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Perth Glory aren't champions until they win the grand final

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Expert
18th April, 2019
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1194 Reads

Are Perth Glory the best team in Australia by virtue of losing 1-0 to Sydney FC at Jubilee Stadium in Kogarah overnight?

Sydney FC were marginally the better team in a Thursday night showdown short of intensity, even if Adam Le Fondre’s winner was just about the scrappiest goal you’ll ever see.

The win moved the Sky Blues five points clear of third-placed Melbourne Victory in the current standings, although Victory still have a game in hand.

And guess what? Come this time next year, almost no-one will remember that last round.

Why? Because we play finals football in Australia to decide our champions.

Every season we have the exact same argument and every season it seems to get more and more inane.

We know that finishing top of the league after the regular season makes one team the most consistent, but does it necessarily make them the best?

It certainly does if you’re one of a growing chorus of online fans who have taken to saying the exact opposite of everything we know to be true.

For a certain type of A-League fan, reality simply has no bearing on the outcome of any online discussion.

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The fact that Football Federation Australia generates a significant portion of its revenue from the sale of finals tickets, or that they might not want to lock out thousands of potential new fans from a title decider, or even that we have a title decider in the first place are all irrelevant pieces of information to those insist the A-League operates in an alternative universe.

Sydney FC A-League 2017 Grand Final

Despite the online naysayers, the grand final remains the centre piece of the A-League season. (AAP Image/David Moir)

In that world, the A-League champions are decided by a first-past-the-post system and any debate around whether Perth Glory might get 60,000 at Optus Stadium is moot because they shouldn’t be allowed to play there in the first place.

And that would be all well and good if football were the No. 1 game in the land and A-League games were selling out on a regular basis.

But it’s not and they aren’t, and back here in the real world the reality is the A-League needs all the help it can get to raise its profile.

The same fans who complain about the A-League not being on the back page of the newspaper or the lead sports story on the nightly news are usually the first to insist no-one is interested in watching a grand final.

We know the exact opposite to be true – every season the highest attendance at an A-League game is for the grand final – but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on those who say the competition is one thing when it’s clearly another.

Melbourne Victory fans

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

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That’s not to suggest that there shouldn’t be debate around how the A-League is run or that things are perfect as they currently stand.

But at some point it might be worth putting our hands up and admitting that many of the improvements fans demand to see in the A-League are realistically never going to happen.

There’s more chance of the English Premier League introducing a finals series than there is of the A-League getting rid of theirs, so why can’t we just accept that and adjust our attitudes accordingly?

As someone whose park football team twice finished top of the league but failed to win the grand final, I can honestly say I’ve never once looked back on those seasons and felt like we were champions.

And Perth Glory won’t either unless they win the A-League grand final on Election Day.

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There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that.

Every A-League team starts the season knowing exactly what it takes to be crowned champion, so for Glory the job is only half done.

They were second best last night despite finishing top of the league.

But it’s immaterial because in Australia winning the grand final is what really counts.

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