Football in Australia stands at an interesting juncture.
Another A-League season has come and gone, with the domestic competition spending a further 12 months in stagnation. Conversely, the women’s national team is about to embark on what could prove a profitable journey to France.
Domestically, not much changed in the A-League village.
One of the long-term contenders took the championship trophy. The usual patterns were repeated, with the Central Coast Mariners going from bad to worse and the Western Sydney Wanderers failing to live up to expectations.
Melbourne City once again suffered under the stewardship of Warren Joyce, and Brisbane… well, I’m not exactly sure what to make of Brisbane.
Bar the Phoenix and Glory, the chasm between the top tier and the also-rans failed to shrink one iota. Once again it was Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Melbourne City lurking around the top four.
Only the efforts of Wellington and Perth rocked the A-League boat to any meaningful extent.
Under the stewardship of Mark Rudan, Wellington finally found some form, made the six and played sparkling football at different times throughout the season. How refreshing it was to witness the Glory running the tables and leading from the front.
And now the nation’s attention shifts to an Australian national team about to venture abroad for their realistic tilt at a World Cup trophy.
It typifies what is beautiful about the game. As one season ends another opportunity and challenge appears.
Once the Matildas have completed their task and brought home Australia’s first footballing World Cup, the FFA Cup will start to build momentum, the new 13-team A-League season will begin in October and World Cup qualifiers will appear in the headlights.
It is what football is all about, and with a brief moment to pause and reflect I’m curious as to what you feel the current state of football in Australia looks like.
This is what I see.
1. Expansion will be good for the A-League
At long last there will be a new kid on the block as Western United FC join the A-League fraternity this spring.
It is a day that seemed like it would never arrive, yet Mark Rudan will lead a promising franchise that has already recruited some top-quality personnel both on and off the pitch.
2. Security is still a major issue in football
The recent events at Netstrata Stadium in Kogarah spoke volumes about the distrust between fans and those charged with ‘keeping the peace’ at football matches in Australia.
While AFL hooliganism continues to escalate, football must make approaches to local authorities and come to a mutually satisfying arrangement to ensure that the most valuable of commodities, fans, are encouraged to attend rather than gouged from the game.
3. The media remains no fan of football
Aside from idiots like me who battle away relentlessly, writing about the game they love and highlighting all the positivity and potential of the A-League, football will remain an afterthought unless the way the game is covered changes.
It has become a somewhat painful and pointless issue to raise, so obvious in nature and difficult to overcome. Yet without the genuine support of mainstream media, growth in football stands little chance.
Just moments ago I viewed three minutes of news footage in which Manly Sea-Eagles rugby league player Dylan Walker and his partner teared up and explained the events that took place at their northern beaches home in 2018.
Despite cuts, abrasions and video footage of Walker’s partner expressing her sheer terror on the night she alleged to have been assaulted by him, all charges were dropped.
The Nine Network found the events newsworthy and extensively so. It was a protection of their brand and investment and an effort to present one of the game’s stars in a better light than the one public perception had created over recent months.
Should football ever receive such similar protection rather than condemnation, the results could be astonishing.
4. The Matildas are our most prized possession
Thank goodness for the girls in gold. The women’s team allows us all some respite from the usual bagging of Robbie Kruse and spares us the eternal questions around from where the next Socceroo goal will come.
They head to France with a real chance to do some damage in what looks the most competitive Women’s World Cup I have ever seen.
Should Sam Kerr lead the ticker tape parade upon their return, trophy aloft, it might just be the greatest moment in the history of Australian football.
5. The Western Sydney Wanderers will revive the A-League
Bankwest Stadium is phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal. After two nomadic years, the Wanderers return to Parramatta and the immediate impact will reverberate throughout the A-League.
Put bluntly, no team will want to play there, so intimidating and confronting will the rebirthed and raucous RBB appear. The potential boost to crowds as the Wanderers return home may see an overall increase in A-League patronage for the first time in some years.
With those figures remaining stagnant in 2018-19, it would be a much needed shot in the arm for the competition and could reinvigorate a certain derby that has lost its lustre in recent times.
Enjoy the brief breather, everyone, and get ready the World Cup in France. Before you know it, a new A-League season will have already begun.