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Opinion

This season has made me fall in love with the A-League all over again

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Expert
11th April, 2021
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Ben Waine’s header in the 90th minute of Wellington’s 3-2 win over Western United was yet another highlight in what might just be the most enjoyable A-League season ever.

Waine shares an apartment in Wollongong with fellow youngster Sam Sutton, so perhaps it was no surprise to see him instinctively get in between Andrew Durante and substitute Brendan Hamill to nod home the winner from Sutton’s cross.

The offside flag went up – and given the way Hamill leapt out of the defensive line, perhaps that was understandable – but VAR intervened to correctly overturn the decision and allow Waine’s dramatic winner to stand.

Waine and Sutton are both 19 and came through Wellington’s academy system. Isn’t their storyline exactly the sort of thing we’ve always wanted from the A-League?

Sure, the use of VAR remains contentious.

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But on a weekend at which some online critics suggested A-League referees are too reliant on video assistance, Kurt Ams twice had the conviction to point to the penalty spot in the first half.

And in real time they both looked like correct decisions.

But there’s another reason Wellington are such a fun team to watch, and his name is Ulises Davila.

Wellington’s much-travelled Mexican skipper should once again feature prominently in the voting for the Johnny Warren Medal, even if he doesn’t receive the sort of acclaim he would if he played for an Australian team.

And as noble as the Phoenix’s decision to wear red jerseys in honour of their adopted hometown is, it’s also a reminder of what the A-League is missing by not actually having a team from Wollongong in it.

Yet we could fill a book by listing all the things the A-League lacks.

Ulises Davila.

Ulises Davila (Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

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What this season has done better than any other in recent memory is to remind us all there’s still so much to be positive about.

It kicked off this weekend when Brisbane Roar downed Macarthur 2-1 in Campbelltown.

The Roar got off to a good start when Dylan Wenzel-Halls fired a daisy cutter in at the near post before Riku Danzaki tapped home an unmissable chance in the second half.

Danzaki has been the find of the season, and his loan signing is testament to what can be accomplished with a bit of imagination and some Japanese contacts.

And although Macarthur cut the deficit through Lachie Rose in the final minute, it was the Roar who clung on to keep their finals hopes alive.

But the game I was really looking forward to watching was Sydney FC’s clash with Melbourne City at Leichhardt Oval, and not just because it was a rematch of last season’s grand final.

It might be a throwback to a bygone era, but there’s something so enjoyable about watching football from the amphitheatre that is Leichhardt.

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It would have looked better with a few more fans in it, but those who did turn out provided a big-match atmosphere in what was a genuine clash of the titans.

And it looked like it was Sydney FC who’d come away with all three points after the normally reliable Tom Glover spilled a high ball from Anthony Caceres.

It took VAR intervention to confirm Kosta Barbarouses’s subsequent volley actually crossed the line, but why video assistance was needed to adjudge what was a clear-cut penalty in stoppage time is still a bit of a mystery.

Former Sydney FC man Marco Tilio caused the Sky Blues all sorts of problems off the bench, and it was the livewire attacker who won the spot kick that saw the spoils shared.

Less than 24 hours later the Sky Blues went down 1-0 to Melbourne Victory in the W-League grand final after Kyra Cooney-Cross scored directly from a corner with virtually the last kick of extra time.

It was another big game on a weekend that provided plenty of them.

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And like Ben Waine’s winner and the return to Leichhardt Oval, it was also another reminder that there are still plenty of positives in Australian football as long as you know where to look.