The quality of the A-League grand final could be a cause for concern

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert


156 Have your say

    The A-League grand final produced one the best atmospheres seen anywhere in Australian sport, but did the quality of football match the occasion?

    One of the most memorable moments of a gripping title decider came when Sydney FC star Milos Ninkovic’s reacted to a thumping challenge from Melbourne Victory midfielder Leigh Broxham.

    Ninkovic tends to let his football do the talking, so when he squared up to Victory skipper Carl Valeri just after the half-hour mark – Ninkovic hadn’t even fingered the right culprit – it sparked an all-in melee that suggested Victory’s niggling tactics were getting on Sydney FC’s nerves.

    There were five yellow cards handed out in the first half alone – eleven in total – and when my Dad rang me at full-time after watching the game on TV, he mentioned he’d never seen a game with so many cautions handed out.

    I found that a noteworthy remark, because although I played football throughout my childhood, my Dad is more of a casual observer of the sport.

    And when we’re broadcasting the game to a massive domestic TV audience – some of whom don’t tune into the A-League every week – it’s worth asking whether Sunday’s grand final showcased the very best of the A-League.

    The question was put to me on my Facebook page by lawyer and radio broadcaster Ezequiel Trumper during the week. Trumper is an often outspoken critic of the A-League, and he wrote of the title decider, “at times it felt like I was watching a rugby league game with a round ball”.

    Not everyone is enamoured with Trumper’s strident tone, but I appreciated his willingness to kick-start a discussion around the style of football on display in the A-League.

    And it got me wondering, is it a style we’re happy to have broadcast to some 150 other countries around the world?

    I personally viewed the match as a typically bruising affair between two teams desperate to avoid defeat in the biggest game of the season, although it wasn’t until I watched a replay that I realised quite how many fouls were committed on the night.

    Watching from inside the stadium, it didn’t feel like the game was any more ill-tempered than usual – although it was certainly stop-start – and the sheer intensity of the occasion kept the crowd on the edge of their seats, even if the standard of football failed to satisfy the purists.

    Sydney FC fans Football A-League Grand Final 2017

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    This sort of navel-gazing is probably best left to the AFL, whose baffling trip to Shanghai has already produced some truly embarrassing media coverage.

    We’ll leave it to the supposed big guns of Aussie sport to battle it out for the hearts and minds of the mystified Shanghainese, however the question remains – does the A-League produce the sort of football we’re looking for?

    Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if former Argentine national team legend Gabriel Batistuta can enhance the competition, with the once free-scoring Fiorentina striker linked with a move to Adelaide United to take over from the departing Guillermo Amor.

    Batistuta earned his coaching licence years ago in Argentina, yet he’s never coached anywhere, and he’s famously on record as saying he never even liked football in the first place, calling it “only my job”.

    It seems he’s in need of a job now, and having lived for a couple of years in Perth following his retirement, Batistuta is at least familiar with the country.

    Yet a sceptic would surely question how a man with no coaching experience is automatically supposed to improve Adelaide United’s fortunes.

    That’s the beauty of football though. There’s no one way to play a game enjoyed from Adelaide to Shanghai, and pretty much everywhere in between.

    I thought the A-League grand final was predictably tough, but immensely enjoyable.

    But was that the case? Or was the standard of football not befitting of the occasion?

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (156)

    • May 12th 2017 @ 7:37am
      Swanny said | May 12th 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report


      Has Sydney Fc and Ryan Grant in particular the worst team in regards to foul play all season . So when Melbourne victory dished it back to them they couldn’t take it and reacted like princesses .
      Yeah it was ugly but most grand finals and afl
      And nrl are ugly also

      Personally I loved it . It was gripping tension filled game with electric atmosphere at the ground . In the end the best team all season won the game .

      • May 13th 2017 @ 3:57am
        Arto said | May 13th 2017 @ 3:57am | ! Report

        You might want to do a bit more research before submitting such a comment. Sydney FC is 3rd on the list of most fouls committed this season – average 16.3 per game, but behind both Melbourne clubs and only marginally above the mean of approximately 15.3 per game.

        Additionally, in Gillett’s noble effort to let the game flow and remain 11-a-side, he neglected the obvious that MV played to foul as often as they could get away with in order to disrupt Sydney’s rhythm and they succeeded for the majority of the game in that regard.

    • May 12th 2017 @ 7:44am
      Jeff Dustby said | May 12th 2017 @ 7:44am | ! Report

      Nemesis – incoming

      • May 12th 2017 @ 8:19am
        Fadida said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:19am | ! Report


        • May 12th 2017 @ 8:25am
          Fadida said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

          But he’ll be spot on when he asks “have you ever watched Barca v Real, United v Liverpool, AC v Inter?”.

          Big games are frequently frenetic, scrappy, foul ridden and lower in quality. The games between the EPL teams especially are often really poor, simply because the intensity is so high.

          I loved the final

          • May 12th 2017 @ 8:41am
            Michael said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

            Yep, my thoughts exactly. The last World Cup final was hardly a technical classic but gee it was enthralling.

