As the confetti is swept from the surface of Optus Stadium, fans of Sydney FC revel in the knowledge that they are the champions of Australia for the fourth time.
After a season that began in October and ran for seven months, things panned out exactly the way Steve Corica had planned. For others, the road was somewhat bumpy.
For nine clubs, now is the time for regret and reflection.
What better way to do it than through song. Which tune best sums up the seasons’ of the clubs left in the wake of Sydney FC?
Slow Burn (2018 – Kacey Musgraves)
Despite the Red’s Craig Goodwin-inspired FFA Cup victory in late October, Adelaide United’s season took some time to get rolling.
By April, they had become the most dangerous looking team outside the top two. With Baba Diawara and Nikola Mileusnic starting to fire up front, they loomed into championship contention.
In the end, they came within a kick of toppling the premiers in a dramatic semi-final at HBF Park and Marco Kurz is now receiving the accolades he deserves, after navigating a successful season of rebuild in the city of churches.
Slip Slidin’ Away (1977 – Paul Simon)
There is no joy in seeing the Roar pinned to the lower rungs of the ladder. Once Australia’s greatest A-League club, Brisbane have suffered a slow and steady decline since their championship year of 2013-14.
John Aloisi somehow kept heads above water early in his tenure, yet it was a mirage and the cracks became chasms. After a disastrous season with just four wins, the future appears to lie with the kids that Darren Davies thrust into A-League action late in the year.
Robbie Fowler will now have the chance to mould them into champions.
Central Coast Mariners
Here we Go Again (1998 – Aretha Franklin)
It appears player clean-outs, new imports and managerial changes just don’t work in Gosford. In 2018-19, endemic problems were as visible as ever and Mike Mulvey was shown the door after a series of on-field capitulations.
Ironically, the man accused by some as overseeing a flawed culture in the Matildas’ set up has been asked to implement a cultural and expectation change on the Central Coast.
We wish Alen Stajcic well. After three wooden spoons in four years, I’m not sure how much more the long-suffering Mariners fans can take.
As Good as I Once Was (2005 – Toby Keith)
Whilst admitting to not being particular familiar with this track from the rather cleverly-titled album, Honkytonk University, it potentially sums up the mood of the Jets’ fans after a disappointing campaign.
A finals place dangled before Ernie Merrick’s men for much of the season as they sat just outside the eight. Yet it was a façade for a team that lacked the goal scoring polish required to compete with the likes of Perth and Sydney.
From that glorious night in Newcastle some 12 months ago, when the Jets were robbed of a chance to claim the championship thanks to a VAR meltdown, it has been a mighty fall.
With talk circling of a tightening of the purse strings by the owner, 2019-20 stands to be an interesting season in the Hunter.
I Dreamed a Dream (1980 – Les Miserables)
The 2018-19 season was the stuff of dreams for the Glory. A new manager, fresh faces and a sense of hope long absent in Perth, came together to make the unthinkable possible.
Sadly, the history books will tell future A-League generations that after a season of just three losses, the men in purple couldn’t reimagine the dream in reality and after bumbling their way through a semi-final penalty shootout against Adelaide, fell in the same context to Sydney FC in front of over 56,000 fans.
Great Wall (1987 – Boom Crash Opera)
This Dale Ryder/Richard Pleasance classic perfectly captures the final season of Warren Joyce’s reign at City.
With Bart Schenkeveld at the helm of the back four, there was never any doubt about City’s ability to defend well and for long periods.
Unfortunately, heading forward was their problem and consistently bland and negative performances in attack once again held the club back.
Sure, Fornaroli-gate didn’t help, however astute fans of the Melbourne City Football Club could see the limitations in Joyce’s attacking plans. His wall would only get the team so far.
Being able to break down opposition defences was required and something Joyce failed to achieve.
What Just Happened? (2018 – Endigo)
If you really want a chuckle, look up the words to this song. Not exactly poetry. However it is the exact sentiment probably felt by Victory fans in the immediate aftermath of the 6-1 semi-final loss to the Sky Blues in Sydney.
Fans were entitled to believe that history was on their side after a bold run to the championship 12 months prior and the teams’ ability to produce the required performance on the big day.
Even with Ola Toivonen, Keisuke Honda and Kosta Barbarouses in form, it all went pear shaped for Kevin Muscat and his star-studded team.
Hero (1990 – Mariah Carey)
Mark Rudan arrived in Wellington to redirect the fortunes of the Phoenix. Proven at NPL level, it was his chance to establish his reputation as a serious contender for future managerial positions at big Australian clubs.
It didn’t take him long and Rudan had the Phoenix in the six for pretty much the entire season.
The crowds crept back, the team played attractively scoring 46 goals and Roy Krishna won the biggest individual award in Australian football.
Even though Rudan now departs the club reluctantly, his impact on Wellington was somewhat heroic.
Western Sydney Wanderers
Late Bloomer (2014 – Jenny Lewis)
The Wanderers began the season like a miss-firing old jalopy. Decisions went against them and basic errors leaked points in the most unlikely of moments.
With pressure mounting on the under-threat Markus Babbel, the youth stepped up and the team produced some much improved play late in the season.
Mitchell Duke’s return to Australia added impetus and with Abraham Majok, Rashid Mahazi and Tass Mourdoukoutas looking particularly good, the Wanderers future back at their traditional home in Parramatta looks to be bright.
As for Sydney FC? Well, winners can choose which ever song they like and play it each and every day until the new season begins in October.
That is the luxury of being the A-League champs.