By VINCE RUGARI
Hacks get cold shoulder from Victory
Melbourne Victory would have been forgiven for wanting to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible after Saturday's 5-0 embarrassment in Brisbane. But in doing so, they were only hurting themselves.
There was a mixed zone established for post-match interviews at Suncorp Stadium. All players from both teams were meant to stream through, past the press gallery, and stop if they agreed interview request. Victory failed to turn up, and were on a bus quicker than you can say, 'Hey, Lawrence Thomas, why are you coming out for that corner... oh. Damn'.
That is not good, for anyone. Every team should make themselves as available as they can, because the A-League is at a crucial juncture. It needs to succeed. Media coverage is central to that.
Our beloved marquee triumvirate has brought on an incredible, unprecedented buzz to the competition. But such injections of momentum are only temporary unless they are harnessed.
More people are watching and attending A-League games than ever before. That is a fact. But while new eyes are fixed on Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono, they need to become permanently glued to the competition. Growth is a must.
Engaging the media will only help in making sure coverage of the game is as good and wide-ranging as it could be. That, in turn, will keep people interested.
Look at how often Del Piero has been made available since touching down in Australia. That is not to say a Victory story after a 5-0 drubbing is going to make national headlines - but it would have been nice to hear from, say, debutant Andrew Nabbout after his shock first-game selection. Or to get a player's perspective on what exactly went wrong, with their performance still fresh in the mind.
If the NRL - an at times archaic organisation when it comes to press relations - can open up the changerooms after a match for interviews, then surely the A-League can do far, far better in this regard.
It is not good enough that teams can dodge the mixed zone entirely and, consequently, shirk their responsibilities to the game - and do so without punishment or deterrent.
Come for the marquee, stay for the kids
Along the same sort of theme is the continued rise of young talent in the A-League. The standard of football is getting better and better, and some of the kids running around are so very exciting.
They are all going to help in converting first-time fans into regular attendees, or in shattering the perception that Australian domestic football is a boring backwater.
Del Piero may have been the reason why Sydney FC had a record crowd on Saturday, and his majestic goal [we will get to that] sent every one of the 35,419 punters home quite satisfied.
But they will also remember Newcastle's Craig Goodwin, who has continued to stamp himself as one of the competition's true rising stars.
On Friday, Adelaide fans got a double serving of entertainment - a 2-0 win, but also, potentially, a glimpse at the Socceroos' next engine room with young Wanderers midfielder Aaron Mooy looking far more assured than anyone of his 22 years is entitled to be.
At Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane recruit Ben Halloran might not have joined in the scoring fun in the Roar's demolition of Ange Postecoglou's new team, but his pace and positive movement were one of the key reasons why the defending A-League champions were able to make Victory's defence look about as leak-proof as a colander.
Then there is Central Coast's Tom Rogic, who is sure to fire again soon; the Jets' James Brown, who is recovering from surgery; United's Osama Malik, who is a very promising holding midfielder - and many, many more.
The point is this - star attractions might get the turnstiles ringing, but what is more likely to keep new fans coming back for more is the discovery that the A-League, after all, is an exciting competition filled to the brim with potential stars of the future.
Quote of the week
"They had their choice about how to approach the week. It's a free world... From my point of view I don't have to like it... They're a good side, congratulations to them. Nothing to do with me. [I've got] nothing to do with this football club anymore."
- Ange Postecoglou
It has to go to Melbourne Victory supremo Ange Postecoglou, who did not exactly cover himself with glory following Saturday's embarrassment at the very venue where he steered the Roar to two straight grand final wins.
Despite an attempt at repairing relations from Thomas Broich and Rado Vidosic - who claimed they were misquoted in a weak of soap opera-level build-up [those damned reporters, always making trouble] - Postecoglou sounded every bit a jilted lover, upset at not only the discovery that the grass is not always greener on the other side, but also how well his old flame is doing without him.
Player of the Week
There were quite a few candidates for this, but we are going with Jeronimo Morales Neumann. And not only because he has what must be the best name in A-League history. It is because the Argentine signals a new era at Hindmarsh Stadium. With the defection of former Adelaide patron saint Marcos Flores to Melbourne Victory still burning in the collective hearts of the Red Army, Jeronimo has done nothing but impress so far in his short time in the country. Against Wanderers he was mobile, pacy, inventive, daring and paraded his killer touch with a lovely, lofted goal after an Iain Ramsay look-away pass. That is everything you want in an attacking player. Marcos who?
Young Player of the Week
David Carney, Matt McKay, Michael Zullo - look out. Craig Goodwin has your number. We are not saying he needs to be in the Socceroos side right this minute, but what we will say is that, if the Newcastle Jets left-side prospect continues in this same rich vein of form, he may very well become a bolter for Brazil 2014. How did Melbourne Heart let him go - and, worse still, how did this Adelaide-born talent not get noticed by his hometown club?
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO MOMENT OF THE WEEK
How can it be anything other than Alessandro's first goal? From the silence that fell upon Allianz Stadium as he prepared to strike, to his trademark tongue-out celebration, it could not have been a more perfect moment - for Del Piero himself, for Sydney FC, and for the A-League as a whole. Credit goes to The Cove, as well, who produced a tifo for the ages, which capped off what was a simply wonderful day for Australian football.