnie said | April 24th 2013 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            tezza – The squad Mulvey inherited from Ange & Rado had been decimated from that first team that won the “original” grand final against CCM, the one widely recognised by most as the best Roar team of the HAL period of 8 years.. Gone from the squad since those days have been Susak,Paartalu,Mckay,Barbarrouses,Soleranzo,Mundy,Adnan,De Vere, & of course Smith who has been out for a season necessitating the signing of Jade North. Now if you care to look at the replacements for those players we had Murdocca & Henrique promoted from the bench ( 1st GF) for season 2,but who are now back on the bench with the latest squad.Adnan was signed to replace De Vere but he did not stay,and 2 loan players who are of doubtful long term tenure joined this year. I would say the 2011 side was ‘decimated”, but had to put my tongue in my cheek when you nominated Visconte and Fitzgerald as moving to GF sides, did you mean the subs bench of those clubs?????
            Now to your mention of “horrible recruitment” ,you are right ,I should have said “lack of good” recruitment,and that would have been more accurate.That brings me the point of our discussion. I did not say MM was the finished article but he has been given a 2 year contract by the owners,so we, the fans are going to have to wait to see if he has what it takes. Me??? I have an open mind.jb

          • April 24th 2013 @ 5:09pm
            Ian said | April 24th 2013 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

            i wouldn’t call Nijland horrible. an assessment may be he didn’t click as he seemed to have technical ability. gee MM only joined December 2012. so apart from nijland he got north and lustica. north and lustica went ok in my book, but lustica is just on loan at the moment. he also did not bring in Takahashi and Do, two visa spots taken up on youth players if i’m right and they played a few minutes. Rado did that one, as much as i like the guy. MM did pretty well in the period of time he had and we still finished 5th and made the 2nd last week.

            • April 24th 2013 @ 8:40pm
              j binnie said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

              Ian. You are taking the wrong meaning from the word ‘horrible” it was meant to describe the recruitment that WASN’T done to recruit players,not only to replace the players who had left, but to IMPROVE the squad.
              You will see it explaine,and changed, in my answer to “tezza”. jb

              • April 26th 2013 @ 9:33am
                Ian said | April 26th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

                All good Jb. My reply was more at Tezza, (as my comment is indented above from his comment but appears under yours) as he commented Mulvey was responsible for some of that horrible recruitment. As the only players that came on board after MM started were Nijland, North and Lustica but i don’t consider any of them bad signings in the a) lack of recruitment category that you mention and b) 2 visa spots on youth players that barely made the team

    • Roar Guru

      April 24th 2013 @ 8:37am
      TomC said | April 24th 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Apart from ‘one trophy that really matters’ I really enjoyed this article.

      Nice one Vince.

      Feels like the fans of football in Western Sydney should be pretty high up on the list of winners, though.

      • April 24th 2013 @ 11:03am
        Football United said | April 24th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        yeah surely you know WESTERN SYDNEY, the team that won the league and became the story of 2012-2013 would be at least somewhat a winner

    • April 24th 2013 @ 9:01am
      c said | April 24th 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      the owners need to change FULL STOP

    • Roar Guru

      April 24th 2013 @ 10:57am
      Fussball ist unser leben said | April 24th 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      Nice summary Vince.

      But as an MVFC fan, I cannot agree with “none of the GCU refugees have kicked on”.

      Until he got hacked by Franjic & injured his ankle so badly he missed the final part of the season, Adama Traora was, for me, the best player at MVFC. Even better than Marco Rojas, who won the Johnny Warren Medal. In fact, Adama may still win the Victory Medal for best player at MVFC.

      I also thought other ex-GCU lads: Halloran, Lustica, Zac Anderson, Golgol Mebrahtu, Barker-Daish, Chris Harold – all showed glimpses of form that bode well for a big 2013/14 season.

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