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Opinion

Has the A-League finally converted the 'Bring back the NSL' crowd?

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Expert
15th February, 2021
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After yet another exciting, competitive and somewhat unpredictable weekend of A-League football, the season continues to satisfy.

From Macarthur FC’s stunning 4-0 win in diabolical conditions against Adelaide on Friday night, all the way through to the tense, Jack Duncan inspired 0-0 draw between Brisbane and Newcastle on Sunday, the competition threw up yet another dose of high quality entertainment for the fans.

It is something supporters of the A-League have been more than happy to become used to and it hopefully continues well into 2021.

No doubt there will still be a few not enraptured with the league. There are those sceptical that what we are currently witnessing is nothing more than a little extra interest based on a few young kids getting a go, fluking a goal or two and excited fans overstating things due to their desperation for some sport to watch after having been stripped of so much over the past 12 months.

I would beg to differ. What we are seeing is something of a rejuvenation. One inspired by a host of talented young domestic players enjoying their time in the sun, new teams, new challenges and attacking football.

People who belong to the glass half full club have suggested for some time that Australia’s future Socceroos are there; waiting to be discovered and nurtured. Others have rightfully and passionately called for expansion to freshen up the competition and bring in new people and markets; no matter how small they may seem in the formative years.

Western United improved the league in 2019-20 and Macarthur FC appear to have also done so after just eight matches.

The Bulls have won four of those encounters, sit comfortably in second and have brilliantly annoyed thousands of opposition supporters with those little cow bells that have added another quirky dimension to the domestic game.

Lachlan Rose of Macarthur FC celebrates

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Even if you dislike those little white trinkets, their value cannot be underestimated and it is important for those living outside Sydney to understand the potential powerhouse that a team in the south-west corridor of Australia’s biggest city could and will be.

But has all this positivity and great footballing entertainment managed to finally convert those still clinging onto a rather odd and bitter belief that a return to the Jurassic days of the NSL would serve Australian football far better than the current path we tread.

I’d like to think there are some converts, yet realistically fear the actual number might be minuscule at best, knowing the stubborn nature of those preaching from that book.

For anyone reading this and feeling a little unsure as to who the ‘Bring back the NSL’ crowd actually are, they include the members and offspring of the migrant communities that formed the backbone of the domestic game in post-World War II Australia.

Amidst waves of migration, they set up community based clubs, many of which became the inaugural members of Australia’s first truly national competition in 1977. Riding a wave of emotional highs, hope and some very dark, impoverished and disastrous periods, that competition had become unsustainable by 2004.

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The Bring back the NSL mob also includes Australian football fans who believe that little of the domestic talent currently being produced and wearing national colours comes anywhere near cooee of that produced in days gone by; the same people who cite minimal representation in the English Premier League as evidence of that fact.

I find such a view misguided and dismissive of the contextual realities of the explosions in new football markets around the world, changes that have turned the EPL into the most elite competition ever seen.

Something far different to what it was when Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and others were playing competitively in it 20 years ago.

To suggest Australia should have equivalent representation today is childish.

And thus the great divide in the Australian game is formed. One side, open minded about the future and hoping to tweak and improve the fundamentally flawed franchise system originally set up in 2005 when the A-League was birthed.

Mark Viduka attends a press conference

Mark Viduka at the 2007 Asian Cup. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The other, those preferring to take backward steps in the hope that forward momentum will be built by returning to a system that ultimately failed, collapsed and died a painful and slow death.

I hope Valentino Yuel, Alou Kuol, Josh Nisbet and Mohamed Toure have made them sit up and take notice. Perhaps the 2.85 goals per game and the positive play have finally got them thinking about their archaic position.

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I can picture them discussing the ever growing temptation to ditch their stance in favour of supporting a bold new age of Australian football on the Bring back the NSL Facebook page where the past is celebrated at the expense of the present.

Irish rocker and U2 front man Bono once penned, “We glorify the past when the future dries up”.

That may well have been the case for Australian domestic football at different times during its history, yet right now, there is a whole lot to celebrate and for which to look forward.