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A round-up of the A-League ins and outs so far

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert


45 Have your say

    There is very little time to rest, for the A-League to seek merciful solace in the post-season tranquillity. Almost immediately a new machine grinds into gear, churning and spluttering, as players spin the revolving door into a blur.

    A-League clubs, some more than others, have permeable membranes in the off-season, and mass clear-outs of the playing staff occur all around the league.

    It’s been only a week since Sydney FC won the title, but already there has been a flurry of movement, with clubs releasing updated rosters as they snatch eagerly for the coveted available. Here’s the scene as it stands.

    Sydney have been quick to announce the retention of almost all of the key facets of their historic campaign, with Milos Ninkovic, Bobo, and Jordy Buijs having re-signed.

    It looks likely that Filip Holosko will depart, as Ninkovic has assumed his marquee spot, and so he will join Bernie Ibini in leaving, with previously on-loan Ibini joining the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS.

    All of these returning assets have bolstered hopes of a storming assault on the Asian Champions League next season, as well as offering compelling evidence of the growing ability of A-League teams to retain their best players.

    Defeated finalists Melbourne Victory announced their out-going players last week, with Alan Baro, Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Nick Ansell the most notable, all of them joining the Jets-bound Daniel Georgievski on their way out of the club.

    Significant losses, then, have been incurred at the centre-back position, and the club have addressed this by signing Rhys Williams from Perth, and Thomas Deng – a former Victory youth product – has been brought back to the club from PSV Eindhoven.

    A deficit instantly made up, and now the focus for Victory turns to doing everything they can to retain James Troisi.

    Speaking of Perth, Williams isn’t the only departure. Josh Risdon, Dino Djulbic and Nebojša Marinkovic are the other noteworthy players leaving, Risdon in particular, as he heads to Western Sydney.

    Joel Chianese and, crucially, Diego Castro, are among the re-signed players, as well as goalkeeper Liam Reddy. Jacob Poscoliero has also been signed from Central Coast.

    However, the loss of Williams – and in spite of the fact he was less utilised this season than perhaps might have been expected – leaves a gap in a Perth defence that’s already holier than the Shroud of Turin. If another season of kamikaze football is to be avoided, then recruitment in this area must start soon.

    The Newcastle Jets have been swiftly striding forth into what they hope is a future that’s significantly brighter than their dull, wooden-spooned present.

    Mark Jones was sacked in late April, and Ernie Merrick – who himself was let go by Wellington Phoenix earlier in the 2016-17 season – has taken over the reigns, and along with the aforementioned Georgievski, has welcomed Kiwi keeper Glen Moss and striker Roy O’Donovan to the club.

    Merrick has also ushered out a great number of players, something of a blood-letting, with Andrew Hoole – one of the Jets’ best attackers last season – and eight others let go. Hoole’s value, one must assume, was damaged by the spat he had with management towards the end of the season, and in Andrew Nabbout the Jets still have one of the league’s best offensive weapons.

    The Wanderers and Tony Popovic – a manager who seems to relish the off-season overhaul – have released a huge swathe of first-teamers, with both captain Dimas and vice-captain Mitch Nichols saying their goodbyes.

    Bruno Piñatares and Scott Neville, the latter seemingly bound for Perth, have also left, and Nico Martinez and Terry Antonis – both on loan at the Wanderers in 2016-17 – have returned to their parent clubs. Questions are bubbling up, like a bout of acid reflux, as they do every time the Wanderers tear down the first team, pondering exactly how effective this sort of extreme team-restructuring is.

    Having said that, the sort of meandering mediocrity that lingered throughout the Wanderers’ 2016-17 campaign isn’t really something worth preserving. And, on the other hand, the trio of incoming players – Roly Bonevacia from Wellington, Risdon from Perth and Michael Thwaite from Liang Whowin in the CSL – are all excellent recruits.


    AAP Image/Paul Miller

    For Brisbane, the departures of Thomas Broich and Jamie Maclaren – the former confirmed just before their semi-final, the latter confirmed just yesterday – are the most traumatic losses.

    Maclaren, who was joint-winner of the 2016-17 Golden Boot, has been linked with German club FC Kaiserslautern – along with, as it happens, Brisbane teammate Brandon Borrello – but nothing certain has been established as to his next destination.

    Manuel Arana and a host of others are off contract, but the club is yet to release an updated squad list. Luke DeVere signed a key extension to his contract mid-season, and in youngsters Joe Caletti and Corey Brown, the Roar have a lot to build on in the coming seasons. Manager John Aloisi, who was also mooted as being set to leave at the end of this season, has also extended his stewardship.

