The A-League is 15 match weeks into a season of 23 and the form is clear. In fact, the finals’ participants may already be decided.
Despite the non-believers, Central Coast Mariners are locks for finals play. Macarthur FC and Adelaide United are the same, also defying much pre-season commentary.
Melbourne City may have stumbled on Friday night against Western United, yet look certain to threaten seriously for the 2021 championship, while the two traditional Sydney rivals also looking like semi-final certainties.
It’s highly probable that our end-of-season top six is already in place, especially considering we have passed the mid-point and those clubs on the outside looking in would have to produce some excellent and consistent results to force their way into contention come the final match week in May.
Sadly, in what has been a brilliant season of football that has featured goals galore and stunning climaxes to matches, of those clubs currently sitting outside the top six, Western United and Perth Glory appeared to be the only two with realistic chances of shaking up its makeup.
However, the Glory have been nothing but battlers over the last month and after just one win from their last seven, I am more than happy to add them to a group of five clubs whose collective geese are cooked when it comes to 2021 A-League hopes.
Despite all the talk around the supposed scoring potency of Perth, the men in purple will not be playing finals this season.
That leaves just Western United as the member of the bottom six with any hope of finding their way in.
Further south, Melbourne Victory are officially fried. Your cries of captain obvious are well heard as I type these words. Little confidence, cohesion and class have led to what will go down as the most embarrassing season in the history of the Victory.
One can only hope that some shrewd recruitment and off season moves will see the club return to something even near the standard its fans and all A-League supporters expect.
Newcastle Jets are broke, busted and bereft of the class required to compete at the top domestic level and most pundits stuck a fork in them around the time of the third loss in what has now become a run of six consecutive.
Much of Newcastle’s anguish has been caused by outside forces, yet that does little to alleviate the pain of long-standing fans who will continue to walk should the club remain hamstrung and without the resources required to compete on a fair A-League playing field.
While everyone continues to suggest that Wellington Phoenix are very unlucky, hitting posts as often as nets and looking destined to fire at some point this season, they have won just four matches from 15 and will actually spend the finals convalescing in Wellington.
No doubt they are entertaining at times, yet 2021 A-League finals will be a bridge too far for a club that held so much promise despite the inconvenience of their “home away from home” base in Wollongong.
When someone works out what happened to Brisbane Roar after six weeks of the A-League season could they please send an email and explain it to me.
After looking like world beaters early on and Warren Moon seemingly doing wonders with an ever improving team, Brisbane hit the skids big time and have amassed an embarrassing five points from the last 24 available to them.
Just two of their ten remaining matches are against opposition currently outside the top six, finals are beyond them and the four early wins that set up a season of hope were nothing but an anomaly.
That leaves just Mark Rudan’s men capable of forcing their way in and frankly, that task may also be beyond a team that has been plagued with inconsistency this season.
Despite all the brilliant football, drama and unexpected moments, having the top six potentially set at this stage of the season would be a great disappointment.
Who knows, perhaps the Roar, Glory or Phoenix can defy form and rediscover the magic. With Western United also in the mix, maybe I’ll have egg on my face when a flurry of barn storming runs at the finals create late movement on the ladder.
I doubt it very much and Victory, Newcastle, Wellington, Perth and Brisbane should probably be preparing for 2021/22.