The tipping ladder has somewhat tightened, with Paul Nicholls managing only two correct selections in Match Week 10 and just five points now separating the entire panel.
A flick through Fox’s various sports channels revealed the way in which the pay TV provider was filling the massive gaps left by the suspension of just about every sporting competition in the world at the moment.
Rugby league, union, AFL, tennis, cricket and golf were dipping into the archives to bring viewers memorable moments from the past, and hopefully keep them engaged until we once again resume a brighter future.
Except for football.
There has been precious little to see in the way of treasured football memories, certainly nothing to keep fans from calling the pay-TV service and cancelling their subscription.
Why? Have Fox Sports given up on football? Have they stood down so many in the current crisis that there is no-one able to organise a steady program of football memories?
Well, let’s lend a hand. Football has had a national club competition of some form in Australia for 43 years, and if we can’t find a whole lot of nostalgia over five different decades then we’re not trying hard enough.
Here are ten games that would hold my interest and hopefully that of a whole lot of fans while sport everywhere is in suspended animation.
It’s an equal split – five each from the NSL and A-League eras, and I know that Fox might not have the rights to NSL games but surely there might be someone in the company that knows someone.
West Adelaide versus Adelaide City, 1978
In only the second season of the Philips Soccer League, the champion was decided on a frantic final day. West Adelaide knew that a draw would be enough to clinch the title against their fierce local rivals. However they trailed 1-0 until deep into the match, when a Vic Bozanic goal in the 87th minute gave them the result they needed, and sent the blue-and-white section of a packed Hindmarsh Stadium delirious.
Marconi versus Sydney Croatia, 1988
The 1988 NSL grand final, played at Parramatta Stadium on a pitch SBS commentator Johnny Warren labelled a disgrace, still yielded a thriller, as the two close neighbours of Sydney’s south-west played out a 2-2 draw in front of more than 17,000 fans. Drawn 1-1 after normal time, with each side reduced to ten players after red cards to Ivan Petkovic (Sydney Croatia) and Gerry Gomez (Marconi), a goal apiece in extra time meant the final went to penalties. In a moment you couldn’t script better, Marconi’s colossus defender Tony Henderson slammed home the winning penalty with his last kick of professional football. And grand finals were here to stay.
Melbourne Knights versus South Melbourne, 1995
A berth in the 1995 grand final awaited the winner of this Melbourne derby, and it was played in the kind of old-school conditions that modern football simply doesn’t countenance. Pouring rain, large puddles and muddy goalmouths didn’t stop a young striker called Mark Viduka from scoring a hat trick for the Knights in a 3-2 win.
Brisbane Strikers versus Sydney United, 1997
In a year when rugby league was tearing itself apart with what became known as the Super League war, football suddenly found a footing in a league stronghold. Frank Farina was player-coach of the Strikers, who hosted the ’97 grand final at Lang Park in front of 40,000 fans. Appropriately, the boss himself opened the scoring and Rod Brown added another as Brisbane won the championship with a 2-0 victory.
Perth Glory versus Wollongong Wolves, 2000
There are amazing games and then there are amazing games. The first grand final of the new millennium seemed scripted for the hugely successful and popular Perth Glory side to claim their first title. A crowd of 43,000 fans packed Subiaco Oval and it was a purple party by half time as Perth led 3-0. Whatever Wolves coach Nick Theodorakopoulos said in his half-time sermon deserves to become a TED Talk under inspirational speeches, as Wollongong hauled the game back to 3-3, with an 89th-minute equaliser from Paul Reid sending the game into extra time, and ultimately penalties. It got even more dramatic there, as Perth twice had the chance to win the game, only for Wolves keeper Les Pogliacomi to make two sudden-death saves, and then a third three spot kicks later to give the Wolves their first title.
Central Coast Mariners versus Sydney FC, 2007
A rescheduled fixture, midweek, three days before Christmas. No clue of what was to come. A ground-record crowd at Gosford of over 21,000 saw a jaw-dropping game, the visitors triumphing over the then-league leaders 5-4. The Mariners were two goals up through Mile Jedinak and John Aloisi when Central Coast keeper Danny Vukovic handled the ball outside the area and was shown a red card. Sydney had drawn level by the hour mark, the Mariners took the lead again when a young striker called Matt Simon won them a penalty. Once more Sydney came back against the ten men of the Mariners to lead 4-3, before Adam Kwasnik ghosted in on the far post from a Tony Vidmar long ball in injury time to make it 4-4. The same player then hand-balled on his own goal line, reducing the Mariners to nine. Ufuk Talay scored from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game. To this day, it is probably my favourite A-League match.
Brisbane Roar versus Central Coast Mariners, 2011
Any list of best-of games looks naked without this. The 2011 grand final, a sold-out Lang Park, Ange Postecoglou’s Roar having spent the season redefining the way football is played here. Goalless after 90 frenetic minutes, and then the Roar go two goals down. The Mariners, twice runners-up, look to break their duck. Henrique in the 118th minute pulls a goal back. The camera pans to Graham Arnold frantically checking his watch – 121 minutes. A Brisbane corner. Erik Paartalu. Bedlam. Two penalty saves by Michael Theoklitos help the Roar rise from the ashes to claim the title.
Western Sydney Wanderers versus Brisbane Roar, 2016
At this point in time in their short history, the Wanderers had already made two grand finals, as well as the almost unimaginable achievement of winning the Asian Champions League. The day before Anzac Day, 2016, saw the club make quite probably its greatest comeback, to qualify for a third finale with a 5-4 win over the Roar in extra time. Down 3-0 inside 20 minutes, the Wanderers came back to lead 4-3, due in no small part to a Romeo Castelen hat trick, only for Roar striker Jamie Maclaren to send the game into extra time via a late equaliser. The last goal seen at the old Parramatta Stadium was scored by Dario Vidosic in the 102nd minute and the Wanderers were back in the big dance.
Newcastle Jets versus Melbourne City, 2018
A wet Friday night in the steel city at the end of April, and a place in the grand final the reward for the winner. With the Jets down 1-0 at the break, I queued for hot churros and hot coffee for my three fellow fans, all drenched. I made it back to my seat just in time to see a goal that would be shown right around the world by the end of the weekend. Riley McGree’s scorpion kick still looks impossible to this day. Jason Hoffman’s winner sent the Jets to their first grand final in a decade. Twenty-four hours later, after a similar classic between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory, they learned they’d be hosting it.
Western Sydney Wanderers versus Sydney FC, 2019
You could make a list of derby matches all on its own (there’s a thought…) but the significance of this one cannot be ignored. For three years, the Wanderers had been homeless while they waited for the rebuild of their Parramatta home. When Bankwest Stadium’s steep stands brought an already-manic atmosphere even closer to the pitch, football fans knew this game was going to be special. A Mitchell Duke header and legs-split corner flag celebration shook the foundations of the new venue. A brilliant goalkeeping display by Daniel Lopar kept the Sky Blues at bay, and the Wanderers had christened their new home with a win over their bitter rivals.
There you go, Fox. Get games like these on my screen and I won’t be tempted to cancel my subscription. I’m sure readers have their own favourites that could be replayed, to remind us of how good the game can be, and how much we miss it.
List them in the comments and perhaps we can start a movement to last until we emerge from self-isolation.