    Adelaide have signed Paul Izzo, meaning Eugene Galekovic’s time at the club is surely coming to an end.

    As for the rest, well, Melbourne City are still keeping us all on tenterhooks as to who their marquee manager will be, and are therefore yet to sign any new playing staff.

    Central Coast and Wellington are both yet to sign anyone either, while allowing a great number of players to leave, which will only pour more icy water on their short-term prospects. Paul Okon’s Mariners have lost O’Donovan, Poscoliero and Izzo, and the Phoenix have lost Bonevacia, Jacob Tratt and Shane Smeltz, the latter to Indonesian club Borneo FC.

    The upheaval is colossal, and we’re only a week into things. Such is life in the A-League, and as clubs bicker with the FFA over the financial distribution deal, and the issue of expansion continues to ignite spot-fires around the league, this off-season looks set to be far from tranquil.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (45)

    • May 18th 2017 @ 9:03am
      Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      For Roar Borrello hasn’t gone yet but it may just be a case of waiting for transfer windows to align. And that leaves Roar with 17 contracted players plus Avraam & Caletti both of whom are expected to re-sign, making 19 players on Roars roster for next year so far – plenty of stability still.

      The maximum squad size is 23 with most clubs running at 21 players each year so Roar at best will be signing 3-4 players but crucially they will have to replace Maclaren and compensate for the loss of Broich. No small task but thankfully there’s 4 visa slots available to do it.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 5:40pm
        Roarfan said | May 18th 2017 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

        Great assessment. A very sound basis and with a few good visa players we’ll be a force to be reckoned with next season.

        Some of our youngsters will also grow as they get more game time.

        Surprised to see Crestalli released though. I felt that he showed great promise and maturity and was a certainty to be offered a contract.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 9:29pm
        Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

        If you’ve got 4 Visa spots open, surely BR would be crazy not to use them up with ACL play-off in addition to wanting to get higher than 3rd & reach the GF the goals for the new season? I’m interested to see whether the Bakries will still invest in players… Bit limited With Holman & Oar as marquees, but maybe the ‘Cahill’ marquue can be the new #9??

        • May 19th 2017 @ 8:17pm
          BES said | May 19th 2017 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          I wonder whether Kruse (a Brisbane boy now free on the market) would be approved under the MC rule…..?

          • May 19th 2017 @ 9:07pm
            Arto said | May 19th 2017 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

            That’s the same questin I’ve been putting out there too… I can actually see FFA using Kruse as a poster-boy for the season and hailing his return as a Socceroo still in his prime – hence why I wouldn’t be surprised that they accepted him as a ‘Cahill’ marquee whereas Eduardo, Diamanti, & co were knocked back. FFA’s primary focus seems to be in bringing in ‘new’ fans so Socceroo players have (in FFAs eyes anyway) a better chance of bringing in those ‘new’ to the game…

      • May 19th 2017 @ 8:13pm
        BES said | May 19th 2017 @ 8:13pm | ! Report

        Pretty funny/sad when you compare to the squad size of SV Darmstadt which now includes Jamie Mclaren – no less than 32 registered players…..

      • May 19th 2017 @ 8:15pm
        BES said | May 19th 2017 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

        The truly sad/scary fact tho Waz – yes we have 4 visa slots open, but by default, we are only going to be able to sign up players of lesser quality than Oar and Holman (our Marque players and therefor highest paid) for at least the next year.

        Them’s a frightening reality……

    • May 18th 2017 @ 9:27am
      DH said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      FC Borneo in the Indonesian League!

      Away games in Bali, lovely part of the world, that should be quite the experience for Smeltz and family.

    • May 18th 2017 @ 9:57am
      Franko said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

      Looks like Borrello and Mclaren could both end up at Kaiserslautern, good move I’d have thought.