            • May 12th 2017 @ 9:19am
              jamesb said | May 12th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

              World Cup final 2010 between Spain v Netherlands was ugly.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 10:39am
                AGO74 said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

                The only exception to all of the comments was the recent Barca/Real match which Messi won for Barca with last kick of match (noting that it was not a final – but just about given the stakes at play with championship ramifications). That match was a thing of beauty. Otherwise, I agree that finals – Champions League, World Cup are all tense, tight and often bruising.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 10:45am
                punter said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

                That game was one of the best games of football I have ever seen (recent Barca v Real). There was a bit of thuggery in Ramos’s tackle on Messi, but what a great game, though being a huge Real fan, the TV went blank as soon as Messi scored that last minute winner.

              • May 12th 2017 @ 11:37am
                AGO74 said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

                Yeah Ramos’ red card tackle was somewhat “robust”!!

      • May 12th 2017 @ 11:03am
        Ian said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Kevin/Jeff Pat Malone Casper Dustby reads another football article and starts thinking about you know who again.
        How predictably sad.

    • May 12th 2017 @ 7:51am
      Chris said | May 12th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      I think most people would recognise that finals aren’t the prettiest of games. That is more than made up by the sheer tension and intensity which we got in spades.

      • May 12th 2017 @ 8:21am
        pauly said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        The FVS guys summed it up perfectly, “not a great game, but a great contest.”

        • Columnist

          May 12th 2017 @ 10:45am
          Mike Tuckerman said | May 12th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

          I called it a “grand final for the ages” on Monday, which was the line that prompted Ezequiel Trumper to offer up his personal appraisal. I wasn’t referring to the quality of football when I wrote it, but rather the intensity.

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2017 @ 11:12am
            Ben of Phnom Penh said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

            As a neutral it was the intensity that had me glued to the box.

            Incidentally, a tip of the propellor beanie to ref’s that can hold these contests together. Jarred Gillet deserves a fair bit of praise for managing a game whose fuse was lit from the kick-off.

            As Tyrion Lannister stated, “I found it surprisingly beautiful, in a brutal, horribly uncomfortable sort of way.”

            • May 12th 2017 @ 12:12pm
              punter said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

              Thanks Ben, says it all!!!! Absolutely brilliant.

              As Tyrion Lannister stated, “I found it surprisingly beautiful, in a brutal, horribly uncomfortable sort of way.”

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2017 @ 1:12pm
            Griffo said | May 12th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            That is a fairly appropriate line – should one of the teams quickly have gone up 3-0 and put in a low defensive block for the remainder of the game, the GF may not have been looked on favourably.

            The GF had the suspense and intensity – it can’t all be slick passing, backheel flair, and high completion percentages, with a couple of bicycle kick goals thrown in – although Berisha’s goal was good individually and technically, I thought.

            MV were certainly at every ball, not letting the 50/50 and second ball go without a contest for the entire match, nor were Sydney allowed the space that perhaps they have enjoyed a little too much of during the season.

            If that was the sort of game seen every match of every round for the entire season, that may be a different story with regards to the professional games technical and tactical standards.

            As a one-off game, winner takes the dunny seat, then perhaps there were other aspects of the game that comes into play rather than ‘quality’.

            Not that I wouldn’t say no to that game and the final result, with added ‘quality’ 😉

        • May 12th 2017 @ 11:12am
          Chris said | May 12th 2017 @ 11:12am | ! Report

          Anyone whos has played in a GF (even at grassroots level) knows that not a huge amount of football is played. Its a blur, flashes of brilliance, flying tackles and then the pain and ecstasy of it all. Just like last Sundays game.

          • Roar Guru

            May 12th 2017 @ 12:49pm
            Chris Kettlewell said | May 12th 2017 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            And that’s exaggerated even more when the GF is played between two teams that have a real rivalry and don’t like each other that much to begin with.

        • Roar Guru

          May 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          Kaks said | May 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Geese someone gets it! I nearly pulled my hair out debating this on the last thread about the GF.

        • Roar Guru

          May 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          Kaks said | May 12th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          Geese someone gets it! I nearly pulled my hair out debating this on the last thread about the GF.

    • May 12th 2017 @ 8:33am
      Johnno said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Who just wants to watch beautiful wimpy non contact style of soccer. I like the physical brusing style of soccer better. These games used to be far more common in the past until FIFA cracked down on rough style play and thug play. I like Eric Cantona’s and Vinnie Jones and Van Bommel’s tyle of play, physical football and intimidating. Kevin Muscat and Danny Diato to. Why does football have to be filled with epic passing and goals and shots on goals, rough house style of football is good. I used to enjoy watching Diego Maradonna fouled alot and tackled from behind and also watching him give it alot to to other players. Pele was no angel either he dished out the rough stuff to. Roy Keane as well was good to watch. Bad boys are good football, im sick of just watching Barcelona style suchi football, give me some rough and tough steak and chips style of football to. The A-League GF was rough and tough.

      • May 12th 2017 @ 7:43pm
        Johnno said | May 12th 2017 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

        This is the imposter johnno

    • May 12th 2017 @ 8:39am
      70s Mo said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Such a gripping contest but the quality was a bit off. It happens in just about every final in every sport. I think a gripping contest trumps a quality match any day of the week. Only sports nerds appreciate quality- but millions more get off on the drama.
      (PS can you really use the plural of atmosphere like that?)

    • May 12th 2017 @ 8:41am
      70s Mo said | May 12th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

      Johnno- the melee was just about the highlight of the game – should be more of it