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Football must get better at celebrating its success

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Expert
22nd August, 2019
43

Newcastle’s 5-1 FFA Cup win over local rivals Edgeworth was a reminder that when football does things right, few other codes can match it for storylines.

So the Jets look like a half-decent team again. Who knew?

Certainly not many outside of Newcastle, since the Jets seem to fly so far under the national media radar their existence barely even seems to register.

But the Jets threatened to run up a cricket score against their outmatched NPL opponents and a couple of their players looked particularly sharp, including, it must be said, 37-year-old former Norwich playmaker Wes Hoolahan.

Whenever an A-League club signs a player in their 30s, the online comments about the competition being a retirement league are never too far behind.

But Gianluigi Buffon rejoining Juventus at age 41 or 40-year-old Claudio Pizarro becoming the Bundesliga’s oldest goalscorer naturally goes unnoticed.

One of the more frustrating elements of football in Australia is that the narrative around the game has been hijacked by people who don’t even watch it.

And the game needs to do a much better job of celebrating its successes and reminding stay-away fans what it is that makes the sport so special.

That just under 4300 fans turned out at a jam-packed Jack McLaughlan Oval to watch the Jets put Edgeworth to the sword is one such success.

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Edgeworth’s Daniel McBreen.

(Tony Feder/Getty Images)

And the fact that former A-League star Daniel McBreen scored Edgeworth’s only goal against the club he works for on a full-time basis is the sort of romance you’d struggle to find in any other sport.

McBreen, who officially retired after the match, hasn’t just been a wonderful servant to the game; he’s also an erudite, articulate presence on camera, as he demonstrated in his post-match comments to Fox Sports.

Speaking of which, how good is it to be able to tune into an FFA Cup game from a suburban ground and hear a world-class commentator in Simon Hill paired with his most entertaining sidekick, Andy Harper?

By now we’ve all heard Fox Sports is making cuts to its football coverage, so it’s nice to still be able to hear two of the best in the business bring the games to life in our lounge rooms and on various devices across the land.

Credit must also go to Lake Macquarie City Council, who helped produce the kind of pitch at Jack McLaughlan Oval you’d expect to find at a top-flight European game.

The pristine surface in turn helped the Jets play the sort of slick football we all want to see in the A-League.

And it’s not like the other fixtures failed to provide their fair share of entertainment.

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Both Olympic FC and Marconi came within an inch of forcing extra time against Adelaide United and Melbourne City respectively, while second-tier Victorian state league side Moreland Zebras are through to the quarter-finals.

It was the sort of night that reminds us all of why we tune into the FFA Cup in the first place.

And there’s more to come next week, with tickets flying out the door for Brisbane Roar’s clash with the Central Coast Mariners, while Sydney United are set to face off against the Western Sydney Wanderers in the ultimate grudge match.

Western United were in action last night as well, beating George Cross 4-0 in the club’s first official game at Fraser Rise.

They’ve sold a few memberships too, and if nothing else, they’ll give armchair critics like me the chance to write about some new storylines this season.

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That’s nothing to sniff at in a land where spruiking football remains a hard sell.

On a day when 134-year-old English Football League club Bury FC may tragically go out of business, things aren’t quite so bleak down under.

But football in Australia simply must get better at promoting the brand.

The on-field action is entertaining enough – we just need to convince a few more fans of that.

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