Sunday, March 25, 2012

A tale of 3 qualities

Group 1 - it isn't the players
Sydney, Victory, and Adelaide have not kept up with this year's step up in the A-League arms race. Sorry Robbie, Craig Foster got to it right. It isn't the Victory players - they have by far the best squad on paper. Sydney and Melbourne's coaches and tactics have not been good enough.

Adelaide and John Kosmina have shown it is not the platers. In Asia, they have shown what you can do in a very short time with the squad you have and that should be enough for Victory that was once the most sustainable club in the A-League.  It would be very interesting to see Adelaide v Tokyo.

But Victory and Sydney should not be stealing Ange or Graham, they need to find their own answer. Preferably Australian, but I suspect that Harry Kewell was on an effective track with an Argentinian. That flare would suit Melbourne.

Group 2 - now it is the players
At the other end of the table, Brisbane has by far the best attack in the league, 46 goals, and CCM the best defence, only 23 conceded. As pointed out by a commentator this week, Brisbane need Zwaanwijk, while CCM need Berisha. And Brisbane's game v Tokyo demonstrated clearly the salary cap caused golf in athleticism between the teams, Japan's players selected from across a sporting population were faster and stronger in playing the same style of game. To reach the peak, the A-League will need to be the sport of choice for Australia's best potential athletes. That is another revolution and a media vested interest away. Not that soccer doesn't have its own massive own goals - FIFA, lack of technology, media own goals, former player own goals...

This year Perth and Wellington have demonstrated the value of the salary cap. The tyranny of distance, an advantage when Perth outspent NSL teams for better squads and coaches, has been broken. The evening out factor of the cap, has brought the pressure of half the games involving massive travel to bear. But this year, improved playing styles and 'home fortresses' worked magic. It will be interesting to see Perth's owner follows through will a massive cut in the wages bill next year. If he does, I expect Perth to return to the also run category.

Group 3 - it is the club structure and direction
In the middle are Heart and Newcastle. Playing the style of CCM and Brisbane but club conflict taking their eyes off the ball. It will be interesting to see what happens in Newcastle next season. They have something, but... And Heart, clearly their coach wanted out at the start of the year, a new club whose marketing strategy was based on fantasy and didn't draw on the experiences of the A-League. Their next coach and, probably, a new partner could determine if they go on with it next year. Can they get both?

Gold Coast are in this group. But they are playing their last match today. They have trained up some great players for other teams next year.

1Central Coast Mariners FC25136637231445
2Brisbane Roar FC25127646262043
3Perth Glory FC2613494032843
4Wellington Phoenix FC2512493327640
5Melbourne Heart FC269983332136
6Newcastle Jets FC25105103536-135
7Sydney FC259793238-634
8Melbourne Victory FC26511103243-1126
9Adelaide United FC26510112643-1725
10Gold Coast United FC2539132640-1418

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Final derby for Gold Coast v Roar - 5:30pm Sunday 25 March

A match up that could have been so much more if Gold Coast hadn't boycotted the first derby and Gold Coast hadn't been so good - but not good enough in its first year. Gold Coast's 5-1 win 2 years ago probably finished the interest in the game. the sad reframe of 'at least we haven't lost to the Pheonix, at least we haven't lost 6-0' was redundant within days.

Regrettably, the bitterness of the Gold Coast campaign from its former coach downwards, has all been pyrrhic.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Gold Coast 3 smash Perth 0

Come on Roar. The big train trip next Sunday.

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
18-Mar-12 48 46 40 40
25-Mar-12 51 49 43 43

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Newcastle 1 v Brisbane 2, CCM 1 v Adelaide 0

Brisbane could pay a heavy price for poor finishing against Adelaide. CCM now favoured to win.

Brisbane - gee - doing it the hard way.

Should have beaten a hapless Newcastle defence 6 or 7 -1 including Henrique missing a penalty. Mitch showed him how to do it a bit later. Brisbane fielded a weakened defence - why hasn't Hingert started before now?

Unfortunately, Brisbane had to survive a few Jurman howlers - including not jumping for the Newcastle's set piece goal. That was where Faran stole the show by calling on his coach to drag Berisha (as if that was going to happen).

Faran's disappointing season continued, losing his nerve in a 1 on 1. At least Henrique had his roll from one post to the other (did it cross the line?). Berisha showed us how to do right foot behind the left foot kick - and miss wildly. Mitch also missed 2 one-on-one's but his were harder.

Mitch man of match by a nose from Theo who did a brilliant double save.

Given Brisbane's massive goal difference, Perth now cannot win. CCM must still win to make sure next week as Brisbane play last on the Sunday v Gold Coast.

Wow here we are Gold Coast's last ever game. Train ride anyone?

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
11-Mar-12 40
18-Mar-12 48 46 40 43
25-Mar-12 51 49 43 46

Friday, March 16, 2012

Victory 3 show how to completely smash Wellington 0

Wellington were not in this game and will better shooting from Archie Thompson this could have been 6-0. As it was Archie who set up all three goals - all magnificent.

Victory showed us why they are the most entertaining team to watch. But. Also why they, on average, perform so badly. Too many balls pushed too long with little chance of reward - just giving the ball away.

Great games all round including debut from 17 year old Davies - another Kewell?