      Cirio released yesterday, would think he’d be ideal at Mariners or even Wellington.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 10:34am
        Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        Just a reminder on Borrello/Maclaren, the stories about where they might end up came from the same source that said Aloisi was going to Adelaide and Maclaren was going to wanderers. The journo in question is known to just invent stuff for the sake of an article.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 12:32pm
          Nemesis said | May 18th 2017 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          Being reported that Brisbane is keen on Filip Hološko. Depending on his price, I reckon he’d be a good acquisition for any club.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 1:23pm
            Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

            I’m not sure how strong that rumour is but I agree – most clubs would benefit from him. Roars gamble next year is signing 3 possibly 4 visa players and it’s often said they can take a year to settle so taking Holosko would reduce that risk by 25%

            • May 18th 2017 @ 5:43pm
              Roarfan said | May 18th 2017 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

              What about Ben Khalfallah? He might fit in nicely and has plenty to offer for a few more years.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 9:31pm
            Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

            Why would Holosko move to BR? If he’s not going to be a marquee at SFC, why would he go to BR not to be a marquee there (Holman & Oar are their marquees)?
            Which makes me wonder actually if BR tried to re-sign Broich as a ‘Cahill’ marquee and FFA said no?

            • May 18th 2017 @ 10:16pm
              Lionheart said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

              no, I doubt that they tried that

            • May 19th 2017 @ 8:19pm
              BES said | May 19th 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

              I thought the MC rule specified it had to be an Australian??

              • May 19th 2017 @ 9:09pm
                Arto said | May 19th 2017 @ 9:09pm | ! Report

                I don’t know. Maybe that’s been the reason why other Clubs got knocked back? I haven’t heard of that being a specific criteria, but FFA have been glaring in their absence With an explanation as to who qualifies under the ‘Cahill’ marquee rule…

    • May 18th 2017 @ 10:57am
      Square Nostrils said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      For Roar and other clubs, there is an ominous sign for next season, Sydney FC have resigned their key players.
      Roar have lost a few, how about their replaced by better players.
      I was about to say by replacing the leaving players by replacing them utilising the 2 marquees/guest rule, then i realised I’d sure I’d read that the 2 marquees are already taken up by Oar and Holman next season(stand to be corrected if wrong). Seems a strange way of doing business ie marquee in advance if true. IMO their underwhelming as marquees.
      No good harping about the salary cap, it exists at the moment,so that only leaves a Guest player spot to improve the playing roster. Or is there enough quality youth at the Roar coming through?

      • May 18th 2017 @ 11:06am
        Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Roar should be fine. With 4 visa spots open we just need to target the next Broich or Berisha for the front 3 positions and not some over-priced has-been on a million dollars plus.

        One thing we will find out next season is how good Sydneys youth are seeing as they didn’t play them last season; the last time they had to play their youth they finished 7th so don’t count your chickens just yet.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 11:37am
          Square Nostrils said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          “and not some over-priced has-been on a million dollars plus.”

          You mean like Del Piero Waz, a man who put 10,000 on Roars gate a couple of times when they played Sydney FC.
          Now Del Piero was magic, but at the time he was Sydney FC, rather than a Team player for Sydney.
          Roar fans cant have it both ways, complain about crowds not reaching an average of 20,000 plus, but at the same time be unwilling as a club not to have a genuine bums on seats marquee or marquees.
          Or can they, well Sydney FC appear to have heeded the Del Piero lesson, with Scott Barlow stating that they would look at a “Guest player” if Arnie said it fitted in with his team plans.
          Aloisi could do the same, but we dont hear similar utterings to Barlow from the Bakries.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 12:00pm
            Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

            Well I was thinking more of wanderers wasting millions on marquees but SFC failing to reach finals with a marquee was priceless.

            And without the effects of the derby in Sydney Roar average crowds are second only to victory, so if you want to improve Roars average crowd give us a derby please not a waste of space marquee.

            Roars marquees have always been under stated. Whether that’s right or wrong is debatable but that’s what they do.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 11:39am
        Lionheart said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

        Roar finished 24 points, that’s 24, behind Sydney FC this last season, and 7 points behind MV.
        Roar has a massive gap to bridge, as does every other team in the A League.

        • May 18th 2017 @ 12:03pm
          Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

          It doesn’t matter how big the gap is, the plan to bridge it is surely the same – to retain the nucleus of a good squad, and to add three good visa players that start every game.

          The difference between Roar and Sydney is not ability but consistency and discipline which SFC had in spades. But next season they will have to rely upon youth when the ACL kicks in and that will be their undoing.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 5:49pm
            Lionheart said | May 18th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

            umm, I think it matters greatly how big the gap is.
            We were missing points well before the ACL started, so we can’t blame it on that. Some of the SFC youth players looked pretty awesome too, albeit we saw little of them.
            I hope Aloisi is honest in his appraisal of the past season. 24 points.

