It is mighty tough to write a football article in Australia right now without mentioning the disastrous weekend of officiating that saw VAR become the central point of A-League discussion.
But I’ll try.
A point of interest from the weekend’s action that concerned the actual players and not those charged with overseeing their play, was the real concern around the plight of Melbourne Victory.
Watching the four-time champions of Australia battle away unsuccessfully against an at times unlucky Newcastle Jets on Sunday afternoon was tinged with an unfamiliar tone.
It was the first time I could recall hearing such an eerie, quiet and forlorn AAMI Park soundtrack, while watching Victory compete on home turf.
Sure the fans aren’t confidently back in full force just yet, however there was something quite bizarre and defeatist about both the players’ and fans’ attitudes from the opening minutes of the contest.
As a palpable atmosphere through a big screen television and with the volume cranked up, it was actually uncomfortable to watch.
Melbourne’s challenges during recent pandemic outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns have not helped Grant Brebner’s team, nor have injuries, yet I have never seen a Melbourne Victory team or fan-base enter a match truly expecting to lose.
That was the sense I got prior to kick-off and throughout the entire contest, bar a desperate and promising final twenty minutes where some spirit was shown and the kitchen sink thrown at a deep lying Newcastle defence.
There was something dysfunctional about the entire experience, as was starting Leigh Broxham off the bench. A fair argument could be made that any Victory renaissance will only occur with their veteran captain significantly involved.
If Brebner did indeed drop Broxham for form, I am astounded why a number of others avoided the axe.
It was a dopey move that back-fired, despite Broxham entering the game a little earlier than expected thanks to one of a number of Victory injuries on the night.
There was a brighter story at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium on Saturday night when Brisbane strutted into town to steal the points from what has been an unconvincing Sydney FC team to this point in the season.
The Roar had their chances, as did Sydney, yet it was a second half moment that reminded everyone watching just how brilliant Brisbane goalkeeper Jamie Young is and has been, between the posts.
With Sydney slowly turning the screws in a game upon which they must still be reflecting and wondering just how they didn’t win, Brazilian scoring machine Bobo entered the fray.
It was a great sight to witness the most prolific single season goal scorer in A-League history, despite the fact that we might have to wait to see his best form in around five to six weeks when he achieves full fitness.
The 36-year-old obviously has much to do on the training track, yet few fans will ever forget a player capable of scoring 27 goals in 28 matches, as he did during the 2017-18 A-League season.
It was clear that Young had certainly not forgotten him and after Bobo entered the match in the 60th minute, the Brisbane keeper produced the save of the week to deny the Sydney striker.
It was the most desperate, frantic and ungainly save, but one that defined the career of the England youth International.
Young has a habit of producing the simply astonishing and it was hard not to smile when, with the net at Bobo’s mercy as the Brazilian headed back across his dive, an extended left boot somehow deflected the ball away from its target and Brisbane avoided what appeared to be a certain deficit.
Frankly, it could win the A-League save of the season.
The standard of shot stopping in the league is very high, yet it is questionable whether any goal keeper has set such a standard for an extended period of time in the way Young has at Brisbane.
Now in his seventh season in orange and after over 300 professional appearances on two continents, Young looks sharp, even after a recent injury setback that delayed his start to the current season.
And thus are the ups and downs of football. Whilst Young celebrated with teammate s after a valuable point against the reigning champions, Victory fans licked their wounds and the tension in the AAMI Park sheds must have reeked of concern for the future of the manager.
Just how long can the board persist with such poor performances.
No doubt Victory will be back, sooner or later. However, Jamie Young doesn’t have to come back from anything, he has never left.