Vince Rugari looks back at all the issues from another big week of Australian football, including a unsympathetic send off for Gold Coast and the mystery of a missing trophy
By Vince Rugari
Roar fans rub salt into Gold Coast wounds
It's a cruel game, football. And it was at its cruelest on Sunday, when Gold Coast United played what is almost certain to be their last ever game. Hosting Queensland rivals Brisbane Roar, around 6000 fans made their way to Skilled Park for what felt like a football funeral - and comfortably two third of them were in the away team's orange. And those rumours that the two sets of supporters would join forces in a show of solidarity for the troubled Gold Coast were about as wide of the mark as you can get. From the first whistle to the last, the traveling Den let their little brothers have it. "We hate you Gold Coast, we do," was one of their first chants. Then the standard "Clive Palmer, he ate all your fans," and the slightly more biting "We'll never play here again,". The Beach, United's diehard fan group, responded in kind with a nasty little jingle referring to last year's horrific floods in Brisbane. But the Roar had the last laugh, after stealing a 2-1 win: "F--- off United! F--- off United!" they sang, as Gold Coast was coming to terms with the reality that their time in the A-League was probably over. Ouch. Roar coach Ange Postecoglou said after the game that such banter is part of the game, and it is, but he also said football should not be turning its back on fans. An opportunity for Queensland football to make a statement was passed up, and the real losers will be the Brisbane fans, who now have to go back to hating Melbourne Victory like everyone else.
Arnold right to feel disrespected
Amateur hour. How can a team win the A-League premiership - an achievement many in the game consider more important than the Grand Final - and not be awarded the trophy then and there? Graham Arnold cannot figure it out, and the Central Coast Mariners boss has every right to be upset. Where was the Premiers Plate? Surely not in Queensland - the Roar were second on the table before 'Super Sunday' kicked off, so there was no way the powers that be could have assumed that Brisbane was the more likely winner. Is there not a replica trophy floating around somewhere that could have been flogged off to Wellington? Or was FFA planning to hand it to the Mariners before their major semi-final? If that's the case, then poor form, because the players will be focused on the game, not the presentation. The time for celebrating was after their win on Sunday, but there was no ceremony. Arnie should feel robbed.
Crowds up, but clubs count dropping
With the season over, all the stats are in - and they say that Season 7 of the A-League was the most successful yet in terms of attendances. A cumulative total of 1,416,157 fans watched Australian domestic league games in 2011-12, up from 1,393,933 in the season before. That is impressive when you consider there were 30 less matches this season because of the demise of North Queensland. So that is an average of 10,490 per game, but what do these numbers actually mean? Should we be happy that the average crowds have gone up, but the number of clubs in the league has gone down? While there is no doubt the Kewell/Emerton factor has had a significant impact, it is also true that the numbers were always going to look better following the loss of a team. It is simple mathematics... and now Gold Coast United is on the chopping block. If they go, then the average will go up again - their notoriously low support has been dragging the rest of the league down for years. But if there is less football as a result, is it really an improvement, or just a handy distraction?
Quote of the week
We actually do not know what this week's quote is, but regardless, La Regista is happy to hand this week's award to Harry Kewell following his half-time tactical tiff with Jim Magilton in Perth on Friday. With no microphones in the room, we will never know what was really said, but imagine being a fly on that wall. Unfortunately the cameras cut away before Magilton could return serve after Victory's marquee man stepped off his soapbox, but it was still fascinating to see two figures with such storied histories in the game have it out over football. Disappointingly for those who enjoy a bit of Melbourne schadenfreude, it probably was not the sign of tension that many were secretly hoping it to be - just a snapshot of what dressing rooms are actually like.
|PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Player of the week
We will take credit for Shane Smeltz's emphatic return to form after La Regista suggested that Brisbane's Besart Berisha had overtaken him as the premier marksman in the country. The two start strikers had rather contrasting weekends - Smeltz smashed four past Melbourne Victory, while Berisha never really got into the groove against Gold Coast and skied a simple late opportunity that would have earned him the outright A-League scoring record. Perth fans should be licking their lips, as the New Zealand international will get the chance to tear through the other half of Melbourne when the Heart head across the Nullarbor.
Youngster of the week
Joel Chianese chose a pretty good time to claim his first professional brace. The Sydney FC youngster struck twice in the second half of their do-or-die match against Newcastle, giving Vitezslav Lavicka at least one more week at the helm of the club. Indeed, the Czech coach was incredibly thankful for his efforts, comparing Chianese to departed star Alex Brosque. That is incredibly high praise when you consider just how revered Brosquey was by The Cove. Those are some big boots to fill for Chianese - but he has long been considered a potential star in the making at Moore Park, and if he's nurtured in the right way, who knows where he could end up?