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A-League Round 23 talking points: The Borrello show, full Coopers sight for sore eyes, is Papas in trouble?

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10th April, 2023

Another entertaining weekend of football action is in the books, with Brandon Borrello stealing the show yet again and the race for the final two places in the top six no closer to a resolution.

Here are your A-League Round 23 talking points.

Borrello rescues stuttering Wanderers

Continuing his excellent campaign for both club and country, Borrello pulled his side out of the fire to salvage a point at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday evening. The 27-year-old’s second brace of the campaign sees him sitting on 10 goals, and he has also laid on three assists in 2022-23.

It’s been a stunning return to form for a player who had bounced around in Germany in the last few years without finding too much success. Before this season, Borrello had hardly scored a goal in years.

I won’t go so far as to say that Borrello is single-handedly carrying Western Sydney’s season, but he has certainly been their main man and focal point in attack. The midseason addition of Tunisian Amour Layouni has been a hit, taking some weight off Borrello’s shoulders, but the frustratingly inconsistent Kusini Yengi – outside of two huge Sydney Derby shifts – hasn’t put in enough performances commensurate with his considerable abilities.

Speaking to AAP, Yengi admitted as much in a very frank interview.

“I enjoy the derbies but I struggle to get myself going for the smaller games,” he said.


“When you go to a worse stadium or pitch, you don’t really feel as motivated. I need to do some digging and find out what really motivates me.”

Kusini Yengi of the Wanderers controls the ball during the round six A-League Men's match between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Allianz Stadium, on November 12, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Steve Christo - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Kusini Yengi of the Wanderers (Photo by Steve Christo – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Yikes. You can’t fault his honesty, but this is a rare and frankly bizarre admission for a professional footballer to volunteer to a wide-eyed journo.

It’s not yet time to panic for Marko Rudan and his squad after two ordinary performances on the back of a great night at Allianz Stadium. They return home to Parramatta next time out as Melbourne Victory come to town – while it may seem like an easy three points on paper, Victory will bring desperation and this could be another banana peel.

Does Papas deserve to keep his job?

Since a magical run to the 2018 Grand Final – and perhaps the biggest VAR farce in league history – loyal Newcastle Jets supporters have had little to cheer for. This season has been no exception, the Daniel Penha-less Jets side struggling for form and lacking class.

Arthur Papas has been in theMcDonald Jones Stadium dugout for almost two full seasons now, and after an eighth-place finish in 2021-22, it seems Newcastle will miss the finals once again. What’s most concerning is that with their season on the line, they travelled to Queensland to face cellar dwellers Brisbane and put in possibly their worst performance of the campaign.


As a point of comparison, Warren Moon was dismissed by Brisbane Roar with a similar record earlier this season and there couldn’t really be any argument with that decision.

There are mitigating factors in the Hunter, namely the disastrous ownership situation and dearth of quality in the squad, but there doesn’t seem to be any signs of improvement for the Jets under Papas. If he’s going to stay in the role, there has to be changes to the roster in the off-season and a top-six finish next season is a must.

Perfect vibes in Adelaide but AAMI Park sees three miserable attendances

A-League fans have always rode high highs and oftentimes lower lows, and the disparity in vibes between Sydney’s visit to the City of Churches on Friday night and the three games at AAMI Park in the last five days was absolutely stark.

In Adelaide the fans are finally warming to their side, who have played some fantastic football under Carl Veart and have set themselves up for an all-important top-two finish. There were great scenes as the atmosphere inside perhaps the league’s most intimate venue was beamed around the nation, and it was difficult not to feel envious of those who’d secured a ticket.

It was just the opposite scene, however, in Melbourne. The farcical rescheduled derby was a largely uneventful affair played out in front of just 6423 spectators, while the biggest football club in the land could only attract 5012 spectators for their miserable scoreless draw with Perth, and while I haven’t seen a published crowd figure for Melbourne City’s romp over Wellington, it was possibly the worst of the week.


There was some positive signs in Sydney’s southwest, with 7534 turning out to Campbelltown Stadium as Wanderers stole a point late on.

Derby disaster should never have gone ahead

As tiresome and cliche as it may be, football is always competing with the other major Australian sports for eyeballs, column inches and airtime. Bearing that in mind, it’s really hard to take when the APL just keeps shooting itself in the foot.

From the Grand Finals decision, to mind-boggling 3pm kick-offs in the height of summer, the absurd amount of money wasted on the ‘digital home of Australian football’ KeepUp, and now giving the other codes even more ammunition with this comical Melbourne Derby ‘replay’, we just can’t seem to get competent administration.

The rules of the restarted derby were widely shared around social media, and then widely mocked in quick fashion – rightfully so. As soon as Alex King (who was back in charge on Wednesday evening) made the absolute right decision to take the players from the field on that fateful December evening, that should’ve been the end of it. City awarded a 3-0 win, case closed.

I’m not shooting for the stars, and I’m not even asking for good decision-making at head office – just some basic competence would suffice. Well, I’m not holding my breath.

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