Thursday, December 27, 2007


A-League: The 2007 Awards

It’s been an up-and-down year for Australian football, and the same could be said of our national competition; the enjoyable 2006/07 edition of the league has been followed by a fairly grim third season, punctuated by a few enthralling games…such as the recent Central Coast v. Sydney FC epic.

So then, the gongs:

Player of 2007

So many of Melbourne’s 2006/07 luminaries faded badly in 2007/08; Archie Thompson and Danny Allsopp were no longer the most feared striking partnership in the country (although Thompson’s form has been better than some have suggested); Kevin Muscat has been in and out with injury and suspension, Adrian Caceres has been peripheral, and perhaps Michael Theoklitos is the one Melbourne player who has maintained his superb form.

Nathan Burns, though occasionally devastating, has been sadly prone to injury, and Adelaide’s other potential candidate, Travis Dodd, has blown somewhat hot and cold. Alex Brosque has been very impressive for Sydney FC this season, but he was not quite as influential in the final weeks of 2006/07 (which was not entirely his own fault, to be fair).

The winner is a player who has not only carried his team to a large extent this season, but who played a crucial role in the final weeks of last season as well; his two late goals against Perth in January gained his side a vital point in the run-up to the finals.

This season, he has shown an uncanny ability to score the important goals, using his pace, guile and positional instincts to superb effect. Along the way, he’s found the time to punch innocent linesmen in the balls and make himself decidedly unpopular with opposition sides.

He is, of course, Joel Griffiths.

Disappointment of 2007

This is an easy one.

It seemed the ultimate marquee signing: a former European Golden Boot winner, with experience throughout Europe and a profile to match.

The clear warning signs (a period of inactivity, criticisms about his weight) were not heeded.

He has gone on to become the competition’s ultimate flop (much more so than his compatriot at Sydney FC, who did at least contribute a good deal before injury made a mockery of his season); slow, blunt in front of goal, and evidently resented by his coach.

The history of Mario Jardel’s A-League sojourn should be a lesson to any other club presidents who are thinking of signing players on reputation alone.

Coach of 2007

John Kosmina, despite his mistakes in last year’s Grand Final, is a serious candidate for this one, given the recent revival at Sydney FC (achieved despite the continued absence of Juninho). Lawrie McKinna has erased the memory of the Mariners’ dismal end to the 2006/07 season with an impressive run to the top of the table in "Version 3". Frank Farina seems to have finally made the Roar into the contenders they have always threatened to become.

But the award goes to the Hunter again. Taking his team to within a penalty shoot-out of the Grand Final in 2006/07, Newcastle’s boss has risen above the losses of Nick Carle, Paul Okon, Vaughan Coveny and Milton Rodriguez to craft a young team that does not offer as much entertainment as his 2006/07 side, but has managed to remain in the competition’s top four in 2007/08. He has confirmed his status as perhaps the most promising young coach in the country.

Congratulations, Gary van Egmond.

Team of 2007

Melbourne have collapsed. Central Coast have hugged their top spot on the table, but have not often thrilled. Adelaide and Sydney have been mercurial.

But the men from banana country have really stepped up a notch this season, offering plenty of youthful talent alongside the wise older heads at the back. They should make the A-League final four this term, and they have, on the whole, played the most positive football in the competition.

Well done to the Queensland Roar.

Worst Match

Sydney FC now have the distinction of having played in the worst match of 2005/06 (the 1-0 win over Queensland in Round 12), the worst match of 2006/07 (1-0 over the departed Knights in Round 5), and now the worst match of 2007/08 (thus far) as well; the Round 3 encounter between Perth and Sydney, with both teams missing key players to international duty, was aptly described by one Sydney FC fan as a game he would rather scratch his eyes out than watch again.

Best Match

The pre-Christmas goalfest at Gosford may have provided the best overall spectacle, but from an objective footballing point of view, the best match was probably the absorbing 2006/07 Preliminary Final between Adelaide and Newcastle. Already described at length here.

May the competition flourish, on and off the pitch, in 2008.

hi mike,

nice end of year list -

for mine, farina was coach of the year. what GVE has done at NJ is great, but it is definitely a case of getting the most out of what he has. GVE has a great future ahead of him. frank got a good team to play good football. for the most part. perhaps that is what should be expected, but i quite value the entertainment side of football.

i also value his bravery for giving the kids a chance. if zullo and kruse were with the victory, would merrick have given them the same amount of opportunity?

plenty have put the boot into merrick this year ... i`ll just ponder if another coach could have got more out of the roster he has and leave it at that ...

i hope also that this is the year that the value of `names` finally got discounted ... jardel. whilst not a bust, even poppa`s return raises questions. was it worthwhile stumping the cash to bring poppa home to sydney rather than using that cash to keep topor-stanley? is poppa an upgrade on rudan?

happy new year,

I agree on Archie Thompson - I have seen several games where he has got stuck into the wrong final third to try and create for the right one. Last year he got puffed out if he had to make more than 6 runs at goal.
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