Monday, February 19, 2007


A-League 2006/07 - The Alternative Awards

The pages of newspapers and blogs everywhere have been awash with end-of-season award lists, and rightly so. There is generally a Player of the Season, Team of the Season, Manager of the Season and so on.

Rather than add my voice to the chorus (since my choices for the “major” awards would be very similar to those enumerated more cogently elsewhere), I present below a few offbeat gongs for the A-League’s second season.

Substitution of the Season

Although it was in the very first round, Miron Bleiberg’s substitution of Dario Vidosic for Chad Gibson is hard to beat.

Queensland, fielding three out-and-out strikers, lacked that link-man in attack, and Vidosic played the role to perfection, taking part in all of Queensland’s three subsequent goals. Gibson, for that matter, was struggling, as he would all season.

It was unfortunate that Bleiberg often used Vidosic unwisely thereafter, forcing him out to the left, or giving him indeterminate roles in midfield. He is a young player of great promise, but one hopes he will have a chance to cement himself in an appropriate position next year.

Honourable mentions for the award: John Kosmina’s well-judged switch in the preliminary final, substituting an ineffectual Nathan Burns for Bruce Djite, and Terry Butcher’s unexpected hooking of David Carney for Ruben Zadkovich against Perth in Round 17.

Assist of the Season

Nick Carle very nearly took this out with his exquisite back-heel to Mark Bridge late in the preliminary final, but Daniel Beltrame’s fine save made the matter academic.

Fred is a multiple nominee, not least for his deadly crosses in the final (not to mention his well-weighted through-ball for the fourth goal, even if Thompson was probably offside). Jason Spagnuolo’s sinuous run and shot, which resulted in Romario’s goal in Round 17, is also worth a mention.

But the award goes to Benito Carbone, for his unbelievable back flick for Saso Petrovski in Round 6 against Adelaide. It was a moment of pure, brilliant improvisation, the like of which we see so rarely in modern football.

Most Improved Player (over the course of the season)

This one’s hard. Most of the season’s “stars” were stars from the outset.

Jason Spagnuolo, Nathan Burns and Mark Bridge were perhaps the three young revelations of the season, but they were influential right from the beginning. So was Fred, far and away the season’s best import.

An honourable mention goes to Mile Jedinak, who took some time to find his feet in the A-League, but finished the season as perhaps the Mariners’ most consistent player.

Ben Kennedy, too, grew in confidence as the season progressed, although he was barely sighted in the second half of the competition.

The winner is Kennedy’s clubmate Stuart Musialik.

A victim of the general malaise at Newcastle early in the season, Musialik ended the season as one of the best midfielders in the league. A capable tackler and a superb distributor, very comfortable on the ball, he must be a prime candidate to fill Vince Grella’s shoes in the Socceroo engine room, in the fullness of time.

Big ups for your choice of Musialik, quality little player he is. One year left in the HAL then off to Europe on a bosman...
Mike, as I noted a few times over at TRBA, one of my greatest pleasures this season has been to witness the development of Stuey Musalik at the Jets.

Last season was a very disrupted one for him, mainly bit part. But with Johnson gone and no other recognised holding midfielder in the squad at the start of the season (Kohler came in late, Brown even later), I felt there was this massive pressure on him to step up at the start of the season.

I remember going to Gosford specifically to see how he went in a pre-season game, and remember coming away from that thinking the kid needs to be more assertive. His performance was, shall we say, 'shy'.

So imagine how wrapped I was to see him becoming a boss throughout the season. At one stage I had him in my totw for three on the trot. If it wasn't for Musky, he would have been a standout in my team of the season, and he'll definitely feature prominently in my reserve team of the season.

Certianly agree he was the most improved player, even from season one. There have been many that have improved from season one (Storey, Theoklitos, Allsopp, Bajic, Bridge to name a few) but not so many that improved throughout the season. Certainly Brosque was one (although it was hard not to improve on his start), despite foraging alone up front. Another was Enblem. I also thought Griffin improved alot, while North, Durante and Eagleton were better under van Egmond (but who wasn't). Also thought Adrain Webster got better as the season went on. Just a few, but Musalik clearly stands out.

Most improved from last year? Youd have to give it to Allsopp ahead of Musalik and Bridge.
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