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Jets, Wanderers, Roar and Mariners: Thanks for coming but we’ll see you next season!

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Expert
29th April, 2019
48

The old adage of being a rooster one minute and a feather duster the next pretty much sums up sport.

Whether it be a dramatic, short-term fall within the space of one match or a more sustained decline over a longer period, individuals and teams all have their glorious moments in the sun while also suffering scrutiny when things look grim.

Each and every year, the A-League farewells four of its teams as the competition enters the finals, and thank goodness for that. Many suggest that even the sixth-placed team are pushing their luck by participating in the knockout phase.

Perhaps that argument loses a little weight this season, with the Phoenix enjoying a terrific mid-season run on the pitch under new manager Mark Rudan.

Their crowds have risen as on-field performance improved, and the importance and potential impact of the New Zealand franchise was clear.

The same cannot be said of the bottom four and it is time we all wave goodbye to them, in the desperate hope that they return in October with something better.

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The Wanderers continued their nomadic and lonely existence as a seemingly lost club; yearning for a return to their spiritual home in Parramatta. While that will undoubtedly be a significant moment, supporters know there is far more to be done to improve the results on the pitch than merely taking up new digs.

In the end, it was a season of just six wins, inconsistent play and dwindling support in the stands. Markus Babbel has kicked stuff, laughed at some of the comedy his team has produced and seems destined to move on multiple members of his squad during the off-season, in what stands to be a tough and disciplinary rebuild.

Markus Babbel

Markus Babbel (Photo by Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images)

The fans will no doubt flock on opening night at Parramatta but they won’t stay for too long should Western Sydney’s current form bleed into next season.

However, the sight of a bubbling RBB and a Wanderers side in the winner’s column early in the season might be just what the comp needs.

Newcastle head into hiatus with a host of farewells on the cards. Ronald Vargas and Jair have been flat-out failures. While not something anyone would enjoy suggesting, with the quality of visa players so important to the overall standard, Ernie Merrick’s imports have been consistently inconsistent. His best players are locals.

On Saturday night, Joey Champness and Dimi Petratos played the starring roles in a commendable 2-0 victory over Sydney. The memories of the grand final appearance in 2017-18 are now well and truly distant and reinforcements are required.

As for Brisbane, well, I’m not sure exactly what I just watched. Described by a colleague as that nasty car-accident at which you can’t help but look as you drive by, Darren Davies was left to pick up the pieces after John Aloisi’s squad continued in reverse early in the season.

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One win in the first nine led to Aloisi’s departure in December, despite claims there was a strong belief in the playing group that he was the man to turn around the Roar’s fortunes.

In reality, the quality and work ethics of imports Alex Lopez and Tobias Mikkelsen were seriously questionable and along with ageing legs elsewhere, the Roar lacked the speed and potency of the top A-League teams.

Davies’ decision to play Dylan Wenzel-Halls, Zachary Duncan, Nick D’Agostino and Izaack Powell late in the season confirmed that Brisbane have shifted their focus to the future – and rightfully so.

With just four wins, it was another unacceptable season from the Queensland franchise and an off-season of change looms with Robbie Fowler scratching his head as I type.

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The Central Coast are a special case. A third wooden spoon in four years, just three wins and a sacked manager all made for the season from hell. Alen Stajcic took over as caretaker with just six matches remaining and did manage two wins – a remarkable achievement considering the appalling confidence levels within the playing group.

Mike Mulvey begun the season with a refreshed playing roster after massive changes and the same appears likely to happen under Stajcic when he signs his new three-year deal. The Roar broke an A-League record by allowing 71 goals this season, yet the Mariners conceded 70 and miss out on the dubious honour.

The re-emergence of Matthew Millar was a positive for the Mariners and the fact he has now departed becomes somewhat symbolic of their season.

Thanks to Western Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Central Coast: it was nice of you to buy a ticket and participate. The league needs all ten clubs humming along, with minor fluctuations in form a part of the natural cycle of change.

The four departing clubs were less than consistently competitive this season and will need a considerable rethink and replenishment over the off-season.

Let’s hope they all get it right.