          • May 18th 2017 @ 9:50pm
            Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:50pm | ! Report

            I think you need to follow SFC a bit moore before you come with such definitive statements about them…

            If you’re referring to youth players as in those coming from the NYL, then yes, SFC hardly played any of them – they had Ryall, Dimitrijevic, Carney & Simon on the bench so that was a pretty hard gig to get. If you’re alking about the age of the starting XI then in Grant, Buijs, Zullo, O’Neill, & Brillante they have players under 30, plus Vukovic, Ninkovic & Bobo are all only 32 and 32 for a goalkeeper is arguably still in their prime.

            Underlining all this is Andrew Clarke’s proven ability to get and keep players in top shape so really the only questionmarks surrounding age of contracted players for next season are Wilkinson & Brosque (assuming he keeps his previously stated word that he’ll play on for whatever money is left to offer).

            Also, you may have noticed that Arnold kept a pretty consistent starting XI so I don’t think the ACL will require as much of a Reliance on NYL players as you make out – more gametime to players on the bench like Ryall and Simon, as well as Dimitrejvic & Carney (if they re-sign) will also be a factor…

            What I’m hoping for in the off-season is the re-signing of said players in addition to Calver and a back-up for Zullo. Hearing of Kruse’s departure from his Chienese club makes me wish for Arnold to make a bid for him (maybe he will Count as a ‘Cahill’ marquee?)…

            • May 18th 2017 @ 10:29pm
              Lionheart said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

              no no, we’re talking about the first team youth. Every club must include three players under age 20 in their squad, minimum of 20 players (or maybe 21, max 26 I think). They can also include three other players on youth contracts (so that’s your NYL player) which helps save money within the salary cap. The first three must receive the minimum salary while the extra (optional) three can be on youth wages. Otherwise, age isn’t a consideration in the rules for squad make-up.
              Arnie had a great bench, frightening, and didn’t have to play his youth. But with the extra commitments of ACL, and the travel, next year will be more of a challenge.

              • May 18th 2017 @ 10:39pm
                Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

                Well off the top of my head, we had Lokolingoy (striker), Kuleski (AM), Anthoniou & Flottman (both DEF) as NYL players in the Squad, but I’m not sure if any of them got game-time during the League season.

                The NYL team is doing it tough in NPL1 this season (2-1-7 win-draw-loss record) after winning NPL2 last season so maybe the step up is a bit of an eye-opener for them, but then again results might be misleading if they are NOT the focus of the coaching staff (as should be the case in youth development), rather they are trying to develop players for the 1st team squad…

              • May 18th 2017 @ 10:48pm
                Waz said | May 18th 2017 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

                In the ACL seasons you have to play your youth players – either in the HAL or in the ACL

              • May 19th 2017 @ 7:37pm
                Arto said | May 19th 2017 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

                That’s been true for previous seasons, however given Arnold used, on the whole, fewer players than the normal, I would argue that he’s likely to use fewer NYL players next season too. Again, I refer to this season’s bench: Ryall, Dimitrijevic, Carney, Ibini’s replacement, Simon will all get more minutes next season, plus Calver and Blackwood (if both get re-signed) would also be ahead of the NYL players apart from Lokolingoy perhaps. So I think your argument that SFC will suffer because they need to use more NYL players is more in hope than actually backed up by the reality of the situation…

    • May 18th 2017 @ 11:18am
      Chris said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

      Sydney will miss Holosko if the rumours are true. Whilst not impressive at first, he developed a good partnership with Brosque and Bobo. The 3 all had different qualities that complemented each other. Speed, finesse and power.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 9:54pm
        Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

        Holosko has been great, although not sure whether one could say ‘marquee’ great. 17 goals in 52 games as a winger is awesome, but he could have increased the amount of assists he makes (4 each season). His main benefit though is in how he fits into the team – workrate is phenomenal and his passion on the field keeps the players’ fires stoked. Reduced impact this past season, but getting subbed after 60-65min most games will do that – particularly seeing as we scored so many goals in the 2nd half – but I hope he re-signs as this squad could do something special again this coming season.

    • Roar Rookie

      May 18th 2017 @ 11:27am
      At work said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      Sydney have done very well in holding some key players, although we need to make sure we get somebody in the right wing/forward position which both Holosko and Ibini play.

      Otherwise couldn’t be happier with our player retention so far.

      • May 18th 2017 @ 9:55pm
        Arto said | May 18th 2017 @ 9:55pm | ! Report

        Agree. Kruse would be a good replacement if Holosko also decides to leave – especially if he comes in as a ‘Cahill’ marquee!