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Never mind the kick-offs, here's the A-League finals

Fornaroli has been a consistent threat for Melbourne City. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)
Expert
7th April, 2016
32
1470 Reads

Football fans, yours truly included, can often be guilty of finding fault when it is better to focus on the positives.

The furour over the A-League’s final round this weekend, and whether or not we should emulate European leagues’ simultaneous kick-off times, is a perfect example.

This weekend, there are numerous possible scenarios which will ultimately determine which of Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar, Adelaide United and Western Sydney claim the premiership.

The arguments for simultaneous kick-off times are valid – including suspense-filled final rounds and fairness – however they’ve only been brought up a week leading into this weekend’s fixtures. Too late to enforce any change.

There is little to be done about the current schedule, Fox Sports – rightly, as the A-League’s broadcaster – has control over kick-off times. But it is an issue that should be raised in the next rounds of TV negotiations.

A similar idea to the Bundesliga’s Konferenz, where Sky Sports offer the viewer the choice to focus on individual high-profile games or watch a combined highlights channel, would be nice. Konferenz is great when you’re in the pub and just want to see the juicy goal action, but can get annoying if you’re keen to really soak in a full tactical battle.

Navigating three different time zones, which is a possibility in A-League fixturing, also poses a roadblock in moving towards the model.

Though in the end, the A-League is all about the finals. It seems a bit pointless to drum up this debate when we would still have a finals system awaiting anyway. It would feel anti-climactic.

Now, if we were to scrap finals, it would be a no-brainer.

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Is this focus on the A-League schedule perhaps a sign that Australians are starting to take the premiership more seriously? If this interest grows, it will grow harder and harder for the FFA to maintain their steadfast belief in the finals system.

Regardless, the issue is not one for this week, it is one for the off-season. Instead, fans should be revelling in the fact that a premiership race has gone down to the last weekend.

Only once previously has there been four teams in the running for the A-League premiership in the final round – back in 2009-10 when Central Coast beat off competition from the Newcastle Jets, Sydney FC and Queensland Roar.

And even without simultaneous kick-offs, there is still plenty of drama. Adelaide United and Melbourne City will clash on Friday, with a victor, if there is one, nervously taking a rest day and settling down to see if Melbourne Victory can topple Brisbane Roar.

It will still be exciting for City fans, if they beat Adelaide, to watch whether their more illustrious neighbours can do them a favour and give them a chance at the title.

In turn, the Wanderers will likely still have the opportunity to finish top two even if Brisbane do beat the Victory. They could be battling Perth Glory for that honour if results go both teams’ way.

But in this competition, for now and perhaps forever, finals rule over all else, and it will be intriguing to see whether a team outside the top two can make the grand final – which would be only the third time in the A-League.

The Mariners came from third in the inaugural A-League season, while Perth Glory also came from third in 2011-12. Neither team won the decider however, meaning your chances of winning a championship when finishing outside the top two is statistically minimal.

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Yet this season we have seen a superior level of competitiveness than any other A-League campaign. All teams in finals contention, regardless of where they finish, have legitimate dreams of lifting the toilet seat.

Melbourne City may finish as low as fifth, but you wouldn’t put it past Bruno Fornaroli, Aaron Mooy and Harry Novillo to score the most goals in the finals campaign on their way to the grand final.

Meanwhile, Perth Glory could finish as low as sixth but have been on a magnificent run. Ten wins from their last 11 have them in hot form leading into the finals, after only cracking the top six for the first time in Round 22.

Kenny Lowe, take a bow.

After the salary cap woes of the last season, and the rough start to this campaign, Lowe has done a fantastic job clawing Perth back into relevancy. A championship would provide Australian football with yet another uplifting story.

Similarly, how good would a premiership-championship double be for the Brisbane Roar? Written off by many due to the continued off-field drama enveloping the club, which seemed to unsettle the players last season, the Roar have been impressive under John Aloisi.

Still prone to an odd collapse here or there however, it wouldn’t surprise if they won the premiership but faltered in the finals.

For me, the two standout contenders for taking out the grand final are Adelaide United and Perth Glory. Ten wins in 11 says it all for Perth, while Adelaide have lost just one game in 18.

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Consistency and momentum are crucial, and Melbourne City, Brisbane Roar and Western Sydney have been guilty of bizarre capitulations in recent months.

Melbourne Victory are probably the dark horse in the finals series, having won just three of their last ten games. Who would have called the Victory a dark horse at the start of the year?

The on-field action has never been dull in the A-League this season, and the same will be said following this weekend, regardless of the kick-off times. With less than a month to go before a long off-season, savour it while you can.