Tonight’s clash between Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City in Wollongong could be one of the games of the season, but is the A-League now only preaching to the converted?
How will City bounce back from that 2-1 defeat to Western United last Thursday?
Paddy Kisnorbo’s side went into that game at AAMI Park on the back of a six-game winning streak but despite Craig Noone opening the scoring and City amassing 27 shots on goal, they still tasted defeat.
There’s no doubt City are the competition’s most free-flowing outfit and they’ve knocked off several notable scalps of late, including the league-leading Central Coast Mariners.
And on the back of their grand final appearance in last season’s COVID-affected campaign, there’s a sense this could finally be City’s season.
But what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things?
City played last Thursday’s clash as the visiting side, with Western United taking several games to AAMI Park this season as they await construction of their new stadium in Tarneit.
Wyndham City Stadium is supposed to be up and running in 2023 and once it is, Western United will go from being one of the competition’s most maligned clubs to a cash-making juggernaut overnight.
That is, of course, assuming the A-League still exists.
We haven’t heard much about this new broadcast deal, despite the fact we’re now halfway through the season and more than half the players will soon be off contract.
I have no doubt the Australian Professional Leagues, which now administers the A-League, and Football Australia are well down the path of announcing a new broadcast deal.
In the meantime, however, the current A-League campaign is left to meander along as clocks change and the weather turns and days simply float on by.
Wellington Phoenix have done a terrific job connecting with the local Illawarra community – not least with their Wollongong Wolves-inspired red jerseys – but it’s a huge ask to expect them to play out the entirety of their campaign based in Australia.
Can they get back to Wellington before the season ends? The NRL’s New Zealand Warriors were supposed to play Manly at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland this Friday, but the current coronavirus situation means they too are stranded in Gosford for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, with Western United making moves to shore up Melbourne’s western suburbs, Melbourne City have announced plans to build a state-of-the-art training facility in the city’s south-eastern suburbs at Casey Fields.
It’s a move that effectively fills the vacant space left by the unsuccessful Dandenong-based Team 11 expansion bid, even if City continue to play A-League games at AAMI Park.
So where does that leave Melbourne Victory?
As things currently stand, it leaves them dead last and with a fan-base in revolt.
Victory’s season was more or less summed up by Elvis Kamsoba’s inexplicable send-off in last night’s 3-0 defeat to arch-rivals Sydney FC.
Kamsoba’s first booking of the night was harsh, but his subsequent studs-up challenge on Paulo Retre in the middle of the pitch left his team to battle on with 10 men for almost an hour.
It was a schoolboy error from an attacker who’s played more than 60 games for Victory and his team-mates pretty much threw in the towel after that.
Much was made of captain Robbie Kruse’s failure to hand the captain’s armband to anyone following his substitution, although at least he looked like he cared.
And with the Sky Blues running riot after Kamsoba’s dismissal – only goalkeeper Matt Acton kept Victory in the game – the result was a foregone conclusion.
Just 5,347 fans were in the stands and no one will tell us how many tuned in on Kayo.
So is this the A-League now?
Or do we simply need to get through this season, re-group and hope that big guns like Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers start firing again in A-League 2.0?