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Opinion

Groundhog Day over again for football in Australia

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14th October, 2019
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The 1993 hit comedy Groundhog Day is a ripping film.

Starring Andie MacDowell and veteran American comedian Bill Murray, the film centres around the rather far-fetched premise of one day repeating continually on a loop, thus presenting the lead character with the opportunity to relive experiences and hopefully put right the challenging romantic challenges they face.

With the title of the film now part of the vernacular, I couldn’t help but think of it and the associated meaning as I sat and reflected on Round 1 of A-League play. I had just finished watching the gripping second half between the Glory and the Roar at HBF Park.

Despite appearing likely winners as the match drew to a conclusion and with Brisbane creating a number of half chances that threatened the cancel out Chris Ikonomidis’ 34th minute goal, Perth were eventually to be denied at the death.

Interestingly, it was Roy O’Donovan who headed home from close range to snatch the point. It is essentially a brand new squad assembled by Roar manager Robbie Fowler and all the talk up north has centred around the new faces and what they will bring to the orange this season.

Roy O'Donovan

Roy O”Donovan of the Roar (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

It was therefore curious that an old face had the last say in what was an intriguing rather than sparkling match.

On the other side of the ball, another tried and tested man was influential in Perth’s play. Diego Castro picked up precisely where he left off last season and looked fit and bubbly around the edge of the box, particularly in the first half.

The fact that he was not substituted in the second potentially says a lot about the pre-season he has enjoyed and the 37-year-old enters his fifth A-League season, once again, as one of the dominant creative forces in the competition.

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The more I thought about the game, the more I realised that everything old is new again in the Groundhog Day A-League. However, Veterans O’Donovan and Castro were not alone. Glory goal keeper Liam Reddy commanded his box well and stood little chance of preventing the equaliser in added time.

A quality header from Welshman Aaron Amadi-Holloway gave O’Donovan an unmissable shot from point-blank range in the 95th minute and with another Reddy clean sheet looming, the 270 game and 38-year-old veteran continued the groundhog theme with an excellent performance to start the season.

Somewhat remarkably, the clocks also appeared to be standing still in Wellington, as 34-year-old Besart Berisha returned to A-League play after a disappointing time abroad and knocked in the winner from close range for Western United.

In something of an odd quirk, the eight season veteran scored his 117th A-League goal for the freshest and newest club in the land. I guess some things never change.

Whilst there were flashes of the future such as Al Hassan Toure’s goal on Friday night for the Reds and some of the excellent young talent we saw on display at Bankwest Stadium in the Saturday twilight; where Mitchell Duke’s brace secured the points for the Wanderers against the unlucky Mariners, it is fair to suggest that it was much of the same for the A-League in Round 1.

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Despite my fearless and now forlorn prediction of just seven days ago, crowds were relatively poor. After a wonderful run to the FFA Cup Final, the Reds failed to draw a five figure crowd to Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

Even considering some poor weather in Sydney, the 17,091 who showed up to watch the first A-League match at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta was less than inspiring and Melbourne fans voted with their feet in protest of Marvel Stadium.

The opening weekend Melbourne Derby pulled just three and a half thousand more patrons than could be accommodated at AAMI Park. Unless 40+ file through the gates at the less appealing but larger facility, I’m not too sure if the entire exercise is worth the effort.

Melbourne City fans

Melbourne City fans. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Wellington’s clash with Western United drew in excess of 8,000, and in times past, many would have been cock-a-hoop with that figure.

However, after successful finals qualification last season one could have hoped for better. The same could be said for Perth. On a cracking afternoon, The Shed was in full voice yet just 9,829 made the trip to HBF Park.

So after a muted lead up, poor opening weekend crowds and in spite of all the new faces, a few veterans stole the headlines and the season began just as the previous had ended.

I don’t mind. It is my league and it will entertain me immensely over the next eight months.

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However, it would be nice to see some change, growth and something new. I guess all that remains is the task of checking the television ratings from Round 1; to confirm that it is well and truly Groundhog Day for the A-League.