Wellington is the first of the top 4 to be out of 1st place contention. But could play a wrecking game against CCM next week. Fingers crossed for Roar fans.

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
11-Mar-12 45 43 40
18-Mar-12 48 46 40 43
25-Mar-12 51 49 43 46

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Brisbane 1 v Adelaide 1 / Perth 1 v CCM 0

CCM and Brisbane will want to win next week to lock out Wellington and Perth.

Brisbane ripped off as A-League's top misses an obvious penalty.

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
11-Mar-12 45 43 40 40
18-Mar-12 48 46 43 43
25-Mar-12 51 49 46 46

Get ready for Gold Coast's last ever home game - 25 March v Brisbane

I must say I thought this game was at Suncorp. But it is being promoted at Skilled Park. And tickets will be available here.

Interesting to see how that goes. Brisbane will probably need the win to ensure a top 2 finish.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Sustainability of the A-League

I understand comments like 'Clive Palmer is out of line but his points are right on... ' But this viewpoint misses the point.

It was always going to be very difficult for soccer to survive in Australia as anything more than the largest participatory sport.

When I saw the start-up marketing strategy for the Melbourne Heart, I could have rolled on the floor laughing. And indeed by the end of their first season they were saying they were looking for new owners. There is no trend that has soccer growing as a commercial phenomenon.

Australia is an over crowded sports market in a world in economic downturn.

Add to that, sporting bodies, particularly clubs, rarely break-even in any sport in any country without massive cross subsidisation. This subsidisation is usefully from tax payers. In more recent years, free-to-air and pay TV broadcasting have offered hope. And the most recent potential is the force of betting. Cricket shows through the Indian Premier League and match fixing how damaging betting is for sport, but behind closed doors, bettings' real destruction is wrecked on families and children, undoing sport's great cultural achievements.

Then there is the force of the Australian sporting industrial complex. Which has at its heart the media and its actions to support its ownership in clubs, maintaining interest in their chosen sport and clubs and fighting off competitors. Then there is SBS Broadcasting. SBS appears to be made up of independent journalistic view-points acting in consort in an attempt to both move soccer forward and bring it back to some happier day when SBS was at the centre. The only way this will occur is if soccer returns to a low road of poorly paid players, poor playing conditions and audience disinterest. This would return Australian soccer to an EPL centric soccer world - where money wins.

If people think that by attacking the FFA and the A-League now that they will save the game or build it to its natural place in Australian sport, they are sadly mistaken. This is as good as it gets.

This is the point where the competing forces have been brought into balance to produce a league where enough players can be paid enough each week to keep the game going, where enough billionaires are drawn into the game to pay for the stadiums so that working people can watch a world class soccer game for $20 a week. So that they can go watch their local team play FC Toyko.

Clive Palmer says he has lost $18 million over three years. Are we supposed to be surprised by this? Investors with that much money should have the intuition or advice that informs them about information on the public record and what is likely to happen next. There was clear evidence that the Roar, as some owners have pointed out a much bigger market, was losing at that rate before the Gold Coast and Fury were established. Did these new owners believe that they were bringing some magic that no other individual club owner in almost any sport could bring, a money making formula within a sport where only agents, some sponsors and the players are making net benefits?

And as to the positive direction for the sport?

Firstly its role needs to be clear. For juniors and amateurs its role is about intellectual development and fitness - making good citizens and controlling society's health problems. It is not about finding the next Harry Kewell or creating new sources of income.

For the A-League? It is about sustaining a game until the sporting industrial complex and its supporting landscape is changed. Does Australia want to put all its national pride into having the best AFL players in the world? Who will notice? If we do, will we be able to sustain our claim as a great sporting nation? Or will we look like America and its quaint sports that it plays as 'world series'?

But then soccers progress in the USA has been used as a part model for the FFA. The AFL used Major League Soccer's big brother gridiron to work out its way forward. In the US, government support is harder to sustain. So gridiron developed a model that was more sophisticated and sustaining that the raw money in the model of the EPL. Each owner buys the right to an equal share of the overall performance of the league. It doesn't matter whether you play at the Meadowlands with the Giants in New Jersey or at Iron Bay with the Packers, it is in all the owners interest to work out and support a promotion strategy across the league and across multiple seasons. And with this outcome, as Australia's AFL found, comes massive TV rights deals.

This is why, Ben Buckley is so important for the A-League. Soccer's own goals have shown that the sport in Australia has not produced great administrators.  Perhaps he could still be one.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

CCM steal draw from Sydney to stay 3 ahead of Roar

90+ minute equaliser keeps CCM a win ahead of Brisbane.

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
28-Feb-12 44 41 36 34
4-Mar-12 45 42 39 37
11-Mar-12 48 45 42 40
18-Mar-12 51 48 45 43
25-Mar-12 54 51 48 46

Lacklustre Roar allow Wellington and Perth back in

CCM will be thinking 'Two wins and a draw', Perth (now) and Wellington may think so too for 2nd.

Max Points at: CCM Brisbane Wellington Perth
28-Feb-12 44 41 36 34
4-Mar-12 47 42 39 37
11-Mar-12 50 45 42 40
18-Mar-12 53 48 45 43
25-Mar-12 56 51 48 46