There’ll be an asterix next to the name of the champions whatever happens from here, so would the A-League be better off if someone other than Sydney FC won the grand final?
Is anyone still watching the A-League?
According to Mediaweek, some 57,000 viewers tuned into the ABC to watch Western United down Sydney FC 2-1 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday afternoon.
That’s not an insignificant number, although there’s some irony in the fact that a derisory figure of just 8,000 viewers supposedly tuned in on Fox Sports, meaning the Pay TV channel footed the production costs of a broadcast most people watched on free-to-air anyway.
No doubt a few thousand more viewers tuned in via Kayo or watched on their phones, as the kids do these days, but in truth the A-League has been getting smashed in the ratings for a couple of years now.
And it’s hard to blame anyone who doesn’t feel like watching live sport in the midst of this pandemic, especially when football is arguably a more enjoyable spectacle with some fans in the stands.
Truth be told I’ve been watching less live sport than I used to, although I tuned into Saturday’s clash with keen interest.
That’s partly because I’m a fan of one of the clubs involved, and partly because I wanted to see if Western United could continue their hot streak since the A-League resumed.
And on the second point, I wasn’t disappointed. The visitors were deserving winners in Sydney’s inner-west and will go into the finals as one of the form teams in the competition.
They’ll want to knock off Melbourne City in Kogarah on Wednesday night though, if only not to derail their red-hot form going into finals football.
Speaking of which, how interested an observer will Steve Corica be on Wednesday night?
You’d have to think the Sydney FC coach is slightly more nervous than a newly-crowned premiership winner ought to be at this stage of the season.
But here’s the rub: no one’s going to care how many points the Sky Blues dropped en route to the finals if they hold up the toilet seat at the end of the month.
Just like no one really cares if a team finishes the regular season in second or sixth or somewhere in between and goes on to be crowned champions.
Because as we all know – and here’s that debate again – to be crowned champions, you have to win the grand final.
First past the post? We’d have been bored witless if Sydney FC were declared winners weeks ago.
But on current form, they’ve gone from being odds-on favourites to the team that looks most likely to be stunned by a plucky upstart.
Such as? Maybe Western United for one.
They’ve got a man possessed in Alessandro Diamanti who’s clearly playing for his love of the game. Unfortunately for rivals, what he most seems to love is picking teams apart with his incisive vision and defence-splitting passes.
But it’s more than just old-timers like Diamanti that stand Western United apart, it’s the x-factor of Max Burgess and the fact Mark Rudan can still coax impressive performances out of unpolished gems like Dylan Pierias at this late stage of the season.
And even if Western United don’t upset the applecart, the likes of Melbourne City, Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory are still hoping to be crowned A-League champions for the first time as well.
Then there’s the curious case of Brisbane Roar – a side good enough to be lying fourth, even as their former coach allegedly plans to sue them.
But the question is this: would there be more interest in the competition next season if Sydney FC don’t win this one?
Because one way or another, the A-League needs to find a way to reconnect with the fan-base if anyone is going to tune in next year and beyond.